In the current housing slump, the large new homes just aren’t selling. They are too big to afford when the mortgage money tightens up. Existing homes are for sale at below their original purchase price, depleting the homeowner’s equity. People can’t justify paying the mortgage or selling homes that are valued less than the mortgage. Adjustments must be made to find a way to make these homes more affordable.
Food, gas and educational costs have skyrocketed. Investments and retirement income are shrinking. Job markets have tightened. And savings are non-existent. What do businesses and families do? They need to re-think their lives and identify the necessities to survive and the strategies to more forward.
When the standards that we live by are failing, we must become more resilient than ever. One method that is being considered by many families is to consolidate their resources by
combining households. The ‘Sandwich Generation’ has opened their homes to returning (boomerang) children as well as their own parents. Recent studies have shown that 65% of all college grads move back home, at one time or another. 3.4 million seniors are living at their children’s homes. And these trends are on the rise!
Up until just 100 years ago, multi-generational living was the norm. Extended families lived and worked together on farms and opened small businesses together. However many articles have been written about the monetary advantages as well as the social pitfalls of modern families living together after being autonomous for so long. It seems that the most important condition for success is a clear understanding of the monetary responsibilities of the members of the household. Secondly, living areas that respect the autonomy of the different members need to be established.
Many homes only have enough space to offer the new occupants a bedroom of their own. A bedroom and a private bath is a better solution, especially in a household with young children. Converting the garage, the attic over the garage, the basement or 2 bedrooms into a studio apartment is one of the more successful arrangements. In new construction, the dual master suite arrangement is great for multi-generational living and it can also be sold as a home that can be shared by two single parent families.
The shared cooking and dining experiences can be a wonderful enhancement to the lives of all involved. Or they can become a nightmare. Mealtime has become very hard to schedule for many on-the-go families and the scheduling can become even more difficult for two families living together. A great solution is to provide a small food prep area outside the traditional kitchen. It can be as simple as a breakfast/snack center or it can be a fully equipped mini-kitchen that can offer complete autonomy. It can be located in a private living area or in an area shared by the whole family. Having the option to choose when and what to eat can alleviate a lot of stress in an expanded household.
Existing or new homes that can be designed with completely separate living units can have lasting value. An autonomous apartment can provide a place for aging homeowners to live while they rent out the main house for income. Taking in a boarder can make the investment of building a studio apartment a good solution for all. Some senior homeowners may even subsidize the apartment’s rent to a boarder who can act as a caretaker for the entire property.
Resort condos have used flexible design solutions quite successfully for years. Typically a normal two bedroom apartment is divided into a complete one bedroom apartment and a studio apartment that includes a mini-kitchen and separate bathroom. Either unit can be rented separately or combined at any time.
In many localities however, a second dwelling unit or even a second kitchen is prohibited by zoning. Increasingly, many localities have changed their zoning to allow auxiliary dwellings, largely due to the efforts of The American Association of Retired Persons research that created a model for legislating Accessory Dwelling Units into local ordinances.
Once the zoning issue is overcome, there are many design solutions that can provide a secondary kitchen. If space is not limited, standard cabinetry and full sized appliances can be used to create a kitchen of any size. When space is limited, complete mini-kitchens and hospitality centers are available from many companies (Google unit kitchens) that can meet almost any special need. Adding small appliances to a built-in cabinet is another solution. Tiny appliance combinations that include a coffee maker, a microwave and a single burner can sell for less than $50.00. Coupled with a 2.7 CF refrigerator freezer ($150.00 on-line), a mini-kitchen does not need to break the bank.
For those who want to have a mini-kitchen, but don’t want to see it all the time, most codes allow cabinetry to be built into a closet with bi-fold doors and any UL Listed appliance can be used as long as it has a plug and is not hard wired. In this way, sinks, refrigerators, portable hotplates, microwaves, toaster ovens etc. and all the countertop mess can be hidden from view.
Another company makes special U.L. Listed furniture in the form of armoires that allow hard wired, more powerful built-in appliances and everything else to be completely hidden when they are not being used. The closet and furniture idea is great for the smallest rooms that have many functions, only one of which is a kitchen.
More versatile design solutions like those mentioned here can help homes retain their value in any market. As the demographics of our families change, the call for flexibility in the design of our homes becomes more important. The secondary kitchen is just one of the ideas that can make a real difference.