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What is multi-generational design and why is it important?

Understanding the needs of everyone who lives in, or regularly visits, your customer’s home is getting more important and presents a huge opportunity for knowledgable kitchen and bathroom installers and retailers.

Most successful kitchen and bathroom retailers, designers and installers pride themselves on understanding exactly what it is their customers are looking for and not only giving them what they want, but also what they didn’t know they needed.

That’s why it’s so important to understand the much bigger long-term societal trends that may affect what they’re asked for. Equally, it may also change the questions they need to ask.

And it doesn’t get more fundamental than the make-up of the households they’re working in.

The idea that families are made up of different people of different ages, abilities, sizes and needs isn’t new but what has become more obvious over the last decade is that kitchens and bathrooms need to do more to accommodate them all and designers, installers and product manufacturers need to work harder to do so.

One-size doesn’t fit all.

And the reason is a financial one – it is a massive opportunity to upsell and drive reputation and recommendations.

This discussion has been given a name – multi-generational design – and is based on many sources of research that indicate just what an untapped philosophy it is.

For example, a recent study from Legal & General saw one in three households say that multigenerational living – three or more generations living in the same property – would likely become more popular than nuclear family households in the future.

And 80% of respondents who lived in multigenerational homes believed they were better off due to it.

The money is there too, two-thirds of respondents in multigenerational homes said each adult from different generations contributed financially to some extent and 57% said their multigenerational housing arrangement had a positive effect on the family finances. Saga, the products and services brand for the over-50s, estimates that the sector accounts for £320bn of annual household spending, with that demographic holding three-quarters of the nation’s wealth.

But even this plays into the classic idea of the ‘Granny Flat’ but actually a survey from Aviva estimates that just 14% of multigenerational homes are grandparents living with the family.

It’s more likely that multigenerational households are made up of adult children still living with their parents. In fact, that set-up has increased from around 4.2 million in the 2011 Census to around 4.9 million in Census 2021.

Whoever may be living in the ‘Granny Flat’, they are becoming more popular when it comes to renovations, The Aviva survey estimates that a quarter of recently developed ‘Granny Flats’ are actually designed for grown-up children and a further 20% are being developed with the idea of attracting lodgers.

The survey points out that one-in-five London homes already have, or are planning to have, one of these annexes, and is leading to a rise in demand for smaller, single-occupancy kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms and the need for solutions such as compact appliances, small sinks, and shower rooms. Designers, retailers and installers need to be the experts in making these work. This is only one trend under the multigenerational banner of course. It runs parallel with the other demand of adapting an existing house for more people of varying needs when an annexe isn’t possible. So here, for example, the answer might be larger fridges, large-capacity laundry and more open-plan design.

And this is just talking about age. In England, the census data on disability within households shows that nearly a quarter of households include at least one member who is registered disabled. Understanding their individual needs is important but how they fit within the household’s total needs is absolutely vital.

And, of course, that means anyone being called upon to design kitchens and bathrooms in their space needs to understand every possible solution.

The most successful in this area will be those that understand how multigenerational living allows them to play to their strengths of service and expert knowledge. It is a new discipline, just a more nuanced one.

And this is why coming to an event such as InstallerSHOW 2024 is so important. The market is always changing and developing and you should too, no matter how long you have been in the industry.

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