Architecture Bespoke Living Interiors & Design

Modern Family Home: Designed for Multigenerational Living

Home has always been a place for family to come together. Increasingly, the Western world is seeing multiple generations living together under one roof

“The shared home has moved leaps and bounds from the ubiquitous granny flat, a self-contained unit that previously was most commonly associated with multigenerational living. Changing household makeups and their collective concerns have fueled a need for a new type of housing to accommodate them, and architects around the world are stepping up to the task,” begins a new book, Come Together, The Architecture of Multigenerational Living, which looks at the changing family home. Co-edited by Gestalten and myself, it documents the rise of multigenerational living with inspiring examples from around the world.

Most important is listening closely to the members of the family, without assuming what they want based on their generations—Steve Mongillo

Connection, cost savings and shared care are among the reasons multiple generations are setting up a family home together. “Well, in many urban areas of the United States, for example, the ever-increasing costs of housing are doubtless contributing to this trend, as are factors related to the current pandemic,” says Steve Mongillo, co-founder of Seattle-based design studio mwworks.

“Beyond that, we find that families are choosing to create places to be together, either to share the responsibilities and pleasures of daily life, or for the more occasional enjoyment of special times together,” he says.

Looking After the Elders 

For many families, there is also a cultural connection. “Our country is a melting pot of incredibly diverse cultures. In many of those cultures it is standard practice for the elder generation to be taken care of, housed, and nurtured by the younger generation,” says Joshua Aidlin, partner of San Francisco-based Aidlin Darling Design. “It is a beautiful return to historic elderly care.”

This intimate dynamic between the grandchildren and grandparents has long been known to provide the eldest generation a reason to wake up every day. The unconditional love between these opposing generations provides vitality to both. It is a mutually enriching relationship—Joshua Aidlin

Incorporating flexibility, accessibility, and a balance of privacy and common space, architects are bringing high design along with function to modern multigenerational homes. Here are four exquisite examples.

Terrace House by Aidlin Darling Design

A set of grandparents, parents, and their three sons enjoy exceptional views of the city from this shared three-story family home in San Francisco. Topped by a living roof and featuring floor-to-ceiling glass, the home’s upper floor gives the younger couple their own private space and the lower level offers a special connection between grandparents and grandchildren. The shared space on the second floor creates the opportunity for all members of the family to spend time together.

“If it is at all possible, creating a singular floor or wing of a home, or even a small guesthouse where the grandparents can reside and maintain their autonomy, can be tremendously helpful,” says Aidlin. “This allows each family unit to engage when they want to and retreat to their own ‘home’ when they need to.”

Providing a special space for the children and their grandparents is a particular feature of this house. “This intimate dynamic between the grandchildren and grandparents has long been known to provide the eldest generation a reason to wake up every day,” says Aidlin. “The unconditional love between these opposing generations provides vitality to both. It is a mutually enriching relationship.”

Whidbey Island Farm Retreat by mwworks

A series of discrete volumes, tucked in between Douglas firs and joined by an interior courtyard of native flora and fauna, bring together multiple generations of this family, whose relationship to the land—their family farm—spans generations.

“Most important is close listening to the members of the family, without assuming what they want based on their generations,” says Steve Mongillo, co-founder of mwworks, “We ask a range of questions to learn about the family’s dreams in general, and as it relates to the connections among them, for time together and opportunities for time apart.”

The nature-immersed family home was designed for flexibility and longevity, so that the grandparents—who commissioned the home—can live out their years there, and then perhaps pass it on.

Maison Koya by Alain Carle Architecte

Located in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, in Canada’s Laurentian Mountains, Maison Koya offers privacy and flexibility for three generations. Three wooden volumes cantilever over concrete and point in different directions, offering views of the landscape for all family members.

“Only a central space situated at the intersection of the three wood structures constitutes a place of convergence for the three generations,” states the firm.

“This possibility of moving between the internal and external parts of the building engages a type of open use, a possibility of reconfiguration of the occupations of the spaces over time, as if each of the three structures could be reconfigured according to the changes of use.”

Creek House by Faulkner Architects

This dramatic abode, near Lake Tahoe in California, is for a multigenerational family that comes on retreat from New York City. All members had a say in the design, and private spaces are juxtaposed with communal ones.

“Good form works for a range of uses by all age groups,” says Greg Faulkner, founder of Faulkner Architects. “Adaptability is especially important.” The modular-like home, a rectangle comprising three “bars” that slide into the landscape, is set among large boulders that were left in place.

“This is a holiday house, so the visits are limited in time, but regardless, both the younger and older generations are in need of assistance in these uncertain times,” Faulkner says.

“People are finding it is more efficient to live together, especially with remote work. What folks are discovering is that, although it may not be a permanent situation, being together does intensify the connection between family members such that when they do part again the family has been strengthened,” he says.

On the Market

Villa and pool on the British Virgin Islands
Valley Trunk Estate has views of a beach with dramatic rock headlands at each end and a natural vegetation line behind, providing privacy. A storage building close by houses a range of beach equipment for snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and foiling.

Valley Trunk Estate, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

This holiday home, with views of Big Trunk Bay and a pristine white sand beach, is ideal for multiple generations. With more than 18 acres of grounds, the main villa compound comprises six interconnected buildings including the principal suite and living areas, plus a further nine en suite bedrooms, all with views of the sea and gardens. The living areas open to a pool with panoramic views.

There’s also a separate four-bedroom villa with a tennis court within the grounds, and a Balinese-style house on the beach, with an open-plan dining and day room, and bathroom facilities. Valley Trunk Estate has been developed with full back-of-house facilities, including staff accommodation, storage, and a laundry. It is on the market with Smiths Gore BVI Limited.

Ariel shot of lakeside property in Canada
Charleston Lake, one of Canada's most beautiful waterfront destinations. Nestled into bedrock, the lake is very clean, has a rugged feel. Surrounded by foliage and many species of animals, the lake is used for many watersports.

The Destination, Ontario, Canada 

On the market with Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, this quintessential Canadian waterfront property is perched on natural rock formations above Charleston Lake and comprises 10 structures, six of which are villas—four of the these have bedroom suites and the other two are entertaining spaces. The property has been designed to ensure privacy between the separate villas, while enabling guests to spend time together as they wish.

With two separate boathouses, a games house, a waterside fire pit, two bars (one indoor and one outdoor), a high-end sound system, and a stage for musicians, there is plenty to delight and entertain. The design of the property itself is also rooted in function, from the comprehensive irrigation and Control4 security systems to the heated driveways, to the long-lasting generator and greenhouse that offer the possibility of self-sustainability for one year.

Banner image: Whidbey Island Farm Retreat. Kevin Scott.