A New U.S. Trend: Multi-Generational Homing

Parents, grandparents, and more living under the same roof.

This weekend I was being a little lazy and caught NBC’s Jo Ling Kent as they took a look closer at multigenerational homes on the Sunday Spotlight.  It was interesting, they launched the segment with a quick play of The Waltons (a television show from the 70’s) where the main characters (parents) have a home that includes their aging parents and their growing children (even spouses in some cases).

According to AARP.com “Three-generation households are becoming more common in the United States, nearly double the rate of a generation ago.” So, with this statistic on the rise, and it appears to be a steady state, how will your family look in a year, two or five?  How will you “carve” up your home to accommodate the different generations?

U.S. contractors are working hard with interior designers to build spaces that not only accommodate the larger family unit, but to allow for privacy and community at the same time.  As an interior designer, I’ve seen several instances where a family has had their college graduates come home to live for a variety of reasons (too expensive to rent, not enough savings to buy, continuing studies etcetera) and their aging parents.  It’s important to adapt the space so resentment doesn’t set in.  This can sometimes be challenging when the home is small to begin with.  How can you accommodate 4+ more people in a space where two were comfortable?

First, if you have the means to add on to your home do so.  Taking a home that is under 1500 sq feet and even adding on 350 sq feet can make a huge difference.  With that space you can create an in-law bedroom/sitting room and modest bathroom.  If, however, you just cannot add on right now – how can you maximize the space you have?

Next, set boundaries.  This sounds simple, but it isn’t when you have humans / personalities involved.  The best time to have these important discussions is BEFORE everyone moves in…. as a family unit establish “house rules” and any monetary contributions from your new “roommates.”

Talk about money.  Not always an easy topic, but there are no free rides.  Everyone that lives in the house should be able to make even a nominal contribution.  Take into consideration things like mortgage/rent, groceries, utilities (water/electricity/oil or gas/ cable / phone etc), insurance, and general household maintenance (HOA fees, lawn maintenance, etc).  It’s easy to overlook what’s going out (financially).

Now, what do you do to ensure everyone has “space”?  Below is a diagram of 1500 sq foot layout.  If your homes main bath has a single sink, but is big enough to accommodate dual sinks, add it.  As well, if you can modify the bathroom so it has the toilet and show toward the back of the room, leaving the sink(s) toward the front, you can add a door creating separation between shower/bath, toilet and the sinks.  This allows more people to get ready in the morning, than having it all in one open space.  Someone can be brushing their teeth, while another showers.

Make sure you look at all opportunities to add storage.  If there’s a linen closet, instead of having a shelf for towels and a shelf for sheets, consider having a family shelf, and label it – so mom has a shelf with her towel(s), wash cloth, sheet(s) etcetera everyone would have their own shelf.  It sounds simple, but it gives everyone a sense of ownership.  As well, if you don’t have enough shelves, pick up small Tupperware / Rubbermaid containers and label them with the names –you can also use these for shampoo/soap/ other personal toiletries.

In the room diagram example above in each bedroom, maximize storage as much as possible.  Consider closet space planning as part of your overall planning.  It’s a small investment upfront but it can provide great additional storage space.

Finally, find multi-functional furnishings.  You can still host guests by upgrading your current sofa to a sleeper sofa (even a sleeper chair!) or add a murphy bed (by night) desk / workspace by day.  Still not convinced you can accommodate multiple generations in your current home?  Give us a call, our suppliers and manufacturers have great products to accommodate this new lifestyle.

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