Multigenerational Living

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Multigenerational Living

Today we’re continuing our weekly focus on Renovation Resolutions for 2014!

We’ll be talking about universal design and how it might relate to your remodel this year.

Renovation Resolution #3: Multigenerational Design & Living

If you are planning to remodel this year you might have to think about more than just your spouse/partner and children.  You might also be thinking about parents, grandparents or in-laws.  You might even be planning a remodel because of these extended family members.  If so, you are joining nearly 50 million Americans with three or more generations living under one roof.  And the trend shows no sign of abating.  In fact According to Archival Design 32% of adults expect to share their home with a parent.

Planning your remodel for multigenerational living takes into account the concept of universal design.  Universal Design essentially creates a structure that is accessible by all individuals without further accommodations.  It addresses the needs of family members of all ages and abilities.   And builders and architects are embracing the needs of designing a multigenerational home.  The NAHB Remodelers, an extension of the National Association of Home Builders has created the Certified Aging -in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation and training program.  They also offer Universal Design training program to help create spaces that are pleasing aesthetically as well as functionally.

If you are planning a remodel this year to accommodate your multigenerational family here are some tips to follow:

1. Space Planning

Designing a multigenerational house is all about space planning.  The “NextGen” houses, as they have been coined in recent years, give everyone their own space. Ideally these homes have the primary living area and then an attached in-law suite with bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.  These self-contained apartments typically have a separate entry, and garage space (if applicable) for parents and grandparents that way everyone feels like they are coming in to “their own home”.  Keep in mind though that you want to avoid creating a “duplex” from the outside and inside, for tax and real estate reasons.

living room

If you can’t accommodate an entire suite, look to your basement.  Is it possible to create an entry and living space on the lower level?  Advanced technology in construction products today make it possible to turn your entire basement into a comfortable living space with all the necessities.  Just bear in mind as you, and your parent’s age stairs present a safety hazard and can impact comfort and accessibility in the long run.

If neither of these are an option, then look to a small master bedroom addition with a bathroom, somewhere off the first floor.   This will make the rooms easy to access by aging parents, provide personal space from the rest of the family members, while still making it easy for them to join in communal living.

2. Kitchen Design

rustic kitchen in austin

If you are designing a kitchen there are a few elements to consider with a multigenerational house.

  • Islands – They will give everyone enough space when it comes to food preparation
  • Rolling cabinets – provide extra space, and if designed properly give you the option to sit or stand to use it
  • Pocket Doors – These are easier to maneuver, and take up less space.  They can provide immediate separation, when needed, between spaces
  • Sinks – Install 2 sinks in the kitchen, one in a traditional location, and another on the island.

3. Bathroom Design

The bathroom is one of the areas where you may be making the most changes to allow for multigenerational design.  It might include things like:

modern bathroom open plan
  • Curbless Showers
  • Safety Bards
  • Wider Doorways

4. Entry Options

When considering the entries for your remodel it is ideal for everyone to have their own entry.  This promotes the feeling of independence.  There should be at least one no-step entryway into the home.  And keep all major amenity rooms like the kitchen, living and bath on the main level so stairs are not needed to navigate from room to room.  All doors and doorways should be oversized.   You also want smooth flat floors to ease navigation.  That is why wood floors are a much better fit than carpet or rugs.

Dark Wood Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

5. Soundproofing

If you are going to live in a multi-generational house then soundproofing is a must.  They will make living environments more comfortable for everyone.  Your teenage son can still enjoy his music, while grandma relaxes with a good book. Or members of the family can still get up and get ready for work and school with disrupting elderly relatives who like to sleep in.  Check out these ideas for sound control.

Acoustic Art Wall Panels










If you are looking for more ideas, check out this book The Accessible Home: Designing for all Ages & Abilities, available on

Are you part of a multigenerational home? What planning steps did you take to design the right spaces for everyone?

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