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Multi-generational Homes

Baby with parents and grandparents

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Multi-generational Homes

If you have ever considered moving back home or building a house to accommodate the in-laws or grandparents, you are not alone. The economy, mortgage rates, rent increases, and the pandemic have resulted in a resurgence of the kind of multi-generational living we used to see years ago. Today, multiple generations living under one roof are more popular than ever, with an influx of new custom-built homes designed for multi-generational living.

Whether by choice or necessity, the decision to live with extended family is not one to take lightly. Living in a multi-generational home can be a challenge or a blessing, depending on how you approach it. Read on to learn more about multi-generational homes, the pros and cons of multi-generational living, tips for living with multiple generations, and how to build and design a multi-generational home in which you and your family can thrive.

Dual occupancy residence

What is a Multi-generational Home?

A multi-generational home is a spacious or partitioned residence, combining both private and communal spaces, specifically intended to accommodate 2-4 adult generations of family living together. The living arrangement, known as multi-generational living, typically involves grandparents, parents, and children all living on the same property. However, there are plenty of variations of this, such as four-generation homes, homes where in-laws live together, and situations where extended family members such as aunties and uncles join the rest of the family. While any home could hypothetically house multiple generations of adults, multi-generational homes are typically only labeled as such if the residence is functionally designed to accommodate multi-generational living.

While multi-generational living can be a blessing, it can also cause tensions within a family. Everyone having access to both private and communal spaces will be the foundation of a harmonious life, and creating zones that family members call their own can make all the difference. For instance, a young couple living with their parents might prefer a bedroom with an en-suite and a small living area separate from the rest of the family.

Luckily, there are many styles of homes that suit multi-generational living, whether you are all living under one roof or in separate dwellings on the same property.

floor plan

Where to Start with Building a Multi-generational Home

If the idea of multi-generational living excites you, you’ll want to ensure your home can support it. Based on the number of adults and children you’re looking to accommodate, you’ll need to review and revise the build of your home, its design elements, and the house’s collective features. All towards the expressed goal of ensuring your home environment fosters a healthy and happy multi-generational living arrangement.

Multi-generational Home Build Types

When it comes to building, there are a plethora of choices to accommodate a multi-generational lifestyle, including single-storey, two-storey, dual occupancy, duplex, granny flats, and extensions. Let’s look at how each type of building can be used as a multi-generational home.

    • Single-storey. A single house that has one floor, containing all of the bedrooms and living areas, is called a single-storey house. If you prefer a single-storey house, to make it multi-generational, include multiple living areas and bedrooms with en-suites.
    • Double-storey. A double-storey house is a residential building that has two floors. A double-storey home can cater to multi-generational living as you have the option of one master suite upstairs and one downstairs, for example. You could even create completely separate living areas and a kitchen on both levels.
    • Duplex. This design offers the option of having two dwellings, connected by a wall or roof, on one block of land. Whether they are subdivided (two separate titles), a duplex means you can have two dedicated homes on the same block of land and still enjoy the benefits of multi-generational living.
    • Granny flat. Whether freestanding or attached to the main house, granny flats are a secondary dwelling that typically comes with its own entrance, features essential amenities such as a kitchen, bedroom, living area, and bathroom, and is more or less designed to be self-contained. Granny flats are a great way to create separate living spaces that provide more privacy and autonomy from the main household.

When considering multi-generational living, building a custom-designed home is the ultimate way to create your ideal space, ensuring a comfortable and rewarding home life for you and your family. See below a number of example projects from Forme Homes, that are perfect for multi-generational living.

Multi-generational Home Design Elements

Designing a purpose-built home is a great way to create the ideal foundation for multi-generational living. Whether under the same roof or in separate dwellings on the same block, each choice you make will impact the experience of living with your extended family. Here are important elements to consider when designing a multi-generational dream home.

