How to create a home for multigenerational living


By Edin Imsirovic

Get building

Converting outbuildings might seem the obvious fix for accommodating additional family members but Mallorca-based architect Michel Campioni of Archirevolution says it might not be as straightforward as you would expect. “When using an existing outbuilding to create something like a granny annex, you face technical installations for sanitary disposal and electricity, which is very complicated,” he says.

On the other hand, he says it is often faster (in terms of gaining planning permission) and cheaper to convert an existing structure, such as an outbuilding, than to extend your home. Campioni says that the median price for a refurbishment in Mallorca is roughly €1,400 per square metre, while an extension with the same quality finish will typically cost €1,750 per square metre. In Spain, it is common to connect two family units with a courtyard, he says.

This six-bedroom house in Paguera, a 25-minute drive from Mallorca’s capital Palma, includes a pair of two-bedroom apartments. There is scope to redevelop the villa into one larger home with one guest apartment. It is on the market for €1.28m.

This Mallorca villa with two apartments, on the market for €1.28m, is ideal for converting into a single home with one granny flat

Invest in tech

Smart technology can help co-ordinate simple household tasks such as switching lights on and off, drawing curtains or blinds and adjusting the heating or cooling, and so diffuse potential sources of conflict, but it needs to be accessible to all generations. Steve Howat, co-founder of London Projects, a construction company specialising in super-prime refurbishments in London, says assisted living devices such as motion sensors can be especially helpful to older folk.

He also suggests installing controls in specific rooms such as the “teenage zone” or “granny annex” that allow heating, lighting and air conditioning to be preset according to different generations’ demands. He says, “If an elderly family member wanted a higher temperature in their bedroom, or a teenager wanted to switch on a television with a specific channel such as Netflix, these demands can also be commanded by smart features, such as an app on their mobile phone.”

The built-in technology at this five-bedroom home in west London includes a Nest thermostat system, underfloor heating and surround sound. It is priced at £2m.

A Nest smart home thermostat in this £2m London home makes it easier for different generations to select personal heating preferences

Change a room’s function

The purpose of existing rooms may need to be altered in order to accommodate extra relatives. US interior designer Denise Morrison, founder of Denise Morrison Interiors, says it is simple to create a home office that doubles as a bedroom. “It comes down to careful furniture selection and placement in the space in order to maximise the functionality of the room,” she says.

As offices “tend to have a more masculine vibe” she recommends decorating the dual-purpose space with “a neutral textured wallpaper or a soft felted option”. “Side tables with drawers can offer additional storage and tables can make great desks,” she says.

This two-bedroom San Francisco condo (also main picture above) has a spacious home office area which could double as a bedroom. It could be yours for $1.59m.

Home offices lend themselves to dual use as a study and bedroom. This one is in a San Francisco condo, for sale for $1.59m

Consider a condo — or two

Condos are popular with intergenerational households because of their communal amenities, says Shveta Jain, head of residential services for Savills India. Developments often include lifts, which are beneficial if not essential to older people, and playgrounds for children, as well as swimming pools and barbecue areas.

Where apartments are short on space, Jain says families often seek adjoining properties, where party walls can be knocked down to create larger communal spaces while maintaining individual areas for different age groups. “Duplexes are also popular multigenerational homes,” she adds.

This four-bedroom penthouse duplex in Gurugram, New Delhi, priced INR250m ($3.34m) has four bathrooms, staff quarters and a balcony. Shared amenities include gardens, a basketball court and fitness centre.

Apartment blocks such as this one in New Delhi often have facilities that appeal to different generations

Compromise on space

When not at university in London, postgraduate student Li Ann Chin lives in Kuala Lumpur with her parents and brother, plus her paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather. She says it is important for families to discuss how to make communal spaces work for everybody.

Since its dining table is too small for everyone to sit and eat together, the family has staggered dinner times. Chin’s grandparents and carers use the space at 6pm, with the rest of the family eating at 7pm. “We have to compromise,” she says.

When somebody wants to use the living room, Chin says it is imperative for them to say what channel they want to watch on TV and which sofas they are going to use.

This four-bedroom beach house in Kudat, Malaysia, has plenty of space for all the family as the main floor comprises a large living room, entertainment deck, dining area and kitchen. The £1.3m property has 3.2 acres of land and enjoys views of Mount Kinabalu, south-east Asia’s tallest mountain.

This £1.3m home in Kudat, Malaysia offers plenty of space for all the family in the shape of a large living room, entertainment deck, dining area and kitchen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *