Multi-Generational Living Design: Designing Spaces for Families with Different Age Groups

Think Interior
6 min readMar 12, 2023

As the population ages and housing costs continue to rise, multi-generational living is becoming an increasingly popular solution for families. Multi-generational living refers to multiple generations living under one roof, whether adult children returning home, grandparents moving in, or any combination thereof. With this trend, designing spaces for families of different age groups has become essential in home design.

It is possible to learn about Multi-Generational Living Design and to design spaces for families with different age groups through an interior design course. Many interior design programs cover topics related to universal design, space planning, and accessibility, which are all critical considerations when designing for multi-generational families. Here are some key factors to designing for multi-generational living:

Flexibility and Adaptability

Designing a home with flexibility and adaptability is crucial for multi-generational living. It means creating spaces that can easily be converted for different uses and occupants, such as a guest room that can be turned into a nursery or a home office that can be converted into a bedroom. It’s also important to consider the varying mobility and accessibility needs of different generations and design spaces that can be easily modified to accommodate them. Flexibility and adaptability are essential qualities to possess in both personal and professional settings. Flexibility raises the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and expectations, while adaptability is the capacity to adjust to new situations and challenges. In today’s rapidly changing world, flexibility and adaptability are more important than ever. Those who adapt quickly to new technologies, work processes, and social environments are often more successful and fulfilled. Being flexible and adaptable requires learning, growing, and stepping outside one’s comfort zone. It also involves being open to new ideas and perspectives and remaining calm and focused in the face of uncertainty or change.

Privacy

Privacy is an important consideration when designing for multi-generational living. Each generation may have different privacy needs, whether a quiet space to work, a bedroom to retreat to, or a separate living area. Designing the home with private spaces for each generation promotes harmony and reduces conflict. Privacy is a fundamental human need and an essential aspect of personal well-being. It is the ability to control access to oneself, thoughts, and personal information. Privacy allows individuals to feel safe and secure in their surroundings and express themselves freely without fear of judgment or intrusion. Privacy has become an even more critical issue. People are increasingly concerned about who has access to their personal information and how it is used. In addition to digital privacy, there is also a need for physical privacy, particularly in shared living spaces such as apartments, dormitories, and other communal settings.

Shared Spaces

While private spaces are important, creating shared spaces where different generations can come together is essential. It might include a communal living area, a shared kitchen and dining space, or a backyard with space for outdoor activities. Designing shared spaces that are comfortable and functional for everyone promotes a sense of community and togetherness. Shared spaces are essential to community living, whether residential or commercial. These spaces provide opportunities for people to connect and interact with one another, fostering a sense of belonging and social cohesion. Shared spaces can take many forms, including common areas in apartment buildings, community centers, parks, and public spaces. They can be used for various activities, from informal gatherings to formal events and celebrations. The design of shared spaces is essential, as it can impact how people use and interact with these areas. Well-designed shared spaces should be comfortable, welcoming, and accessible to all. It’s also crucial to design shared spaces to encourage interaction and connection among family members. Consider creating large gathering areas, like a spacious kitchen or living room, that accommodates everyone comfortably. Shared spaces are communal areas designed to be used and enjoyed by multiple people. They can include living rooms, kitchens, dining areas, and outdoor spaces. Shared spaces are critical in multi-generational living environments, as they provide opportunities for family members of different ages to interact, socialize, and bond with each other. Shared spaces can also promote community and belong and help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Safety

When designing for multi-generational living, safety is a top priority. It means incorporating features like non-slip flooring, bathroom grab bars, and adequate lighting throughout the home. It also considers the placement of furniture and other objects to minimize the risk of accidents. Safety is a crucial aspect of personal and societal well-being. It refers to the protection of individuals from physical harm, as well as the prevention of accidents, crimes, and other threats to health and well-being. Ensuring safety requires a combination of education, prevention, and enforcement. It includes providing individuals with the knowledge and skills to stay safe and implementing measures to prevent accidents and crimes. In public spaces, safety measures may include lighting, security cameras, and trained personnel, while in personal spaces, safety measures may include locks, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors.

Sustainability

Sustainability is vital in any home design, but it becomes even more critical in multi-generational living, where energy and resource use are amplified. Incorporating sustainable design features like energy-efficient appliances, solar panels, and water-saving fixtures can help reduce the home’s environmental footprint and utility bills. Sustainability refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It involves creating balanced, resilient, and regenerative economic, social, and environmental systems. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important as the world’s population grows and the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation become more apparent. Adopting practices that reduce waste, conserve resources, and promote renewable energy sources is necessary to promote sustainability. It can include reducing energy consumption, increasing the use of public transportation and renewable energy sources, and minimizing waste through recycling and composting.

Universal Design

When designing spaces for multi-generational living, it’s vital to incorporate universal design principles that ensure accessibility and safety for all ages and abilities. It can include wider doorways, bathroom grab bars, and non-slip flooring. Universal design is an approach to design that aims to create products, environments, and experiences as usable by people as possible, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. It involves designing with the understanding that people have diverse abilities and needs and that accommodating these differences is essential for promoting inclusivity and creating equitable experiences. Universal design principles can be applied in many settings, including architecture, product design, and digital design. Examples of universal design include curb cuts, which allow people with mobility impairments to access sidewalks and crosswalks, and closed captioning, which enables people with hearing impairments to enjoy video content. In architecture, universal design may include features such as ramps, wide doorways, and lever handles that can be operated with minimal grip strength.

Flexible Layouts

Multi-generational living often requires flexibility in the use of space. Consider designing spaces that can be easily adapted to meet changing needs over time. For example, a room initially used as a playroom for young children could later be converted into a bedroom for an aging parent. Flexible layouts are design layouts that can be easily adapted or modified to accommodate changing needs or requirements. It can be instrumental in shared living spaces, where residents may have different needs or preferences for using the space. For example, a flexible layout in a living room may include modular seating that can be rearranged to accommodate different group sizes or activities. A flexible bedroom layout may include furniture on casters that can be easily moved to create more floor space. The key to a flexible layout is designing with the understanding that it may change over time and that the space should be able to adapt accordingly.

Ample Storage

With multiple generations living under one roof, storage can quickly become a challenge — design spaces with great storage solutions to keep belongings organized and easily accessible for everyone, improve organization, and create a more comfortable and functional environment. There are many ways to incorporate ample storage into a space, including built-in shelves, cabinets, closets, and drawers. When designing storage solutions, it is crucial to consider the needs and preferences of the users, as well as the available space and budget. For example, in a residential setting, the storage needs of a family with young children may differ from those of a retired couple. In a commercial setting, storage needs may vary depending on the type of business and the products or equipment that need to be stored.

Conclusion

Designing spaces for a multi-generational living requires a thoughtful and holistic approach that considers the varying needs of different age groups. By creating flexible, adaptable, and safe spaces that balance privacy with opportunities for shared experiences, designers can help families thrive in a multi-generational home.

Look for colleges with interior design courses or programs explicitly focusing on inclusive design or strongly emphasizing designing for diverse populations.

--

--

Think Interior

Think Interior provides you with the highest standards of education in interior design to enhance your ability of creating ideas.