Top 3 Considerations for Multi-Gen Homes

The demand for multi-gen homes is on the rise, fueled by an increasingly diverse buyer pool. We’ve been watching this trend for a while, but in digging into it a bit more, we found that nearly 1 in 5 Americans currently live in a multi-generational household – that’s approximately 60.6 MILLION people! (Source: Pew Research). Keeping this in mind, KGA’s John Guilliams recently joined Lita Dirks and Chris Lessard in creating a program for the 2017 International Builders’ Show on multi-gen housing. Today we are excited to share some of the key takeaways on what you should look for in a multi-gen home.

1. Thoughtfully Designed Shared Spaces

Areas such as the living room, kitchen and dining room often act as shared spaces for a home’s multi-gen residents, making it important to develop seamless flow and function within these rooms. Look for features like a back kitchen or a beverage bar, which create additional storage and ease of entertainment. A kitchen with two islands provides residents with extra prep and entertainment opportunities.

Two islands provide extra prep and entertainment opportunities as well as additional storage needs. Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Canuso Homes, Glassboro, NJ.

Two islands provide extra prep and entertainment opportunities as well as additional storage needs. Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Canuso Homes, Glassboro, NJ.

Many 2 story homes offer an optional upstairs ‘bonus’ room. The bonus room can provide much needed additional shared living space, a ‘kids’ living room or game space.

Bonus upstairs room provides additional shared living space. Photo: KGA Studio Architects and Epic Homes.

Bonus upstairs room provides additional shared living space. Photo: KGA Studio Architects and Epic Homes.

If there are lots of little ones around, a kids studio which can only be accessed from the main living room is a handy way to keep tabs on everyone. A sliding barn door hides messes when not in use.

This thoughtfully designed kids studio is a great way to keep an eye on the little ones while entertaining in the living room. A sliding barn door allows you to hide messes when not in use. Photo: KGA Studio Architects and Epic Homes.

This thoughtfully designed kids studio is a great way to keep an eye on the little ones while entertaining in the living room. Photo: KGA Studio Architects and Epic Homes.

2. Flexible Private Spaces

Depending on the home and lot size, there are many options for flexible, private spaces for multi-gen residents. Multi-gen spaces can take many shapes and forms, including:

  • Loft or basement apartment
  • Main floor multi-gen suite
  • Dual master suites
  • Casita
  • Carriage house apartment
  • Lock-off main level suite

No matter what form they take, multi-gen spaces should be designed for both privacy and flexibility, with the ability to accommodate changing homeowner needs and desires.

Some spaces are designed to serve as long-term solutions (think multi-gen suite with living room and kitchenette) while others are designed as short-term living arrangements (a home office with a murphy bed is a great place for the ‘move back’ millennial to crash for a few months while apartment or job hunting).

This home office easily converts to a guest room (see below). Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Taylor Morrison, 2017 IBS Show Home.

This home office easily converts to a guest room (see below). Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Taylor Morrison, 2017 IBS Show Home.

A murphy bed turns this home office into a great place for that 'move back' millennial to crash for a few months while apartment or job hunting. Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Taylor Morrison, 2017 IBS Show Home.

A murphy bed turns this home office into a great place for that ‘move back’ millennial to crash for a few months while apartment or job hunting. Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Taylor Morrison, 2017 IBS Show Home.

This private apartment on the 2nd level of the home is a great example of a long term solution. Although you cannot see it, there is a kitchenette which is completed here with a small but functional dining space, a living area, and an additional outdoor space. Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Beechwood Homes, Arverne, NY.

This private apartment on the 2nd level of the home is a great example of a long term solution. Although you cannot see it, there is a kitchenette with a small but functional dining space, a living area, and an additional outdoor space. Photo: Lita Dirks & Co. and Beechwood Homes, Arverne, NY.

A great example of a private, flexible space that is starting to be incorporated into more homes is the lock-off apartment. Inspired by lock-off units in resort communities, these spaces serve multiple purposes, including a rental or revenue suite (think Airbnb), multi-gen living space, or caretaker apartment.

Size isn’t everything – at just 24 ft wide and a little over 2,000 sf total, the lower level of this 3-story home functions as a lock-off apartment. Image: KGA Studio Architects, PC and TRIO Environments.

 

 

3. What Additional Features Should I Look for?

When living in a multi-gen space, family members may desire features that allow for further privacy and livability. Whenever possible, a separate entrance is ideal. Depending on the size of the home, this may lead directly outside or be accessed from the garage via a shared owner’s entry.

The main floor multi-gen suite in this 3,140 SF home offers the option of a kitchenette and private entrance accessed through the owner's entry. Photo: KGA Studio Architects, PC and CalAtlantic Homes.

The main floor multi-gen suite in this 3,140 SF home offers the option of a kitchenette and private entrance accessed through the owner’s entry. Photo: KGA Studio Architects, PC and CalAtlantic Homes.

Multi-gen spaces meant for long-term living should have a private living space that is separate from the sleeping area. A kitchenette or kitchen adds increased independence, but options may be limited depending on zoning.

Other features that can increase functionality and livability include a private garage, laundry, or small outdoor space.

Conclusion

As the number and diversity of multi-gen and non-traditional families (think Fuller House on Netflix!) grow, so should the options and design solutions on the market expand and evolve to meet the needs of this market segment. Multi-gen features are no longer reserved for large custom homes – many new homes now offer plans with options such as elevators, multi-gen suites, and dual master suites; even in homes with smaller square footage.

A special thanks to Lita Dirks & Co for providing inspiration and images for this blog!