Flex­i­ble de­sign is key if you end up with par­ents (or adult kids) liv­ing at your place. The ex­perts share their ad­vice on mak­ing it work for ev­ery­one

Inside Out (Australia) - - Contents - WORDS JO­HANNA LEG­GATT

Flex­i­ble de­sign is es­sen­tial when two gen­er­a­tions (or more!) come to­gether un­der one roof

Homes that can ac­com­mo­date two or more gen­er­a­tions liv­ing un­der the same roof are back in vogue. The com­bi­na­tion of steep house prices and an age­ing pop­u­la­tion is re­sult­ing in more chil­dren stay­ing at home longer, and el­derly par­ents mov­ing back in with their adult chil­dren with an eye on need­ing as­sis­tance fur­ther down the track. With blocks get­ting smaller and land be­com­ing pricier, it also makes sense for fam­i­lies to com­bine re­sources. Ac­cord­ing to re­search com­piled by City Fu­tures Re­search Cen­tre at UNSW, about 20 per cent of the Aus­tralian pop­u­la­tion now lives in a multi-gen­er­a­tional house­hold, and it’s a trend that builders have duly noted. “Prob­a­bly five years ago, the ‘guest suite’ ver­sion of a floor plan didn’t sell at all,” says Stephen Thomp­son, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at All­worth Homes. “But now our most pop­u­lar de­signs are floor plans with guest suites.” Here’s what you need to know if you’re ren­o­vat­ing or de­sign­ing with fam­ily in mind.

That sec­ond liv­ing space could eas­ily be turned into a bed­room and en­suite ar­range­ment STEPHEN THOMP­SON, ALL­WORTH HOMES

de­sign ba­sics

Con­sider who you need to ac­com­mo­date, and take a look around your home to see whether it’s pos­si­ble to re­con­fig­ure your ex­ist­ing lay­out. Ide­ally, you’re look­ing to cre­ate a zone that your fam­ily mem­bers can call their own, such as a bed­room-en­suite set-up with enough space to fit a sit­ting area. If your home al­ready has two liv­ing ar­eas, you’re well placed for a multi-gen­er­a­tional ren­o­va­tion. “That sec­ond liv­ing space, maybe with a next-door pow­der room, could eas­ily be turned into a bed­room and en­suite ar­range­ment,” says Stephen. A multi-sto­ried house can lend it­self well to cre­at­ing pri­vate zones, but ac­cess is a key fac­tor; el­derly rel­a­tives may strug­gle with stairs, mak­ing an up­per-level ren­o­va­tion un­suit­able. On the other hand, turn­ing your top floor over to your adult chil­dren – es­pe­cially if you can close it off in some way – might be just the ticket.

For big­ger ad­just­ments, it pays to plan ahead. “Talk to an ar­chi­tect and cre­ate a mas­ter­plan that projects as far into the fu­ture as pos­si­ble,” says An­drew Benn from Benn + Penna Ar­chi­tec­ture, who cre­ated an award-win­ning, multi-gen­er­a­tional home for his own fam­ily from two ad­ja­cent Bal­main ter­races. “Maybe even put your devel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion in to coun­cil with more than you may end up do­ing, just to give you that flex­i­bil­ity.”

side is­sues

Ex­tend­ing? Think out rather than up. “Usu­ally mo­bil­ity is a big is­sue, so the best op­tion would be to con­sider an ad­di­tion on the ground floor,” says An­drew. “If your block is wide enough, you could build an add-on to the side of the home.” In the ter­races that An­drew and his fam­ily share with his mother, the houses are sep­a­rate do­mains, while the back­yards con­nect up to­wards the rear to be­come the com­mu­nal area. “If you build a side wing, both gen­er­a­tions could have ac­cess to the gar­den and you could even zone the gar­den into sep­a­rate spa­ces, de­pend­ing on its size,” ex­plains An­drew.

stu­dio so­lu­tions

If you have room on your block, build­ing a self-con­tained stu­dio in the back­yard can be a great so­lu­tion to hous­ing more than one gen­er­a­tion. At a min­i­mum, and es­pe­cially for older rel­a­tives, try to in­clude a bed­room, bath­room and sep­a­rate kitchen-liv­ing area that is spa­cious enough for en­ter­tain­ing. How­ever, there are some de­sign tricks that can make the most of a smaller stu­dio foot­print for older teenagers or adult chil­dren, such as fit­ting a mez­za­nine sleep­ing plat­form or in­cor­po­rat­ing a wall bed.

An­other idea that is gain­ing trac­tion, es­pe­cially on in­ner-city blocks, is build­ing an apart­ment above the garage, with rear ac­cess via the laneways. “Of­ten the home is on a long thin block, so if some­one is liv­ing at the far end of the block over the garage, then pri­vacy is not an is­sue,” ex­plains An­drew Benn. “Usu­ally, the cost is kept down, too, be­cause the builders have good ac­cess down the back lane, and the granny flats tend to add value.” As a bonus, ser­vices such as power and wa­ter can be me­tered separately, which can help avoid po­ten­tial ar­gu­ments over the home’s run­ning costs.

pretty and prac­ti­cal

When it comes to the home’s aes­thet­ics, sat­is­fy­ing the dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions’ ideas of a beau­ti­ful in­te­rior can be tricky, es­pe­cially if your grand­mother wants to move her col­lec­tion of much-loved an­tique fur­ni­ture into your pared-back, Scandi-style home. Hiv­ing off a sep­a­rate zone makes it eas­ier to em­brace style dif­fer­ences, but where you have com­mu­nal spa­ces, make sure ev­ery­one has a say rather than al­low­ing one fac­tion to dic­tate the whole look. “It’s fair that the home re­flects ev­ery­one’s tastes to a de­gree,” says in­te­ri­ors stylist Naomi Find­lay, who rec­om­mends agree­ing on the ‘hero’ items of the house and then adding in­di­vid­ual touches. “These days, in­te­rior de­signs are very fluid, so con­tem­po­rary and clas­sic can be hy­brids of a few dif­fer­ent styles,” she ex­plains. “You can also unite your dif­fer­ent styles through pops of colour or tex­ture.”

There are prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions to be thought of too. Bear in mind that a grand­par­ent may re­quire a warmer room than the rest of the house­hold in cold weather, so you may want to fit a heat­ing sys­tem that al­lows you to set dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­tures in dif­fer­ent zones. Good light­ing, non-slip sur­faces, handrails and lever door­knobs and tap­ware are among the in­clu­sions that will make life eas­ier and safer for both el­derly and very young rel­a­tives.

More and more fam­i­lies are turn­ing to multi-gen­er­a­tional home so­lu­tions.

Ar­chi­tect An­drew Benn’s award-win­ning multi­gen­er­a­tional home made use of two ad­ja­cent ter­races in Bal­main, NSW.

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