Sharing the Nest

Multigenerational remodels are on the rise as homeowners adapt to new living circumstances.

Article by Nicole Boynton, Photos by David Croxford

Issue Date:  (Wed) November 7, 2012

After almost 50 years, the Takamoto family home in Pearl City was torn down and replaced with a brand-new two-story home, designed and built by Graham Builders, to house Tomiko Takamoto, her son, daughter-in-law and 1-year-old granddaughter.

Takamoto embraced the change. “I was ready,” she says. “I knew it was going to be a beautiful, new home.” Takamoto only had two requests: a lanai off her bedroom and a dining nook. “I wanted a place to sit with my friends,” she says.

The rebuild has some common features of multigen homes, including dual master-bedroom suites on the ground floor, 3-foot-wide doorways for wheelchair access, and a bathroom with an open shower, nonslip tile and grab bars.

Takamoto appreciates the opportunity to build a close relationship with her granddaughter. “Living with my granddaughter makes me happy,” she says.


Shifting Priorities

Multigen households like the Takamotos’ are at their highest levels since the 1940s, not only here in Hawaii, but across the country. Due to economic conditions, it is much more common for three or more generations to live under the same roof.

“The remodeling priorities are really different today,” says Evan Fujimoto of Graham Builders, a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) contractor. “People want to know how to make their homes accessible for the long term.”

Hawaii has the highest percentage of multigen households in the nation. “With limited land for building new homes, it’s not uncommon for a family to live together with their parents,” says Tom Ogawa of Lighting Concepts.

Brett Kappelle of Barker Kappelle Construction LLC completes about three multigen projects a year. He adds, “It allows people to stay in their homes longer as they age and avoid the high cost of living in care homes.”

Design for All Ages

Multigen remodels often incorporate universal design features. “The whole concept of aging in place is rapidly increasing; there is suddenly major awareness, even with customers in their early 40s,” says CAPS designer Glenda Andersen of Details International.

The average multigen remodel addresses the needs of both elderly grandparents and young children. “What is usually good for an elderly person is also good for a child,” says Andersen. “Things like handheld shower faucets and thermostats that control the water temperature to prevent scalding.”

Sue Haas of Details International says they encourage their clients to think ahead. “It is about planning for a future need, like a medical emergency or an elderly parent coming to stay. Everything is already in place so you don’t have to remodel again.”


Navigating Family Dynamics

Evan Fujimoto of Graham Builders offers the following advice to help families navigate a multigen remodel.

1 | Financing. “Make sure everyone in the family is in agreement about the financing of a multigen remodel, especially if it involves pulling equity out of the parents’ home.”

2 | Involve all siblings during the planning stage of the remodel. “More than likely, there are going to be issues raised by the siblings not involved in the rebuilding,” says Fujimoto. 

3 | Get professional advice. “It is always advised that you sit down with your financial planners, CPAs and family attorneys, because many times this involves trusts,” says Fujimoto.

4 | Inheriting Assets. Address what will happen when the elderly parents pass on, especially if it was the parents’ intention to leave the home as an asset.

Multigen Features: Remodeling tips to consider when planning a home for all ages.

Wood Blocking 
Plan ahead by incorporating small details that make a huge difference. “We install wood blocking behind the wall tile all the way around the bathroom, so the homeowner can install grab bars down the road without remodeling again,” says Haas.


Open-Concept Bathroom
Consider turning your entire bathroom into a barrier-free wet room, shown in this Details International bathroom. “You can get a wheelchair or hospital gurney in there, and three people to help,” says Andersen.

Nonslip Surfaces
Bathrooms with safety features don’t have to look sterile: an onyx pebble floor looks organic and has a nonslip surface.

Wide Passageways
Accessible design includes doorways and hallways that are at least 36” wide. Double doors also offer an
attractive way to increase access and enlarge your space.


Exterior Access
The home below, built by Graham Builders, was designed with accessible entry routes, including ramps for wheelchair use. “We put in no-step entries and think differently about where to locate parking,” says Fujimoto.


Separate Quarters
The residence includes a separate entrance to the grandmother’s private living quarters. Depending on zoning, you may be eligible to build a two-family detached dwelling, or at minimum, a wet bar with two of the three elements that make up a kitchen: a refrigerator, stove or sink.

Safer Showers
“An acrylic solid-surface shower with no curbs, seamless benches and reinforced grab bars are perfect for the elderly,” says Scott Allen from InSolid.



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