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Design Trend:  Multi-Generational Living

Design Trend: Multi-Generational Living

I read an interesting article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune the other day about a new trend in home building – multi-generational living.  

It seems that after decades of folks living in their own homes, (and preferring it that way), homeowners are now reconsidering the concept of a shared space.  According to the Star Tribune article, there are many possible reasons for the shift in our culture.

The sluggish economy is one likely reason that more and more people are choosing to share a home rather than shoulder all the financial burden of home ownership themselves.  It just seems to make more sense to have elderly parents or recent college-graduate-children living in your home than to pay for a separate apartment.

As “baby boomers” age, we are likely to see the need for multi-generational homes increase, allowing families to stay together longer before entering assisted-living facilities.  Sharing a home with family may even eliminate the need to move to a skilled-nursing facility for many folks.

Another reason for this living trend is a shift in the culture of US residents.  As more folks move to America from other countries, we are finding that their cultural norms are becoming a part of the US culture, too.  In many countries, having several families or generations living under one roof is quite common.  This is a foreign concept to most Americans, but it is becoming a more popular option.

We’ve seen this type of shift before.  Think back to the homes your grandparents had.  Often, a modest three-bedroom home housed 5 children or more; children were simply expected to share a bedroom with at least one sibling.  Over time, however, homeowners decided they could do better; homes became larger and children became accustomed to having their own bedrooms.  The concept of sharing a bedroom is lost to many children today.

Home builders have taken notice of this cultural shift, and some are now designing their homes with two-family living in mind.  Lennar, a national luxury home builder, recently introduced the Next Gen home concept.  They describe it as a “home within a home,” and it truly is just that.  As you can see in one floorplan featured below, this large home features an entire apartment – complete with separate entry, garage, kitchen and bath – at the front of the home (shown highlighted in blue).  This arrangement allows for homeowners to share expenses with parents or adult children without sacrificing their privacy.

Lennar Next Gen Home

Courtesy: Lennar

And, it seems to me that these home designs would also be great for anyone who may want to have a rental property available for extra income.  They could rent the apartment out, and it would be available in years to come should a family member need to use it.  Talk about planning for the future!

Pulte Homes also designs homes with extra family members in mind.  They offer many plans with a “flex room” which can be used as an office, den or library.  But, since it also contains a closet and a nearby bathroom, it could easily be turned into an extra living suite if needed.

I think this is one design trend that makes a whole lot of sense.  Being able to keep families together for a longer period of time, sharing expenses and sharing their lives – what a great use of resources and a smart move.  It will remain to be seen whether the multi-generational living trend has staying power, or whether it will fade as the economy strengthens.  What are your thoughts on this design concept?



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