    • Flexibility. Design flexible spaces to allow for the evolving needs of the family. Make sure these spaces can be used for multiple functions and by multiple people. Don’t custom design a room to the point where it can’t be altered or used for other purposes. As children grow up, you might want a bedroom to become a study, or a playroom to become a media room. Plan internal framing and things like plumbing and electrics with this flexibility in mind.
    • Privacy. Privacy is going to be a key factor in the success of a multi-generational lifestyle. Consider both indoor and outdoor separate and communal areas for all members of the family. Remember, teenagers need their independent time as much as adults, so perhaps a teenager’s retreat or rumpus room might work. For adults, a retreat or separate living room can work. For those building a large home, consider separate zoned areas for each generation, and make sure bedrooms are far away from each other.
    • Safety and accessibility. Take into account designs that will be safe and accessible for all ages in the home. For those with elderly grandparents, consider a design with fewer stairs, or make sure their bedroom is on the ground floor if you are building a double-storey home.
    • Diversity. While you cannot accommodate the whole family’s style preferences, consider using different decor for some rooms. This can be achieved by designing semi-open plan rooms, different ceiling heights, lighting, floor, and wall decor.
      Individual comfort. Consider features like zoned heating and cooling to ensure the comfort of all the family individually. A grandparent might require a warmer room than the rest of the household, and this allows you to set different temperatures in different zones.
    • Connectivity. With a larger home and more people in it, it is important to factor in a strong internet network that is equipped to handle multiple devices. Modern homes require constant connectivity for entertainment, virtual learning, and communication.

Multi-generational Home Features

Now that we understand the importance of creating a home that is both functional and efficient, whilst also fostering togetherness and respecting privacy, let’s look at some practical design tips to achieve that.

    • Multiple living areas. Take into account the need for privacy by creating separate living spaces for each generation that will be living in the home. Children could have a rumpus room, parents a lounge, and grandparents a retreat.
    • Communal living area. Design the communal living area to accommodate every member of the household at once. This will mean making sure there is ample seating both in the lounge and dining area or the kitchen has enough bench space for everyone. Don’t underestimate the amount of space you will need.
    • Bedroom placement. Ideally, bedrooms should be in separate wings. If under one roof, parents and small children could have their bedrooms in one zone, and grandparents or other adult children at the other end of the home, with a central communal living and kitchen area.
    • Flexible multipurpose spaces. Include flexible spaces that are multipurpose, such as a reading room, homework room for kids, or office for working from home. These can also change as the family’s needs evolve.
    • Storage. Believe it or not, savvy storage will make a big difference to the comfort of each family member. With a place for everything, the home will be more organised. Innovative storage ideas can include bookcases, cupboards, built-in furniture with storage, ceiling-to-floor shelving, storage under the staircase, etc.
    • Ample bathrooms. Having plenty of bathrooms is a priority, so think about the number of family members who will be using the bathrooms. Consider en-suites to the main adult’s bedrooms and a shared bathroom for the children, for instance.
    • Outdoor spaces. Consider the possibility of creating a couple of different outdoor spaces for both communal and separate enjoyment. You could have an outdoor deck where the family can enjoy time together, as well as a separate patio or screened porch for some time away.
    • Separate entrances. A great way to ensure privacy is multiple entrances. With several generations living in the home, they are sure to have different schedules. Multiple entrances will ensure the freedom to come and go without interrupting the rest of the family. Obviously, a dual occupancy or duplex will have a separate entrance, but why not consider separate entrances if possible when living under one roof?
    • Garage and driveway. Think of how many cars you will have and where they will need to be parked. You could also consider separate driveways and garages if the block is large enough.
    • Hallways and entrance halls. Make hallways and entrance halls wider to accommodate the number of people in the home. If living with elderly family members, consider wider halls for wheelchair access or mobility scooters.
floor plan

Pros and Cons of Multi-generational Living

Multiple generations living under one roof have benefits and drawbacks. While multi-generational living can provide financial and emotional support and be incredibly rewarding, it can also be challenging to cohabitate with different ages, personalities, and lifestyles. With careful consideration of the pros and cons, it is easier to make an informed choice on whether multi-generational living is right for you.


