5 practical tips for creating a multigenerational living space

We've rounded up our top 5 practical planning tips for mutligenerational families living together.

By Rebecca Foster | 29 November 2018

As a result of the UK’s housing crisis, multigenerational homes are rising in popularity. If you’re considering expanding your household, here’s all the advice you need to make a space for several generations to live happily together.

Multigenerational living family home Neil Dusheiko Agnes Santivo -granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Agnese Sanvito; Adding an extension to his father-in-law’s Victorian house, architect Neil Dusheiko has enabled three family generations to live together in the property for two years while Neil’s own family home was built.

Multi-generational living is on the rise. According to research compiled by the National House Building Council (NHBC), the number of such UK households increased by 38% between 2009 and 2014, a growth largely driven by the number of adult children still living with their parents while they struggle to get onto the housing ladder. A poll by estate agent Tepilo also revealed that 60 per cent of people would consider living with several generations under one roof.

There are various options for making sufficient space in your property – and each of them comes with practical factors to consider. To ensure the scheme is a worthwhile investment for everyone involved, it’s of vital importance to plan a design that not only enhances the layout and function of your home, but also any new additions.

We’ve rounded up our top 5 tips to help you create a multi-generational living scheme that suits your entire family’s needs.

Think about social spaces and private zones

Garden room with wooden dark blue storage units and a white ceiling designed by De Rosee Sa -Alex-James-granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Alex James; Soft furnishings add personality and bring warmth to the open-plan room, and help zone off areas.

First, consider the different activities that will need to be accounted for. ‘Two generations – parents living with grown-up children – or three generations – with grandparents – living together may have different needs and space requirements,’ says Andrew Mulroy, director of Mulroy Architects. ‘Are you going to cook together and eat as a family, or at different times? What space do you need for special occasions? And will you need different areas for leisure activities such as watching TV or playing music?’

Although converting your loft is often the fastest and least expensive way to gain more room, it may not be the only solution. ‘Review the site in its entirety and highlight possible locations for different generations of the family to live – this might be the loft or a converted garage space. Outbuildings can also be used and might offer alternative entrances,’ says Adam Knibb, director of Adam Knibb Architects.

Converting an attached garage may have great benefits for older family members or those with mobility issues, as everything can be spread across one level. ‘Essentially, there needs to be room for a combination of social spaces for everyone to gather, but you’ll also want private zones to retreat to,’ Knibb adds.

Future proof your multigenerational home

Loft renovation into open plan living room -velux-granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Jack Hobhouse; As part of a full remodel and renovation project, Studi Octopi designd this newly convereted loft to provide a self-contained space, away from the open-plan downstairs. It’s flooded with lights thanks to Velux windows overhead and it features a Pietra Serena stone top and white oiled oak cupboard fronts. A similar scheme would cost around £2,500 per sqm.  

It is important to create a home that can be adapted to your family’s changing needs. ‘Consider how the new space will be used in the long term,’ says James Munro, director of Granit Architects. ‘Future requirements should be factored in to the design.’

This will depend largely on the unique requirements of your family. ‘Aspects to consider for older relatives include clear, open circulation spaces and wheelchair access,’ says Carl Huntley, director at Base Architects & Interiors. ‘Architects should aim to create a spacious bedroom with an accessible en-suite bathroom. You want to ensure that those with limited mobility have room to manoeuvre comfortably. You need scale to make that work.’

There are also different priorities for adult children: ‘Living areas are more important, providing room to have friends over and a place to entertain in,’ Huntley adds. In which case, sound insulation is a priority to limit disagreements about noise travelling between different spaces. If you’re planning to convert or construct an outbuilding, make sure you keep the form of the structure as simple as possible.

‘Too many floor and ceiling level changes will compromise what you’re able to do with the building in the future,’ Huntley points out. And don’t forget the outdoor space. ‘You may have room to create a separate garden,’ Huntley says. ‘The key thing is to establish a private place that you or your relatives can make your own.’