Multigenerational living was gaining traction in the States well before the pandemic, what with aging parents choosing to stay with their children over assisted living and Millennials moving back home after college to save money. COVID-19 has expedited growth of this model and designers are responding with innovative solutions that connect—and in some cases disconnect—these different generations under one roof.
Among such families, Ebony Stephenson, owner of Newport News, Virginia-based Designs by Ebony LLC, notices the “need for larger gathering spaces for them to be together but also more confined areas for everyone to be apart. Not everyone in one family has the same interests, watches the same TV shows, or even has the same schedules.”
Laurence Carr, CEO and founder of her eponymous New York practice, agrees: “Ensuring that there is a space for each person to get their needs met is the first focus.”
For children sharing a room, for instance, a sense of autonomy can be found just by hanging up a dividing curtain; those motivated by fresh air can dress their shared home office with biophilia.
Mealtimes are pivotal for uniting families, which is all the more reason to integrate work zones and secondary sinks into kitchens, or as Carr recommends, a small breakfast nook combined with a larger dining space to offer more flexibility.
“Now, more than ever, ergonomics and organization are at the forefront of simple kitchen updates,” says Dani Polidor, owner of Rochester, New York-based City Sense, who suggests installing easy-to-reach cabinets and placing often-used items in the ‘nose-to-knees zone,’ a term coined by kitchen designer Maria Stapperfenne, where reaching and bending are minimized.
To make bathrooms accessible for all ages, Stephenson begins with storage for all sets of personal hygiene products and also considers comfort-height toilets, zero-threshold showers with seating, and scald-proof faucets. She also opts for grab bars instead of towel bars “since they are so stylish and blend in with today’s designs. Then if someone were ever to need assistance, they are reaching for an actual grab bar instead of a flimsy towel bar, which could cause injuries.”
Swapping shower enclosures for open wet rooms, adds Jenn Klaus, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery’s marketing manager for the showroom/builder Northeast district, is another good idea because “you can walk right in and not worry about tripping, which is a very important consideration for seniors and small children alike.”
A version of this article was originally published by KBB.