  • Combined Finances. It is much easier to save money when living in a household with two or more adult people. Rent or mortgage payments are lower, household expenses are shared, and young adults are more likely to save money for their own homes. It can also impact the ability to get a mortgage or refinance, as more adults may mean more income and assets.
  • Shared responsibility. Household chores and childcare can be shared by all members of the family.
  • Enhanced family bonds. Living together can create a deeper relationship with relatives that you may not otherwise experience. It can create a sense of community for family members through shared experiences and create precious memories. Grandparents can be more involved with their grandchildren’s day-to-day lives and enjoy a more significant bond. They are also built-in babysitters.
  • Heightened Security. Not only do elderly grandparents feel more secure living with other family members, they are more likely to be at home during the day, which adds an element of security to the home.
  • Improved quality of life. Elderly people may live longer and be healthier when surrounded by young children and family, as studies have shown that long-term loneliness can result in cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.


  • Less privacy. A major drawback is the privacy issue. Less personal space can be difficult for any family member to handle, and living with others could be more difficult than you envisaged, particularly if you are used to living alone. That may not be as obvious if you build a dual occupancy, duplex, or granny flat, but if you are living under one roof, make sure you design a home with privacy in mind. Alternatively, have a list of house rules to make sure everyone’s boundaries are considered.
  • More housework. More people in the home means more mess, so make sure to divide the household chores evenly. Perhaps organise a housework roster to counteract any possible conflict.
  • Money issues. Money is an extremely emotive topic, and so shared expenses can cause issues. Be clear on financial expectations from the beginning.
  • Personality conflicts. A variety of personalities living together can cause tension within the household. We don’t always get on with every person all the time. Thus, it is important to have your own retreat should arguments ignite.
  • Too much noise. Older people may find it hard to cope with the noise from children and teenagers, particularly if they are used to a quiet life. Noise issues can be solved if the elderly person has a separate house, granny flat on the property or a room that is zoned in a different wing. Another idea is to consider soundproofing.

Tips for Living in a Multi-generational Home

With an understanding of the enormous benefits associated with multi-generational living, but also the realistic drawbacks, here are some tips to make the lifestyle choice work for all the family.

  • Set clear expectations. Make communication the key from the start and continue open communication as time goes on. Perhaps set a monthly meeting where family members can voice any concerns before they cause tension. Set realistic expectations with each other about things like money, chores, and childcare responsibilities, for example.
  • Respect privacy. Have enough respect for your family members to let them have their privacy. This might be as simple as knocking before you enter a room if they are alone or not entering their bedroom or duplex if they are not there. Parents with adult children living at home should respect their right to privacy as well. They might be living with you, but they are still adults and should be treated that way. In a similar way, elderly parents should also be treated with respect by their own children and grandchildren.
  • Create separate spaces as well as common spaces. Separate spaces are vital to ensuring privacy, but also help each family member enjoy their communal time better. You might want to eat separately most nights but come together for a family dinner a couple of times a week.
  • Be respectful of the home and the people in it. Don’t leave your rubbish lying around the house or dirty dishes in the sink. If you want to borrow something, ask before taking it and accept if the person declines. Although you are living with family members, treat them with the same respect you would a friend or housemate.
  • Be patient. Sometimes it can take a while for people living together to settle into a rhythm. Be patient and realistic when it comes to change, and try not to make a big deal of small issues.
  • Remember why you are there. In challenging times, remember why you are living in a multi-generational household. Reframe your mindset to benefits rather than drawbacks.

Living in a multi-generational home is a wonderful way to save money, encourage family bonds, and create a solid support network. It allows young couples the chance to get ahead, helps parents pay their bills and mortgage, and gives elderly people a sense of security and belonging. There are great advantages to multiple generations living together, provided it is approached with realistic expectations, open communication, and a plan in place.

There is an extensive range of home styles to suit multi-generational living, from single and double-storey, to duplex and granny flats. Design features like multiple living areas, bedroom placement, and ample bathrooms lend themselves to a multi-generational way of living, offering both practicality and privacy. Multi-generational home design can be straightforward with the right home design and builder. Contact the team at Forme Homes, the experts in custom homes, and start your multi-generational home journey today.