Designing Multigenerational Homes

About 64 million Americans live in multigenerational homes. Grandparents, parents, and kids all living under the same roof has gained traction over the past few years, thanks to rising housing and healthcare costs, more women entering the workforce, and dual incomes to support the high cost of living. While packing more people into one house might seem a bit crowded, it does have its perks.

The key to multigenerational living is designing spaces that make sense for all ages. When a home is geared toward comfort, privacy and accessibility, living with family can be comfortable and convenient. Homes that are designed with more than one generation in mind means you can live in multi-generational peace without losing your mind. Here’s how.

Accessibility & Flow

Multigenerational homes require layouts that allow clear sight lines, like open concept design. Creating open spaces, low thresholds, reachable cabinets and drawers, showers with seats and grab bars, and rooms that are wheelchair accessible means easier living for older residents. Configuring bedrooms so that everyone can reach their private spaces easily (putting older residents on the main floor) means everyone can remain as independent as possible.

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Choose Main Floor Bedrooms

When given the choice between main and second floor bedrooms in multigenerational homes, older generations should choose the main floor. Not only will they remain the most accessible as your family ages, but having one or two bedrooms on the main floor can create a natural separation between generations.

Remember this rule of thumb: it’s easy to convert a bedroom into another space, but it’s not always possible to convert a space into a bedroom. Bedrooms usually require windows and a closet, so design your multigenerational home with this factor in mind.

Create Dedicated Spaces

When there’s more than one generation living under the same roof, you’ll need to offer enough space and privacy for everyone. How do you accomplish this so that no one feels suffocated? Make sure that for each generation, there is at least one dedicated living space. Multigenerational homes that include a family room, a den and a playroom allow everyone to have their space to unwind and relax.

With several relatives living in the same home, every square foot counts. Get creative with all the spaces in the home and you’ll be much more comfortable. Think about converting some of the less-utilized areas of the home such as the attic, the basement, or over the garage. Rethink each room’s purpose and if possible, convert storage spaces into comfy living spaces instead.

The Suite Life

If you’re lucky enough to design your home from scratch, configure suites for each generation. Sharing bathrooms and the kitchen can be major pain points in multigenerational homes. A private bedroom and bathroom suite for grandparents and parents, a jack-and-jill bathroom for kids, or a studio-like space combining sleeping and eating areas can reduce some of the chaos in the busiest rooms in the home.

Have Separate Entrances

Another design consideration to make in multigenerational homes is how each generation will actually enter the home. If there’s not a lot of overlap in schedules (early risers leaving for school versus night owls coming in late), it might be best to design separate entrances. Not only will this reduce traffic and chaos throughout the day, but it can provide your family with a sense of autonomy. Sure, living together ensures plenty of quality time. But being able to separate some of the coming and going can help each generation feel more independent.

Customize & Adapt

Whether you’re designing a home, renovating one or looking to buy, know that there’s no such thing as a perfect solution. Living in a multigenerational home means customizing as much as possible and remembering to adapt when necessary. What works for other families might not work for you and you might even find that something you designed doesn’t actually translate to real life. The trick to living with more than one family is to keep communication open and stay open to change so that everyone feels welcome and comfortable.

Multigenerational homes are a reality for more and more American families each year. Living with family can definitely come with challenges. Still, if you plan ahead for issues and design your home accordingly, you can head off conflict before it starts. By considering needs, privacy and accessibility, your multigenerational home will be one that happily suits everyone.