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All in the Family – with multi-generational homes

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All in the Family – with multi-generational homes

Photography by Ben Rahn

Multi-generational homes are typically defined as those in which three or more generations live under the same roof; however, the structure of these homes can vary considerably, with some families choosing to renovate and other families deciding to purchase new-builds specifically designed for multi-generational living.

What’s old is new again

Despite the rash of recent media publicity, multi-generational homes are certainly nothing new, and it may be more precise to say that they are experiencing a renaissance. In fact, prior to the second World War, multi-generational living was the norm in many North American households, and it was only in the 1950s and ’60s that young adults began moving out at 19 or 20, never to return. Moreover, in many parts of the world, especially in Southern European and South-Asian countries, multi-generational households are common, if not the norm.

Contributing factors and a ‘fun’ fact

In Canada, multi-generational living arrangements are among the fastest growing household type, with the 2016 Census showing a 37.5 per cent increase in the number of multi-generational households since 2001. There are several factors contributing to their increasing popularity including: the rising cost of detached homes and lack of inventory (AKA “the housing crisis”), Canada’s changing ethnocultural composition, the delayed marriage pattern, and longer life expectancy, with seniors 65+ outnumbering children for the first time since Canada began recording such facts.

Not surprisingly, the demand for multi-generational homes is greater in high-priced housing markets such as Vancouver and Toronto. Fun fact: Toronto recently came 12th in a ranking of the world’s most expensive places to live, according to a new report by the CBRE that analyzed housing and rental prices for 35 major cities around the world. Architects and homebuilder associations are taking note of the increased demand for multi-generational homes. According to Calgary’s Smarter Growth Initiative, “The building industry is seeing a trend in multi-generational housing across Canada.” Builders and architects are therefore adapting floor plans and certain design elements have become selling points for this growing market.

An award-winning multi-generational masterpiece

The Toronto-based architect and design firm, Williamson Williamson Inc. has noticed the increased demand for multi-generational houses. Their third multi-generational home was completed in November 2016, and is a stunning home located in Ancaster, Ontario. This contemporary home is situated on a wide lot backing onto Ancaster Creek and was awarded a prestigious Ontario Association of Architects award.

The home was designed to connect with the land and echoes its natural surroundings with a local material palette of wood and stone. The exterior is clad in 3-1/2″ thick locally sourced Algonquin limestone. Plentiful, oversized windows reflect the serenity of the wooded lot and provide abundant natural light and expansive views. The upper parts of the home are clad in milled cedar boards, which contrast beautifully with the clean, linear modern esthetic.

Design for the Ages

The home also incorporates sustainable systems and accommodations for the homeowners’ elderly parents, proving that multi-generational housing and modern luxury are not mutually exclusive.

A fully equipped ground-floor suite

As with most multi-generational homes, this home was conceived as two separate residences. The parents’ suite is situated on the ground floor (so that they don’t have to contend with the stairs), and is fully equipped with a master bedroom, living and dining space, and even an extra bedroom and bathroom should live-in help become necessary at some point in the future.

Safety First

Carefully considered added features include well-placed drains and a master power switch, which were implemented to mitigate the issues that come with memory loss, such as a sink left running or an oven left on. An induction cooktop was selected because the burners don’t generate heat, and the cooktop both cooks and cools faster than conventional burners. Wide corridors benefit from bright lighting so that the parents can easily navigate between rooms with higher lumen counts in the bathroom and kitchen areas.

Shared living spaces

As is common in most multi-generational homes, the spacious ground floor also has shared living spaces. The modern kitchen features a 20-foot-tall pyramidal ceiling, back-painted glass, polished Calacatta slabs, and a large oak island, making it the perfect place for the entire family to convene.

The dining and living room are also communal spaces, with a honed travertine fireplace built into a feature oak wall, and a statement wood-clad spiral staircase that connects the living room to the second floor, where the homeowners have their private suite.

Upper-floor private retreat

The clean, modern esthetic continues upstairs with the master bedroom where the emphasis is on the floor-to-ceiling windows, which offer up the best views of the creek. The serene master bath is clad in grey marble tiles, and a custom oak library doubles as an office. Even better, the homeowners have their own private lounge with a concealed bar, perfect for one-on-one time.

Energy-efficient and eco-conscious design

With multi-generational homes, it’s important to have energy-efficient HVAC systems, and this Ancaster home doesn’t disappoint. The envelope of the house is highly insulated with triple-pane wood-frame windows. A high-efficiency furnace reduces the reliance on floor heating in the colder months, and a 37 module 9.8 kW solar array was installed across two of the flat roofs, offsetting energy consumption. LED lighting is also used throughout the home. Collectively, these measures result in a low-energy, eco-conscious home.

A smart solution with multiple benefits

As lifespans and housing prices continue to rise, multi-generational housing will provide a smart solution for families willing to embrace it. In fact, as long as privacy and autonomy are preserved, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks: close familial relationships, live-in caregivers for the young and the aged, and, of course, the pooling of financial resources. It doesn’t get much better than this – especially when you have the means to customize a beautiful home like this Ancaster Creek stunner.

For those who are considering this lifestyle but are constrained by more restrictive budgets, a great option is the FlezHouz by Marshall Homes, with a base price of $1.6 million. Essentially, the FlezHouz is a large house with a smaller independent house contained inside it. Make no mistake, these homes are well planned and constructed, and have been selling out fast since 2018, when an enterprising GTA builder named Craig Marshall foresaw the need for multi-generational housing in the high-priced Toronto market.


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