Remodeling for Multigenerational Living

Multigenerational living has advantages for all generations

Remodeling for Multigenerational Living

Multigenerational living is nothing new. In 1940, about one-quarter of the U.S. population lived with three or more generations in one home. That changed after WWII, when American families became two-generational, with parents and their young children only living under one roof.

A multigenerational household is defined as including two or more adult generations or grandparents and grandchildren younger than 25. Today 64 million Americans live in multigenerational households.

What’s leading to the increase of remodeling to have multiple generations living in the same house now?

Many theories exist; here’s a few:

1. People are marrying later, so adult children and parents are living under the same roof longer.

2. Large numbers of Latin Americans and Asians have immigrated to the U.S., and they are more likely to live in multigenerational families.

3. More people are financially secure and able to offer their parents a place to live in their old age, even while providing a home to their own children. 

4. Seniors, who are living longer, need help with daily living. A report from Genworth Financial found that assisted living can cost nearly $44,000 a year.

5. Young parents need help with child care, and having their parents live with them provides a “win-win-win” for all three generations. In 33 states, the cost of child care is higher than the cost of college tuition, according to the Care Index from New America

6. Student debt is driving recent college grads to move back in with their parents. American students owe more than a collective $1.4 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.

7. Some don’t like the idea of having their beloved parents placed in a facility away from family and would rather have parents live with them where they feel loved and have close family interaction. Many people are hesitant to put loved ones in a facility because of recent negative media.

Most of today’s homes were not built to accommodate multiple generations sharing living space. For people who want to stay in the home they have, remodeling becomes necessary.

Multigenerational Remodeling Considerations

Important considerations for successful multigenerational living include

  1. Privacy
  2. Safety 
  3. Independence 
  4. Comfort 
  5. An ergonomic environment

Even if your parents aren’t moving in today, it’s smart to incorporate multigenerational features when considering a home remodel. The features will be there if / when you need them and they’re a marketable asset if you decide to sell your home.

Features to Include in a Remodel for Multigenerational Living

Here’s a few of the concepts to consider when beginning design work for your remodel with your Kitchen Design Partner-recommended designer.

  • Smooth, ground-level entrances without stairs
  • Slip-resistant floor surfaces
  • No steps to the shower or bath, seats in each
  • Wide interior doors and hallways
  • Light switches with flat panels rather than small toggle switches
  • Buttons and controls that can be distinguished by touch
  • Bright lighting, particularly task lighting
  • Tempered glass in all glass front furniture and cabinets
  • Doors that can be unlocked from both sides

1.) Universal Design. Universal design focuses on making living space accessible to all – young, old, and every age in between. Universal Design is not just for people with disabilities.

2.) Finish the Basement. Finishing a basement is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase usable living space. It will give you more living space to use now, and it can double as a bedroom for your potential housemates. Your finished basement should include a full bathroom. Soundproofing the ceiling keeps the noise of basement activities in the basement.

3.) Build an Addition. An addition gives everyone more room and will provide you and your live-in family members more privacy.

4.) Add a second entrance. Having a second “front door”, even if it’s around the back of the house, creates privacy and a sense of independence for all residents in a home. 

5.) Remodel the Kitchen. The most popular room in the house can be hectic when three or more generations are present. Increase and/or re-allocate the space by adding cabinets, pantries and additional shelves and drawers to help maintain order. Your Kitchen Design Partner-recommended designer will probably suggest an open-concept plan to create more space for multiple cooks. This could involve knocking out a wall or part of a wall to open things up.

Kitchen Function Is Always the Priority

While the finished kitchen should be beautiful, kitchen function is always the priority; that’s especially the case when grandchildren and grandparents are sharing the same space. 

So that your designer can create a kitchen where everyone is comfortable, have the answers to the following questions prepared in advance to assist him or her in the design process. Think about how the kitchen will be used.

  • Does anyone need quiet time in the morning?
  • Are there children who want to help cook with the adults?
  • Are the most-used dishes and snacks in accessible locations?
  • Is there room for people to gather while meals are being prepared or for after-school snack and homework time?
  • Is there adequate lighting for safety, task and ambiance?

In addition to integrating universal design principles into your kitchen, there are other ways you can make your kitchen more agreeable for multigenerational living.

  • Include soft close hardware on doors and drawers
  • Install a second sink and/or dishwasher
  • Add more counter space to make it easier for multiple cooks to work at the same time
  • Eliminate the formal dining room to get a larger kitchen
  • Install a pull-out pantry with drawers and rotating organizers to make it easy to find things
  • Replace regular cooktop with Induction cooktop to prevent accidental burns
  • Place the microwave on a counter or install a drawer microwave to prevent having to bend and reach
  • Install lazy susans in corner cabinets to hold more and easily find what you need
  • Use drawers in base cabinets instead of doors so you can easily see everything inside 
  • Create wider pathways to allow for multiple people to use the kitchen at once and also accommodate someone in a wheelchair
  • Install under-cabinet lighting to make meal prep easier for everyone. Use LED under-cabinet lights in addition to overhead lights for layered lighting. LED lights can also be installed in the cabinet toe space to provide night lights.
  • Install electro-mechanical hardware so that wall cabinet contents can be pulled down to counter height
  • Include pull-out or roll-out shelves wherever possible
  • Customize countertop heights. Countertops at different heights allow everyone to be together as a family
  • Install large drawer pulls or cabinet handles that don’t require gripping
  • Touch-free faucets are a smart option

Practical Suggestions for Adapting Other Rooms in Your Home for Multigenerational Living

  • Touchless faucets with a set water temperature in the shower
  • Grab bars around entrances, stairs, seating areas, toilets, and bath or showers
  • Comfort height toilets
  • Doors and windows with stops
  • Doors that chime when opened
  • Open spaces with clear sight lines to watch children
  • Wider doorways and hallways for strollers, walkers, wheelchairs
  • Shower bench
  • Barn-style or sliding doors
  • Lever handles for opening doors rather than twisting knobs
  • Stair-climbing-chair

Conclusion 

Your kitchen designer will work with you to design a layout that accommodates the varied needs and wants that three or four generations will have while living under one roof.

Manufacturers are now providing products for multi-generational living with functional yet beautiful items designed for the safety and comfort of everyone in a household. Products that are intuitive and easy to use appeal to everyone, despite age or physical abilities.

Resources used in this article and sources for further reading.


KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.