Top 12 Multigenerational Home Design Features

Multigenerational living arrangements are not a new phenomenon. In fact, they've been the norm throughout history, and recent history is the exception. Facing demographic and economic pressures, many individual families today are considering the option of building an multigenerational home. But many people don't know where to start since the zoning and building codes can be unclear about the subject and there's a lack of design resources available. 

Why Multigenerational Living?

The percentage of Americans living in multigenerational homes has more than tripled since 1970 from about 5% of the population to ~17%. Note that, multigenerational living is defined as 'one or more adult generations living in the same household'. Unsurprisingly, this growth has not been limited to one age demographic, but has been evenly split between younger Americans moving in with their parents and older Americans moving in with their descendants. The majority of multigenerational families report that living with their relatives has been a positive experience (although a minority find it stressful).

The top objectives cited for forming a multigenerational home is financial savings and care giving considerations. As we look forward at population projections and projected nursing employment, there is likely to be a substantial shortage of both retirement housing and older age care givers due to the outsized baby boomer generation. In response, we speculate that multigeneration home formation will continue accelerate over the next decade. 

How Much can you Save While Building?

Not every multigenerational home looks the same. There's a spectrum of possibilities that ranges from extra bedrooms to entirely separate structures built on the same lot. We've pulled the data from hundreds of home plans to give an accurate look at what different options may cost you, using our advanced cost to build calculator:

Multigenerational Home Construction Costs


Note that zoning code and building code varies nationwide by local jurisdiction. Adding extra bedrooms, in-law suites or ADUs is often regulated by both codes. The good news is that because of the popularity of this trend, many localities are adopting new zoning codes to permit in-law suites and ADUs. But the bad news is that the building code will often have much more stringent standards for any homes that fall into the multi-family category. Additional requirements like fire sprinklers (see our page on sprinkler systems here), fire wall separation and higher wind, snow and seismic load classifications may apply.

Top 12 Multigenerational Home Design Features:

There's tons of clever ideas that can help you make the most of your multigenerational home and reduce the impact of the downsides. 

  1. Shared Kitchen & Dining Room. (With separate split bedrooms.) This is a popular layout because the kitchen allows you to bring the family together but the separate sleeping and bathing spaces allow for privacy. An added benefit is that the kitchen is the most expensive part of the house so there's cost savings in sharing it.
  2. Soundproof interior walls and floors. Knowing that privacy is one of the most significant downsides to multigenerational home builds, it's best to soundproof between living spaces. At a minimum we recommend soundproofing all walls and floors separating bedrooms and bathrooms. 
  3. Dual laundry rooms. Another aspect of privacy and stress reduction is having your own personal space to take care of your clothing without having to worry whether or not someone else is trying to do laundry at the same time.
  4. Accessibility. With older-age multigenerational homes, ADA accessibility is an important factor to consider. We have an entire page on designing homes for accessibility here.
  5. Over-index on Bedrooms. It's much easier to repurpose a bedroom into another space (such as a gym, office, study, media room, etc) than it is to repurpose an open space to a bedroom. Make sure that you're considering resale value. Many potential buyers may not want to pay a premium for a high square footage with limited bedrooms. 
  6. Separate Entrances. This is a must have luxury that gives you the freedom to come and go without alerting everybody else. 
  7. Split Bedrooms. Two or even three divisions of bedroom spaces allows you the privacy and separation to sleep peacefully at night. 
  8. HVAC Zoning. Let's face it, different generations have different senses of temperature and we want everyone to be comfortable. There's a variety of approaches that you can discuss with your HVAC subcontractor that will depend on your house layout and climate. Some popular approaches are ductless split systems, separate traditional split systems and multi-zoned systems. 
  9. Think About an Elevator. Most people think of elevators as a commercial luxury but there are surprisingly affordable models designed for residential homes. If you don't want to spend money on an elevator day 1, you can design an empty shaft and use it for temporary storage. 
  10. Multiple Outdoor Spaces. Sometimes you want to hang as a big family but other times you just want to enjoy the outdoors in solitude. Take advantage of the home shape to provide privacy with multiple porches or patios. 
  11. Courtyard homes. Courtyard homes are popular in some regions but end up being a great starting point for a multigenerational home since the living quarters can be separate with a connected outdoor courtyard for gathering. 
  12. Kitchenettes: If sharing a large family kitchen, sometimes it's worth adding a small kitchenette that allows you the ability to enjoy early morning coffee or late night snacks without waking the rest of the family.

 Make your list of what's important to you and we can help you design your dream custom multigenerational home

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