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House Review: Multigenerational Designs

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House Review: Multigenerational Designs

Plans that respond to population trends, economic factors, and new kinds of living arrangements 

By Larry W. Garnett, FAIBD, House Review Lead Designer May 30, 2017
Barnwell at Wallis Ranch, Plan 2Y by Dahlin Group Architecture Planning
Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning's Barnwell at Wallis Ranch, Plan 2Y. (Photo: courtesy Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning)
This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of Pro Builder.

Social and economic forces continue to create growing demand for multigenerational homes—those with some combination of two or more generations living under one roof.

While this often refers to a family creating room for an elderly parent or grandparent, it could just as easily include a Millennial making a temporary stop back at home while looking for a job. And because these two circumstances, along with a variety of others, may be either short-term situations or long-lasting lifestyle changes, one of the most important design considerations is flexibility. Being able to easily convert what once was a teen’s bedroom to a home office or quarters for a live-in caretaker is the result of careful planning.

The following designs offer options. Please let us know of you have any questions or comments. We welcome your thoughts. 


The Camelot

Larry W. Garnett, FAIBD

Width: 53 feet 3 inches 
Depth: 63 feet 3 inches
Living area: 2,124 sf 

For many families, the need for multigenerational living is a temporary solution. Because of this, any design that provides a separate suite must be flexible. Here, the suite’s secluded location plus French doors that open out onto the porch are key elements to that flexibility. This area can easily turn into a home office, a caregiver’s space, or even a separate rental suite. The home features an open kitchen/dining/family area and a roomy master suite. The centrally located laundry and built-in desk in the hallway offer high function. The entry area and its built-in art niches create a formal space, and the entrance from the garage offers convenient kitchen access.

A. The living quarters feature a kitchenette with sink, microwave, and under-counter refrigerator, along with a small dining space and private bath
B. Double French doors at the front porch allow direct access to the living quarters
C. The entry location provides a convenient passage from the garage to the main portion of the home or to the living quarters
D. An open floor plan accommodates large gatherings and family activities


Barnwell At Wallis Ranch, Plan 2Y

Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning

Width: 43 feet 6 inches
Depth: 55 feet 6 inches
Living area: 3,463 sf

A multigenerational suite, complete with a separate porch entrance, offers added privacy to this home, with ground-floor access that enables aging in place. A private bath, walk-in closet, and wet bar ensure independence. At the same time, the suite has easy access to the open kitchen and living room of the main house. A California room and patio off the dining room extend the home’s living space to the outdoors. The thoughtful design offers a balance of connectedness and personal space without crowding the floor plan. The family aspects of this home are complemented by Wallis Ranch’s Kindred House, a community gathering place that features luxurious family-friendly amenities including a resort-style pool with a terrace, a barbecue patio with string lights, and community gardens. 



A. Large, open plan connects all spaces while offering ample room for groups to enjoy the home together or apart
B. Gourmet kitchen has a generous island that doubles as bar seating, allowing for cooking, dining, and socializing in a relaxed, open fashion
C. Five bedrooms with a loft space that flexes as a sixth bedroom meet the space needs of a multigen family
D. The model’s elevation is a hybrid of traditional West Coast vernacular styles 



Todd Hallett, AIA, CAPS
TK Design & Associates

Width: 55 feet 4 inches
Depth: 69 feet 
Living area with multigen option: 3,824 sf


For many of the country’s most successful builders, design flexibility is a key to success. Flexibility for multigenerational living includes a plan that provides options while maintaining the home’s core functions. I call this type of offering a transformer plan, which allows builders to reduce the number of plans they carry by making what they do offer work harder and reducing plan expenses, as well as costs for estimating, purchasing, and marketing. 


A. The plan has an option zone to be used as the multi­generational space
B. Generous bedroom with walk-in closet and private bath creates a private space for relaxing
C. A separate living room provides a feeling of independence and pride
D. Integrated kitchenette offers a private means of preparing meals


Craftsman Full House

Donald F. Evans, AIA
The Evans Group

Width: 40 feet 
Depth: 70 feet
Living area: 3,272 sf

Designed to flex to accommodate three or four generations, this home allows multiple occupants to live together and still have privacy. Downstairs, the owner’s suite is at the rear, while the senior’s suite is toward the front. Upstairs are three more suites. Two are 11 by 13 feet and can accommodate a king-size bed. The other is 11 feet 6 inches square, and it features a window seat. The home boasts a front-porch entry, a separate dining room, generous island kitchen with centrally located laundry, a home office, a spacious leisure room downstairs, a split staircase, and a large club room upstairs. With its Craftsman-style stone and lap siding, the house is designed to read as one story from the street to avoid the look of a ‘big box’ streetscape. 


A. Owner’s master suite, complete with foyer entry, separate his and hers closets, dual vanities, large freestanding tub and garden shower
B. Guest or senior’s suite with private bath
C. Work-at-home study
D. Large family area with leisure room, dining room, gallery, powder room, and laundry
E. Large second-floor club room provides essential flexibility and privacy for multigenerational housing


The Berryessa


Richard Handlen, AIA, LEED AP
EDI International

Width: 60 feet 
Depth: 60 feet
Living area: 3,100 sf

This house offers single-story living for the family that hopes to age in place. The base plan includes four bedrooms in three different zones and a three-car garage. For maximum flexibility, the third car bay can become a studio that’s separated from the house by the two-car garage, increasing privacy for both units. A second option turns the studio into a one-bedroom apartment by incorporating the fourth bedroom of the house. In this arrangement, there’s the possibility of having a door connecting the unit to the house. Either option is ideal for boomerang kids, a place for grandma, a room for a caregiver, or as a source of added income as the needs of the family change over time.


A. The great room focuses on the rear yard
B. For maximum privacy, the master suite is separated from the secondary bedrooms
C. The flex room can function as a dining room, den, TV room, or home office
D. Separated from the other bedrooms, the fourth bedroom is ideal for guests or as an exercise/hobby room
E. The studio is separated from the house and has its own entry, kitchenette, and bathroom. This could also function as a home office
F. The studio becomes the living room for the one-bedroom apartment option
G. Private bedroom for the apartment overlooking a side garden patio
H. Optional door connection between the one-bedroom apartment and the house
I. The apartment’s private patio

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