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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Moran

Custom Home Builders Are Designing for Multigenerational Living

The newest movement in custom home design isn’t actually new. In fact, it’s thousands of years old, spanning nearly every continent and culture. Custom home builders are seeing a rise in designs that center around multigenerational living, a home style that brings two or more adult generations under one roof.


Though the idea of a single-family, independent home seems standard to us today, multigenerational living was a common lifestyle in the United States before World War II. It reached a low point by 1980, when only 12 percent of families lived with multiple generations.

But that trend is moving again. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 20 percent of Americans live in a multigenerational home, and that number has been rising for decades. With the high cost of senior living facilities, college tuition, home prices, and pandemic-related lifestyle changes, more custom home buyers want to build dream homes that include the whole family: grandparents, parents, adult children, and young kids.

When designing a luxury home with multiple generations in mind, custom builders plan their design around a few key focal points that allow them to create the ideal situation for multigenerational living.


Building for Independence

Whether the multigenerational home’s guest area is geared toward an older or younger generation, a key factor is independence. No matter how close a family might be, everyone needs their own space sometimes.


These spaces, whether situated in a loft above the garage or in a finished basement, often feature separate entrances. This allows the generational resident to come and go as they please while maintaining the shared housing relationship.


Each generational space functions as its own individual living space, which often includes a separate bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette that are separate from the rest of the house. Some even feature their own laundry area, along with separate heating and cooling systems.


Aging in Place

One major reason that custom home buyers want a multigenerational home revolves around caring for senior family members, partially due to the high cost of senior living facilities. According to AARP, nearly 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their home as long as they can; however, in a single-family home, that option usually isn’t possible. With a custom multigenerational home, the concept of aging in place while strengthening relationships with children (and grandchildren) makes this dream much more realistic and enjoyable.


With that focus, custom multigenerational homes can provide an ideal environment for a senior parent or grandparent.

Often called the “mother-in-law suite,” creating an independent space that feels much like a small apartment fulfills the desire to age in place. Make that space functional by including a full bathroom and kitchenette, complete with a small refrigerator, microwave, sink, and coffee area.


Other design features focus on safety. Custom builders can craft hallways and doorways that are wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers, along with subtly stylish grip handles and non-slip surfaces. Placing these senior suites on one level without stairs adds another element of safety and longevity to the multigenerational home.


Adult Children at Home

With the rising cost of college tuition, student loan debt, and entry-level housing prices, nearly 2.5 million young adults (ages 19 to 29) are living at home with their parents. This has caused custom home buyers to look at the design of their own homes as the trend toward multigenerational living continues to shift. When it comes to young adults, creating a space for sleep, work, and independence are key factors in design. Architects are utilizing separate entrances and staircases to the young adult space (usually a lower level or a loft). Including a specific bathroom, along with a small kitchenette, can foster that sense of independence as well.


And these spaces don’t become useless when that young adult moves away. They can be used as guest suites when they return for a visit, or for out-of-town guests.



Plan for Shared Spaces

A major benefit of multigenerational living comes from the feeling of togetherness. So, architects and designers focus special attention on the areas that are meant to be shared between generations. While some independent spaces may include a private kitchenette, the dining room can serve as a location for communal family meals. Outdoor living areas can also function as a shared space where conversation can happen between generations. Though most independent guest suites will have their own small living room, the larger family room or home theater can be another area where families gather together for a while to watch a movie or the big game.


Suite Design and Placement

When it comes to a custom multigenerational home, placement is key. The architect is essentially creating two separate homes and fusing them together seamlessly in a way that maintains the style and luxury of the main space.


Suite Design and Placement

When it comes to a custom multigenerational home, placement is key. The architect is essentially creating two separate homes and fusing them together seamlessly in a way that maintains the style and luxury of the main space.


Some builders might place the guest suite on the main level to avoid stairs. This might be an ideal situation for a senior who wants to age in place. Other builders may place the guest suite in a loft above the garage, complete with its own private staircase and entrance. This design could serve the young adult who might be used to living in their own loft. Oftentimes, builders will create a guest suite out of a finished basement, which can benefit families who have young children.


Planning for Flexibility

Custom builders understand that the dynamics of families across generations are consistently evolving, so they plan for these multigenerational homes to include flexibility. A guest suite may serve as a space for a young adult for a few years before transitioning into a senior living area.

Incorporating key elements of independence, privacy, and togetherness can make a multigenerational living arrangement useful to family members from all generations.


Talk to a Custom Builder

Custom home builders understand how to blend the community feeling of a multigenerational home with the desire for independence that individual family members have. Contact a builder to begin the process of designing your custom multigenerational home.

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