Newest Multigenerational Homes Give Families Privacy and Togetherness

Homebuilders offer new ideas for additions that make room for more family members.

Lennar, the home builder, is selling a new multigenerational house in Irvine, Calif., that I would have loved to live in 10 years ago when I was sandwiched between a mother with Alzheimer’s and a toddler daughter.

Lennar’s floor plan shows a neat way you can add on to the typical traditional home to make room for aging parents or returning 20-somethings.

The company is looking to tap into the trend of more than two generations living in a single house. About one in five U.S. households are multigenerational, the Pew Research Center estimates, a trend fueled by the growth of immigrant households, delays in the age young people marry and start their own households, the financial challenges of the recession, and aging baby boomers moving in with their kids.

The floor plan features an apartment suite with a separate outside entrance, plus an entrance door to the main house. Built across one side of the house, the suite includes one bedroom, a kitchen/living room space, a full bath, and a laundry closet.

The New Home Company’s take on multigenerational homes in Irvine, Calif., includes a similar one-bedroom guest house called a casita. But instead of attaching the suite to the house, New Home makes it accessible from a loggia (that’s architect speak for a covered deck or patio) that connects to the main house.

I like both layouts because they’re so multifunctional. You could use the suite as office space if you were an accountant, psychologist, or some other type of professional whose clients visit. In areas where accessory apartments are legal, you could rent out the suite for additional income.

They’d also make pretty groovy mom and dad caves when the grandparents pass away and the kids leave the nest for good, and you finally have peace, quiet, and time for hobbies.

The biggest hurdle with designs like these are cost. Adding laundry and kitchen areas with countertops, cabinets, appliances, and water and gas lines isn’t cheap.

Costs are why most builders opt to appeal to the multigenerational households by offering a lower-cost solution — dual master bedrooms. Put a coffee pot and a mini-fridge in there and you’ve got yourself an efficiency suite.

At this point in my life, my parents have passed away, so I don’t need the multigenerational home anymore. Instead of a toddler, I’ve got a high schooler whose life plan includes parents who live in her pool house and look after the one daughter she’s having after she finishes medical school.

I just checked with her and I’m pleased to say that my future pool home will have a kitchenette. Sounds a lot better than a coffee pot and a microwave to me.

Have you lived with your adult children or your parents? How did you adapt your home to accommodate everyone?