There’s a new kind of sandwich in town: the sandwich generation. These are the adults (usually boomers) who find themselves in the middle: living with both their children and their parents under one roof. More and more residents of the Charlotte area are in a multi-generational home, mainly for financial reasons. Our population is aging, and retirement living facilities are expensive. Our kids are graduating with large student debt balances and need a helping hand to achieve financial independence.

Family from multi-generational home

The number of families with children, parents and grandparents living together rose from 3.6% of all U.S. households in 2006 to 4.3% in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This means that as of 2014 a record 60.6 million people (19% of the U.S. population) lived in a multi-generational household.

There can be many benefits to “sandwich” living, but to make this type of living arrangement work, you have to look at your home a bit differently. Some of the most important things to take into account are:

  • Privacy issues unique to multi-family living
  • Safety and accessibility for younger and older family members
  • Getting the best use of the space in your home now and in the future

So, what can you do to get ready for having a multi-generational home?

1) Remodel Your Kitchen: Make your kitchen more adaptable to multiple generations and multiple cooks. Adding a second sink and more counter space, such as an island, makes it easier for more than one person to work at the same time. A beverage station with an undercounter refrigerator and a cabinet with all the supplies needed for coffee, tea and cold drinks is especially useful. Just make sure it’s located outside of the regular work triangle (path between the sink, range and fridge) to avoid kitchen collisions. A second small dishwasher can also be helpful.

large kitchen with large island

Kitchen design by Diamond Builders of America

2) Build an Addition: If you are definitely planning for a multi-generational household, consider putting on an addition. This will give you not only more space but will also give both you and your live-in family members more privacy. In addition to a second master bedroom and full bathroom, a private entrance and small kitchenette go a long way towards making someone feel independent.

3) Integrate Universal Design: Universal design focuses on making living areas accessible to all – young, old, and every age in between, as well as people with disabilities. Using universal design principles is a great idea, even if you just plan on living in your house as empty-nesters as long as possible. Consider wider doorways and smooth flooring to allow easier access for wheelchairs.

Install faucets, door knobs, and drawer pulls that pass the “closed fist test.” If you can open the door or drawer with your fist closed, it is likely that someone with limited strength and mobility will be able to use it. This includes lever-type handles for doors, and single-handle or touchless faucets.

universal design bathroom

Photo courtesy Kohler Co.

4) Think and Plan Ahead: One of the most important features to include in your planning for a multi-generational home is flexible space. If you are putting an addition on your home’s main level, consider designing it so that it could be used as a home office, exercise room or a master bedroom suite in the future. Thinking ahead when you modify your home is important If you would like to stay in your home for as long as possible, even when you have an empty nest.

If you are considering remodeling your home to take advantage of a multi-generational, “sandwich” living arrangement, let us know. We know that it’s important to you that the remodeling experience and the final results are the best they can be for everyone involved. That’s why we want to help you at every stage of the process of modifying a multi-generational home for your family members.

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