“The key is to create a balance between private and communal areas,” says Peter Knights of architecture and interior design firm Taylor Knights. Private areas provide space where people can get away from others, while communal areas mean family members can spend time together or share household tasks.
Privacy for bedrooms and bathrooms is essential. Planning the layout of a house so that each generation has their own area, with bedroom (or bedrooms) and full bathroom, can help ensure privacy. This may take the form of elderly parents on the ground floor with the rest of the family on an upstairs level, or parents at one end of the house and adult children at the other.
The living room, dining area and kitchen are communal spaces where the family can come together and share tasks such as cooking and entertaining.
Serving as spaces for meals, relaxation and socialising, these communal living areas should have furniture that is comfortable for every age group in the house.
Additional living areas provide another place to either socialise or to be alone. They may be designed as smaller communal areas or as private living spaces related to various bedrooms.
Having outdoor space to sit, play, cook or socialise is important for all generations. This may be in the form of a garden or courtyard that extends from the living area, or a private balcony off a bedroom.
“Flexibility is important – providing spaces that are visually engaged with each other and yet flexible enough to provide privacy when required,” says Mark Austin of Austin Maynard Architects. Making spaces adaptable and versatile means they can cater for different generations as well as the possibility of other generations moving into a house in the future.
Retractable walls and doors provide for this flexibility of present and future use, interweaving children’s spaces and creating accessible living for grandparents.
Solar Sollew, pictured here, is a purposefully designed multi-generational house that is wheelchair accessible and energy efficient. “Accessibility and future-proofing the house to ensure it would cater for the health and functional needs of residents was an important design requirement,” says Chi Lu of building design firm Positive Footprints, who were responsible for this design. The house is only 240 square metres (2,583 square feet) in size, yet Positive Footprints cleverly managed to squeeze in a double garage, three bedrooms, open-plan kitchen and living area, plus a secondary living room upstairs. An easy-to-access bedroom and bathroom on the ground level is for the grandparents.
When designing homes for older occupants or those with a disability or reduced mobility, Lu says it’s important to think about the practical considerations. “Include larger circulation spaces, easy-to-use doors, furniture and tapware, and power points at appropriate levels,” she says.
In this kitchen, a cantilevered bench allows for easier wheelchair manoeuvrability.
Materials, finishes, furnishings and decorations should be suited to all three generations in communal spaces, but can be more generation-appropriate in private areas. “The best approach is to keep the materials and finishes timeless and practical. It’s also important that the materials are robust and easy to maintain,” Knights says.
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