How to Maximize Multi-generational Homes
Whether it’s a millennial adult moving back home to save money or aging parents joining the family in an in-law suite, multi-generational living is a housing trend that savvy builders can’t afford to ignore if they want to sell homes. U.S. Census data shows almost 60 million Americans lived in multi-generational households in 2012, which is double the number in 1980. And what we have discovered in designing model home interiors for the multi-generational market is showing families how to maximize the potential of these residences drives sales.
The seven fundamental principles of design we use in our projects, which are explained in detail in my book “The Art of Space,” have never been more relevant. We use them to create well-designed multi-generational spaces that fulfill the wants and needs of various family members. In a piece on The Huffington Post, I highlight design features that help sell multi-generational housing, while the following case studies of two of our model home interiors show how we apply them.
Estate Elegance: The Weatherstone model at Liseter was part of an upscale Toll Brothers development in Newtown Square, Penn. A single family community built on the former DuPont estate, the 4,900-square-foot, $1.1 million home is an example of how multi-generational housing can feel luxurious for every member of a family. In this model home interior, we turned a second floor living area into an in-law suite to take advantage of the privacy afforded by a rear staircase that connects to the kitchen, where there is access to the back door.
Furnishings and decorative treatments, such as reclaimed wood paneling, are used to transform an open, airy second floor living space in the Weatherstone at Liseter into a full-blown in-law suite. (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
The suite itself is a large open room—complete with a spa-quality bathroom comparable to that in the master suite. Through the use of furnishings and decorative devices, such as reclaimed wood to give the sleeping and sitting areas visual definition and separation, we zoned it to include a bedroom, lounge area for relaxing or entertaining and a dining area that can be used for activities from game-playing to crafts or do double duty as a home office. And with direct access to the kitchen through the rear staircase, suite residents can come and go at all hours without disturbing anyone in the house.
Furnishings are used to carve the in-law suite into a bedroom, living room and ‘dining room’ that does double-duty as a work area. A back staircase allows occupants to come and go without disturbing other family members. (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
What makes this model home interior work for the various occupants is our use of timeless, versatile furnishings and smart layouts in each room. Grand common areas feature classic, upholstered pieces with trim footprints, which are ideal for quick shifts to create more robust seating areas. These large spaces also allow enough room to entertain crowds or to accommodate residents with handicaps or guests with walkers or wheelchairs. This is especially true in the gourmet kitchen, where an island of epic proportions offers loads of storage, does double duty as a dining table and keeps the floor plan open and easy to navigate for many generations. Meanwhile, the in-law suite features trim yet comfortable furnishings that make the space feel more spacious and easy to move around. An added bonus is a private, covered porch in the rear of the house, directly accessible from the in-law suite through the rear staircase.
Large common areas and kitchen spaces easily accommodate residents with walkers or wheelchairs (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
All-American Style: The Tartan Ridge community in Columbus, Ohio, by M/I Homes offers affordable, residences designed to accommodate a multitude of multi-generational living scenarios. The homes range from 2,513 square feet-4,422 square feet and $439,000-$500,000. In the model home interior we designed, flexible space over the garage has a private entry through the home’s laundry room and a private bathroom. It could function as a nanny suite, home office or in-law suite. We chose to make it a studio apartment for a millennial college graduate returning home to save money.
The studio above the garage at Tartan Ridge is transformed into an apartment that allows a millennial graduate to save money and live independently (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
This “coach house” style suite offers enough space for another generation to co-exist comfortably in the family home. We used a freestanding shelving unit to separate the sleeping and living areas and created separate activity areas in the rest of the space with built-ins that create storage and a work station and flexible furnishings, such as big-personality poufs, which add character and are easy to move. Vibrant accent walls and window treatments give the space a youthful identity for a millennial girl. And just like the Weatherstone in-law suite, the Tartan Ridge multi-generational model offers direct access to the family kitchen through a private staircase.
A large living area is designed to provide areas for relaxing and working. A freestanding set of shelves (above) creates a private sleeping area. (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
The house has spacious proportions, which are enhanced by beautifully executed, classical architectural detailing and space-maximizing, built-in storage and shelving in the living and dining rooms. The latter frees up floor space, a bonus if there are many residents sharing a space or someone with disabilities, to accommodate. An open gourmet kitchen also plays to these needs and is large enough to serve everyone—including those in the upstairs suite. A final bonus is a semi-private screened porch just around the corner from the kitchen, adding valuable outdoor living space for all members of the extended family.
Strategically sited built-ins maximize storage and frees up floor space in the home, which keeps the floor plan open to accommodate all generations. (Image: Mary Cook Associates)