No two families are the same, hence when designing a family home and interior, it’s important to understand their current and potential future needs
Today we are seeing the emergence of more inter-generational homes; those with older children remaining at home longer for economic reasons, and those with older parents or parents-in-law living with their children to help look after grandchildren, or to be looked after themselves. There is also the special needs family, which may include a disabled parent or child to look after, often for many years. The multi-generational, multi-purpose family home requires extra consideration; for the health, safety and wellbeing of all residents to ensure individual needs are met.
When designing a multi-generational or multi-purpose family home, getting the spaces right is paramount. No-one wants a home to look or feel like an institution, especially when catering for an elderly or disabled family member. Yet it’s important to consider many aspects such as accessibility, durability, safety and security when designing and furnishing our homes.
Today’s average house design doesn’t necessarily cater to adaptation without the need for extensive modifications. And while we may not all anticipate spending many years in our new home, others will so it’s important to understand the need for our homes to respond effectively to changing requirements as our families grow and as we age. It’s also important to understand that if you do intend to sell in the future, the better the home’s design, the better chance of a sale.
Designing an adaptable house can be easily achieved using the principles of universal design. That is, employing standard building practices, materials and fixtures – elements of design that can be used by as many people as possible without the need for specialised design or major adaptation. These elements include entries without steps, which will be easier to navigate especially for older or infirm residents; wider doorways and hallways to accommodate furniture and furnishings as well as mobility devices such as wheelchairs, walkers and children’s prams; installing lever-type door handles and taps instead of screw-type to assist those with weaker fingers and hands.
Handrails and lighting on stairways, and easy-to-open cupboards are simple to install when building a new home, negating the need to retrofit later; and level floors between rooms or inside and outside will prevent trip hazards.
Installing a lift in a multi-storey family home is great for the active family that travels often, allowing for ease of access for suitcases and sports gear such as skiing equipment, surfboards and the like; and in the future allowing greater mobility for older less able residents.
We don’t always think about our future needs when designing our dream home but that’s the time we should consider them. When briefing your architect or designer, it’s a good idea to discuss these elements and include them early in the process.
Some things to discuss with your designer are:
- Installation of wider doorways and hallways
- Installing slip-resistant tiles in wet areas and kitchens
- Creating wider shower recesses and those without a step
- Using lever taps and door handles for easy access
- Only installing stairs where absolutely necessary
- Allowing for the future installation of a staircase-lift
- Installing an elevator
- Installing handrails and lighting on stairs
- Using low-level lighting in hallways and pathways
- Placing electrical power points and switches at most suitable heights
- Ensuring floor levels are consistent and fit with cover strips if necessary to prevent trip hazards
- Designing kitchens and bathrooms for safety, ease of use and accessibility
- Installing a laundry chute in multi-storey homes
- Designing garage or car parking close to the entry
- Using non-slip materials outside the house on driveways and pathways
- Ensuring there is adequate lighting inside and outside the building
- Installing thermostats on hot water systems
- Installing two-way light switches in bedrooms, hallways and multi-storey areas
- Sound-proofing to separate the generations!
- Insulation for maintaining even temperatures year round
This list is only a small selection of elements to consider and you should discuss in more depth with your architect or designer to suit your personal requirements.
Liveable design principles can make a home look more spacious and appealing to potential purchasers should you wish to sell. But more importantly these inclusions will provide you with a home you can inhabit for longer, whatever your or your family’s needs.
An elevator is the perfect solution for multi-level homes. This one allows the homeowner to alight into the living area; it’s also perfectly placed for unloading shopping directly into the kitchen. The floor is finished with a slip-resistant tile and the adjacent stairwell includes a hand-rail for safe negotiation of stairs. liftshop.com.au
Easily access different floors in multi-level homes with a stylish elevator. lifsthop.com.au
Install motion sensors to turn lights on when using stairs at night. clipsalschneider.com.au
Even a glass balustrade can include a handrail to ensure extra mobility when using stairs. designerstaircases.com.au
Use slip-resistant tiles such as these gorgeous Life Anthracite, in wet areas. earp.com.au
Get the look of concrete with Tribeca Acero slip-resistant floor tiles. earp.com.au
Save your arms and back when transporting laundry up and down stairs with a built-in chute such as this one from hafele.com.au
Written by Kate St James