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Multi-Flex

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    Guest architect Bill Hezmalhalch is principal of WHA Architects in Santa Ana, Calif. bill@whainc.com

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    Breathing Space An open plan main room and an upstairs casita can appeal to buyers who live in multigenerational households.

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    Tight Quarters This single-family house works for a traditional setup, but it can't flex for a family's potential life changes.

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Guest architect Bill Hezmalhalch is principal of WHA Architects in Santa Ana, Calif. bill@whainc.com

The rise of multigenerational living has created a demand for homes to suit all sorts of household mixes: parents moving in with kids, kids moving in with parents, siblings moving in with each other. Accommodating the need for privacy within a reasonably sized footprint is the crucial issue.

By taking a typical alley-loaded, single-family home and making a home within that home, we’ve expanded our pool of buyers. Our plan offers several bedroom and suite options, including a main-floor bedroom for an elderly family member or guests and a separate apartment that could be rented out for additional income, depending on local zoning.

The original home, on a 36-foot-by-85-foot lot, was a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house with a parlor off the dining room. In our redo, we moved the kitchen closer to the garage and removed the formal dining room. The dining room was made into a full bath so that the parlor could then be used as a bedroom. Moving up the rear yard fence made way for a third parking space on grasscrete, which makes the area attractive and usable when it’s not being used for parking.

Over the garage, we built a separate one-bedroom casita with a full kitchen and its own entrance, creating a possible rental unit. Preframing the doorway allows the option of reuniting the casita later on with the main house if more bedrooms are needed. In addition to attracting more buyers for an existing site, this strategy could be used in places where higher density is permitted but residents have resisted traditional multifamily designs. In pricey urban areas where homeowners need to generate extra income, for example, these types of piggy-back apartments do well.

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Tight Quarters This single-family house works for a traditional setup, but it can't flex for a family's potential life changes.

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Breathing Space An open plan main room and an upstairs casita can appeal to buyers who live in multigenerational households.