Designing a Multi-Generational Custom Home

Multi-generational home plans have become increasingly popular in recent years. Adult children are living with their parents in a large family house. More people need a home within a home.

People with elderly parents are choosing to have them live in their homes to prevent their parents from having to go to an expensive independent living facility.

It’s easy now to find home plans with dual master suites or with a “Millennial apartment” or house plans with separate in-law apartment in the basement.

A custom home builder can help you build your dream home to be the perfect fit for everyone in the family.

9 options for multi-generational house plans:

1. Dual master suites

  • This is a traditional “mother-in-law suite” with the family sharing common living areas and a common kitchen.
  • Some families prefer a larger kitchen with multiple work stations.
  • Such an arrangement may be especially helpful if the older generation is helping a lot with cooking or child care for the younger generation.
  • Two master suites in the same home is also ideal when there is an elderly family member who needs increasing assistance with daily living from other family members.
  • With families who get along well and prefer a lot of togetherness, this is a great option.
  • All of the house but the private bedrooms and master bathrooms are common spaces for everyone to share.

2. Dual master suites with multiple common living spaces in the same home

  • This gives a bit more independence and privacy.
  • Sometimes having two living rooms or two or three common areas (inside and outside) can give everyone the space they need.
  • With this multi-generational home arrangement, the kitchen and eating areas are often still common which cuts down on expenses and chores for everyone.

Johnny Cohen Oxoxqlawve0 Unsplash

3. Multiple master suites with the in-law suite containing private areas for living space

  • The in-law suite may have a bedroom, private bath, and living space.
  • With this design, everyone still shares a common kitchen and eating area.
  • Each generation may even appreciate having their own outdoor living space, as well.

4. A duplex or townhome 

  • A huge advantage of this arrangement is that if the extra unit is no longer needed for the family, it could be rented out or sold.
  • Each generation retains a tremendous amount of privacy and independence.
  • Each generation can have their own sense of style and decor.

5. A custom home with apartment in the basement

  • Having the in-laws or grown children in a basement apartment is perfect for situations where there is a need for a more independence and privacy.
  • This design allows for young children to come up and down the steps freely without having to go outside.
  • The family caregiver has full access to an elderly loved one if greater levels of assistance are needed.
  • No one has to go outside in the night, heat, rain, or cold to access the other family members.

Exterior view of 3-Story Multigenerational Home With Split Front Staircase To Porch And Double Car Garage In Basement

Multi-generational home with basement apartment

6. A studio apartment connected to the main house

  • This multi-generational home plan design provides a good bit of privacy and independence for an aging parent, grandparent, or an adult child.
  • It has its own kitchen or kitchenette and private living space.
  • It is perfect when there is only one person living in the apartment but may be too crowded if there is an adult child with young children.
  • The apartment can have a private garage, entrance, and outdoor space, if desired.

7. A cottage, guest house, or “casita” in the backyard

  • The guest house is generally much smaller than the main house.
  • If an elderly parent, grandparent, or adult child prefers not to share walls with the rest of the family due to noise sensitivity or a different work/sleep schedule, the extra distance can be very beneficial.
  • A small, one story home can utilize universal design so that there are no steps and everything in the home is accessible.
  • This arrangement provides a great deal of privacy and independence for families who would like to be close but appreciate a bit of separation.
  • The guest house could be rented out to others if it is no longer needed by family members.

Andrea Davis K8wl83m48xy Unsplash

8. A custom “in-law apartment” over a separate garage in the backyard

  • An aging parent, grandparent, adult child, or other extended family member could have a lot of privacy and independence with this arrangement, as well.
  • The only draw-back to an apartment over a garage is that there will be steps. Of course, if it is the only solution, a small elevator or chair lift can be installed, if necessary.
  • The apartment could also be rented out when family members are not using it.

9. Two separate houses

  • Another option is that the two adult generations could build completely separate custom homes next door to each other on separate lots or on one lot.
  • The homes could be connected with a breezeway, deck, or sidewalk.
  • Then each generation has maximum freedom, independence, and flexibility, while still enjoying the benefits of living close by.

Building a custom home is the perfect solution for families who want to live in a multi-generational home. Some of these options are not available in certain areas due to zoning restrictions. So be sure to check with your home builder before buying a lot.

Benefits of living with extended family

As of 2016, Pew Research indicated that over 64 million people were living in multi-generational homes. Families are finding they can help each other by sharing costs, labor, and emotional connection.

There are many benefits to having a multi-generational household. Extended families can save money by splitting mortgages, home maintenance, and utility bills.

They may be able to pool transportation. They can help each other with child care and elderly care, avoiding expensive day care and nursing costs.

Living together also cuts transportation time to nothing when one family member needs extra help with daily living or medical attention. And the extended family can divide the chores to make less work for each family member.

Having someone home almost all the time also makes security and safety sense. When people are home, there is a much lower chance of a robbery or break-in.

And if elderly adults aren’t living alone, they are much more likely to get the emergency care they need if they fall or get sick.

Family members also have the opportunity to form closer bonds when they live close together. People in each generation tend to feel more connected to family and less lonely.

The emotional benefit for senior adults and children is especially impactful on quality of life.

It’s wise to prepare for potential conflicts in advance by having a plan to help everyone to understand each other’s needs for privacy, boundaries, mealtime issues, chores, and financial expectations.

In Law Apartment With Living Space


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For more great information on aging in place, please check out this article by,

A Guide to Aging in Place.