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  • Ethos West

Multigenerational Living

Multigenerational Living is on the rise in America due to a variety of factors: immigration; the delayed marriage pattern; longer life expectancy and medical needs; the housing crisis; “boomerang” youth; women entering the workforce; and the effects of the recession.

The Pew Research Center recorded in 2016 that 64 Million Americans (or 20%) lived with multiple generations under one roof, according to census data, increasing from only 12% in 1980 and it is continually on the rise.

Families more than ever are reaching across generations to create new homes or remodel existing homes to live together. “In an increasingly busy world, family remains the strongest connection,” says Trina Sandschafer, design principal at Booth Hansen in Chicago. “People want to make memories with their children and grandchildren and spend time with family.”

In a recent trend report from, there are some great tips to consider if your family is in the Multigenerational Living situation. “The most common theme is that people all want to be together, but they don’t want to bother each other,” Sandschafer says. Johnson agrees. “Creating boundaries is critical to these projects’ success,” he says.

1. Creating Internal Harmony - “You make sure that each of the user groups — kids, grandparents, parents — has a semiprivate space,” Sandschafer says. “Kids want a place to be noisy and play games; adults want a quieter space to read a book or take a work call.” This means separate smaller studies and dens, as well as flexible furniture arrangements in great rooms so spaces feel appropriately sized whether the whole family or only a few people are lounging there. Some homeowners opt for folding walls to separate rooms.

2. Focus on Privacy - “There are redundancies necessitated by privacy,” Brian Mayotte, VP of Build in Naples, Florida says. These can include a balcony for every bedroom, multiple stairwells and master suites, and individual indoor-outdoor access points. Sound is also an issue, making insulation and acoustic drywall important, along with a thoughtful layout. Bathrooms become buffers between bedrooms, houses are divided into wings, and creating zones helps counteract the acoustics of large open areas.

3. Access for All - Universal design is key and can be beautiful. “We try to make these projects as accessible as possible while taking great pains to disguise that,” Johnson says. “We want to make everyone feel comfortable where they’re living.” Examples include the addition of ramps for wheelchair access, towel bars that double as grab bars in bathrooms, 3-foot-wide doorways, entryways without thresholds, and radiant heating with individual thermostats to suit personal temperature preferences.

4. Respect Kinship above Everything Else - “The most important thing is a client-focused approach,” Sandschafer says. “Really get to know their routines, their likes and how you can accommodate the needs of everyone who lives there, across every age and user.” It’s advice learned from experience. “Get everyone involved, from the grandkids about the pool design to the color of parents’ bedrooms,” Mayotte says. “And don’t fight the group. Family ties will win every time.”

5. DADUs or ADUs - Weather attached or detached, building an 'Accessory Dwelling Units' may be a great solution for your multigenerational living situation. Having a "granny-pod", mother-in-law suite or carriage house on your property might be just what you’ve been searching for to create a more peaceful environment for everyone involved. Design and build an elegant home near your home that will allow you to visit and check up on your aging parent, or give privacy to your boomerang graduate. Allowing them their own space can also make them feel like they aren’t crowding you in your home, which can make them more agreeable in moving in a place that’s near you and more affordable.

We would love to talk about creative ways to increase the functionality and harmony of your multigenerational living space! Schedule a meeting today!

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