5 Design Tips for Multi-Generational Living

More and more families are choosing to live under one roof. Whether it’s parents moving in with their adult children and grandchildren or young adults moving back after college but still wanting their own space, the needs of a multi-generational family go way beyond that of the nuclear one.

And, when you’re looking to design a custom home to fit everyone and meet everyone’s needs, a whole host of things are added to the list to discuss with a potential home designer. To make it easier for you, here are five design tips when building a home for a multi-generational living situation.

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Provide a Space for Everyone

When you have multiple generations living under the same roof, things are going to get crowded quickly. The kids can be downstairs watching TV, while at the same time grandpa wants to relax with a book, and mom just needs to get some work done.

With so many people just trying to exist in one space, it’s inevitable that toes will be stepped on. Making sure that everyone has a place to call their own will be essential to keeping everyone happy from day to day.

Multi-generational families need to design homes that have enough room to allow every member to retreat from the hustle and bustle if they would like to. Whether it’s because someone needs to focus on something and the noise is distracting, or if they’re just tired and need some alone time, having their own space set aside will let them have independence when they need it.

Depending on the life of the person in question, it might be wise to make an area its own separate living space. This can be the traditional mother-in-law apartment, but can also serve for any young adults coming home in between major phases of their lives. In those situations, you can even add in separate entrances, locks, and a smaller kitchen and bathroom to really make the area its own independent part of the house.

Dedicate Space for Specified Uses

In addition to designating specific spaces for specific people, it’s important to decide which rooms will be used for which activities.

When you design homes for families with variety in age and differences in interests, you need to think about who will want to gather where. A general purpose family room for watching movies or playing games is fun for everyone, while an upstairs TV or gaming room can serve as a gathering place for older kids and young adults while parents spend time together downstairs. Outdoor spaces are wonderful for getting the whole family together as well, when the weather permits.

Along with specific purpose rooms, it’s a good idea to designate some areas as flexible bonus rooms. If more family visits, or if you’ll need space for a house sitter or nanny, having the extra space will come in handy.

Keep Accessibility in Mind

Having a wide age range living under one roof means you’ll have to design homes that can appeal to the broadest spectrum of people. Older family members might need wheelchairs, while younger ones might not be able to reach fixtures like sinks or cabinets. When you are working with your home designer, make sure to have a conversation about how to best accommodate everyone in your family.

While designing a home for maximum accessibility, it’s worth looking into the idea of universal design. Universal design concepts are a school of thought that take the widest possible range of people into account when building a home. That means things like wider hallways to accommodate both the wheelchairs and the strollers, replacing some doorknobs with easier to grasp handles, and making sure there are clear lines of sight to all major points of the house, both to keep an eye on kids, as well as make it easier to navigate with assistance devices.

Implementing these types of design concepts from the very beginning will make sure everyone gets what they need from day one.

Make High-Traffic Spaces Easy to Use

Common spaces are at a premium in the multi-generational home, and certain utility rooms will see even higher usages. Bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens will all see high traffic due to the fact that everyone in the house needs to use them.

When you design homes intended for large numbers of people, you have to make the rooms everyone will use accessible to everyone. Bathrooms shouldn’t be locked inside personal bedrooms, although having a few attached to bedrooms isn’t a bad idea.

The main kitchen should be central and easy to maneuver through, regardless of mobility, as well as big enough to allow multiple people to cook without being right on top of each other. The laundry room might need a few extra entrances, depending on the layout of the bedrooms. This is especially true if you plan to have any rooms functioning as separate living spaces; whoever is in the mother-in-law apartment still needs to clean their clothes after all.

Integrate Tech in an Inviting Way

As technology advances, homes are playing host to more and more technology. While most people are at least accustomed to the home computer or cable box by now, some of the more recent innovations can be a bit more daunting to older family members.

If you choose to include any built-in speakers, televisions, or other smart technology, consider the people who will be using it from day to day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the newest gadget in the house, but make sure everyone understands how to use them. It doesn’t matter if you have a brand new TV if your parents are always asking how to change the channel.

Although you should take older family members into account, they might actually already have a leg up in learning how to use new technology. One of the appeals of the multi-generational home is the opportunity for younger generations to spend more time with older ones, including taking the time to teach them how to play music on wireless speakers or program the smart thermostat. With enough coaching, even the most inexperienced grandparent can utilize every bit of tech in the house and the youngest will learn wisdom beyond their years.