A renaissance has begun!

Posted: 12 years ago | By: Christine Somers | In: Family & Relationships | Read Time: 5 minutes, 0 seconds

The warm and kindly tradition of multi-generational living has been a part of the American home since colonial times. Now, the time for multi-generational living has come again, more gracefully and more stylishly than ever before. I’d like to share a few words about multi-gen home and then take you on a pictorial tour of my favorite multi-gen space. Let’s also look at how make your multi-gen spaces warm, functional and empowering, if not healing as well.

From my childhood neighbors in Florida and their live-in granny to my Italian neighbors here in New Haven, I’ve always enjoyed families where the generations live together. Thus inspired, my design team has included various forms of multi-gen spaces: in-law apartments, guest cottages and “swing spaces” in custom homes since 1981. Now, more people are requesting them.

According to a survey by Coldwell Banker 37 percent of their agents have been asked to find multi-gen home. In fact, there were about 5.5 million multi-generational households, according to the 2009 Census. Moving forward, the AARP concurs, reporting that 25 percent of the Baby Boomer generation “expects that they'll share homes with an aging parent at some point.”

My studio designed a new plantation style Show Home with whimsical island touches. We included within it, a multi-purpose, “multi-gen“ cottage and an attached carriage house-garage (not shown). Together these parts fulfilled our commission to create the forward-looking 6, 430 SF “New American Home 2002 “.

Even though The New American Home 2002 aka TNAH 02 was built all at once, I designed the multi gen space to give the illusion that it might formerly have been a freestanding cottage that got linked to the main family house over time.

The “cottage” is on the right hand side of the house and towards the rear. It’s located between the kitchen and the garage (where a ramp can be added). Placing the cottage near the kitchen and family room where the family is likely to congregate lends a warm and inviting connection to the main family house.

Connection is balanced with autonomy. At TNAH 02, you cross a porch and hall to reach the cottage. This semi-private entrance porch and hall maximizes the independence of the cottage dweller as does its location next to the laundry room. By the way, this porch doubles as an informal “friends and family entrance” to the entire house.

Inside our multi-gen spaces, wide, wheelchair accessible doors feel generous as they lead into the multi-gen rooms. Easy to use lever door handles set the stage for hardware solutions that are seamlessly integrated.

Inside, there’s a cheery, resort-like setting. Super-sized widows take advantage of the view and bring in lots of light for one whose eyesight may be failing. The white decor also brightens the room for all, including those whose vision could be better.

Areas for sleeping, reading, bathing and dressing are designed as stylish accommodations whether for an aging couple, a disabled person or guests. You’d never notice that spaces beside the bed and chair are sized for independent wheelchair access. What you notice instead is that being there truly feels like being on vacation or beginning a new life chapter.

The wheel chair accessible bathroom deliberately avoids any hint of an orthopedic or clinical appearance. There are no depressing reminders of physical limitations. There are no cheap or sterile looking spaces and no things such as ugly shower chairs, odd grab bars, and strange toilets. In fact the modern look of the accessible lavatory and the “roll in” shower are downright stylish. This multi-gen place does not convey the message that an aging parent is “on a downward slope”.

Such a message surely delays recovery and may accelerate a loved ones mental well-being. Typical sick room décor surely depresses a homes resale value as well. I wish I had been given more say about the storage area. It’s asking a lot of an aging parent to sort through and give up their possessions. With that in mind, the dressing room-closet should have been more than twice as wide so clothes and things could be stored on either side.

Nonetheless, I still like the pivoting hanging bar with attached handle. It brings clothes down to easy reach. Its also a good choice for children or to add an extra row of storage for anyone with high ceilings. TNAH 02 was built to showcase the treasure trove of materials and products that are offered by sponsor members of The National Council of the Housing Industry, NAHB. Crowds of idea seekers toured the home during the annual Homebuilders show, includung a family who purchased the home. One of their main attractors: the multi-gen “cottage”. It seems that they wanted a beloved in-law to move in with them. Whether your multi-gen space is a room within an existing house, a suite of rooms with a house or a free-standing cottage, it helps to think of multi -generational spaces as a way of easing the many life passages that people experience. You are helping by giving them a special nest within your cozy home. Design these spaces in the interest of empowering those who are aging or temporally incapacitated. Decorate them to give a joyous and uplifting experience for those who may be passing thorough. When it’s time to sell your home, you’ll be doubly happy that you did.

The rest of the home will soon be posted at www.melanietaylor.com and on Facebook under the fan page for Melanie Taylor Architecture & Interiors.

The home was featured in Builder, winter 2002, House Beautiful--Home Building, summer 2002; Home Remodeling and Decorating, summer 2002, and Kitchen and Baths, summer 2002.

ARCHITECTS: Melanie Taylor Architecture & Gardens, P.O. Box 8787, New Haven, CT 06511

PHOTOGRAPHER: James F. Wilson, P.O. Box 50142, Dallas TX, Tel: 214.823.6542

For more information about the building products: http://www.builderonline.com/bath/spec-sheets-the-new-american-home-2002.aspx

For more information about the other team members : www.builderonline.com/.../team-effort-the-new-american-home.aspx

Melanie Taylor Architecture, LLC

Architecture, Planning & Interiors PO Box 8787

New Haven, CT 06532