There are lots of ways to approach determining what design elements you’ll want to include in your multi-gen home. Let’s look outside the box and consider multi-functional design elements that will serve the needs of more than one member of your household as you move from one phase of life to the next.
A Home Design That Can Transition with Your Multi-Gen Family
Why re-do spaces as the need arises when you can plan your home from the beginning to have flexible spaces that can be easily changed to accommodate all ages and health situations? Design elements that work well for two or more people would be the ideal. Individual design elements should fit seamlessly into your overall design plan. Those elements that don’t seem to be an adjustment for a specific member of the multi-gen household will allow everyone to feel like an integral part of the family with no “special” accommodations–a win-win situation for all.
A Fine Balance
Multi-gen homes must strike a perfect balance between private places for each family member and spacious social gathering spots for all. Sometimes, each of us yearns for privacy, to have space that is ours alone. While other times we want the comfort and safety of being with those we love.
On the Floor
When choosing flooring for your multi-gen home, above all, think non-slip. That works for everyone, including senior citizens and toddlers alike. No one wants a slippery floor that may cause falls and injuries. Non-slip floors can be just as beautiful as those less safe. Give special attention to the transition from one type of flooring to another, making sure the area between the two types of flooring is smooth, without sharp edges and corners.
In the Kitchen
Invite everyone into the kitchen. It truly is the heart of the home. By setting up multiple workstations with ample space between, your kitchen can easily become multigenerational.
Designate a station for veggie prep to be used by those who can safely cut and chop. A station for getting ingredients ready to bake. This is where you’ll want to set-up the mixer. You get the idea, a designated place to perform different tasks will allow you to have everything for that function at the ready, close at hand.
Those who aren’t part of the prep process can have a spot to perch, perhaps keeping everyone else entertained with jokes or ignite conversations about a gathering of yesteryear. Each person has their own “job” to do. Other multi-functional design elements to consider are countertop height, custom appliances, and lighting.
Door and Hallway Width
In the past, asking for extra-wide doorways and doors would have been a custom ask. But, today, wider doorways and halls are more the rule rather than the exception. Wider doors allow for unimpeded movement for everyone. Additionally, it’s a functional design that looks good, too.
Levers, Knobs and Such
Throughout your home, you’ll want to use hardware that’s easy to use for all ages. Where possible, it might be best to consider choosing door levers that are easier to manipulate rather than old fashioned doorknobs. Once again, these can be good for seniors, children, and those with hands that don’t function optimally.
Of course, there are also situations where you want to restrict access to cabinets or spaces, so you’ll want to go with child-proof latches in those cases. Door levers are common on French doors, so using them throughout your home won’t seem out of the ordinary. After all, door levers do look stylish, while giving the nod to great multi-functional design.
In the Bath
Pull bars in the bathroom are very beneficial to children and seniors alike. Sometimes, we just need a little extra help, and that goes for all of us at different points in our lives. Another design element that will give multi-gen family members comfort and stability is a walk-in shower, one that’s standalone. You may want to avoid a shower/tub combination that requires users to step over the side of the tub to enter the shower; it may cause physical pain and discomfort as well as emotional stress from the fear of falling.
Another multi-functional design element in the bathroom is varied height countertops and sinks. Not only can they look great from a design standpoint, but they can also give a significant measure of independence and comfort to all members of the household from the smallest to the tallest.
Natural Light and Openness
Don’t overlook the importance of natural light in creating your multi-gen home. Family members of all ages and fitness levels react positively to the effect of large windows and sliding doors that let natural light fill interior spaces. That light can create a sense of openness and well-being.
The color palettes you choose for each interior space is perhaps the easiest of all design elements to tailor to the likes and dislikes of your multi-gen family. Color is also simple to change over time. There’s nothing wrong with following trends, such as trying out the most recent Color of the Year from Pantone. Also, color preferences change as children grow and adults age.
Joanna Dorman is a freelance writer with over 16 years of experience creating interior design, home building, home improvement, and real estate content. Additionally, she has 15 years of field experience in the interior design industry and trained in interior design at the Art Institute of Houston.