News Home & Design Family's Modern, Adaptable Multigenerational Home Is Connected by Bold Staircase This project is home to a couple, their children, and some happy grandparents. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated July 19, 2021 05:41PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Ossip van Duivenbode Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive The dream of owning a single-family home with a backyard, driveway, and picket fence is a relatively new phenomenon that only gained steam after World War II—prior to that, multigenerational households with grandparents, parents, and kids living together were commonplace. But nowadays, thanks to a number of factors—including the rapid rise in living costs, the lack of affordable housing and childcare, and a rapidly aging population—multigenerational households are once again making a comeback, particularly in North America and Europe. In the Netherlands, this trend is also growing, with local architecture studio BETA recently creating a modern multigenerational home for a couple, their children, and one set of elderly grandparents in Amsterdam. The couple, who were already living in the city, wanted to accommodate the grandparents, who in turn wanted to move back into the city to enjoy its amenities. The architects describe some of the motivations behind the Three-Generation House: "The goal of the project was to create a building where both families could enjoy each other’s company without sacrificing the advantages of private family life. As such, two separate apartments are stacked on top of one another with the only connection being a communal entrance. While the project anticipates a greater dependency of the grandparents, the immediate advantage of the close proximity of the two families is enjoyed through activities, such as running errands, shared social gatherings and the occasional day-care for the children." Ossip van Duivenbode The house has been conceived as a multi-level design, where the younger couple and their children live on the lower levels, providing them easier access to the home's backyard. There's also an office space on the ground floor for the parents to use. Ossip van Duivenbode Meanwhile, the older grandparents reside on the top floor apartment, which can be accessed either by a set of stairs or by elevator. In particular, their apartment has wider door openings and great views of the city. Ossip van Duivenbode To create a space that can be readapted for possible mobility issues in the future, much of the top floor for the grandparents is level and designed so that any modifications for accessibility can be easily done. In addition, there is a ramp on the ground floor leading down to the elevator. The studio says that: "While [the grandparents' apartment] does not resemble an elderly home, all necessary preparations have been made for reduced physical ability." The materials and details have been kept quite simple here: the structural walls are made with plain concrete masonry, which has been insulated with high-grade thermal insulation, and offers a contrast with the warmer wood components and white walls in the house. Ossip van Duivenbode The main staircase, which is painted in a bright yellow, occupies the center of the project, and functions as the interconnecting spine that ties everything together, say the designers: "Instead of reducing vertical circulation to a necessity, it occupies the heart of the building. Omnipresent as a sculptural element in the lower apartment, the staircase gradually transforms into a series of voids higher up in the building. By placing the vertical access system in the middle of the floorplan, the building is divided into a ‘fore’ and ‘aft’." Ossip van Duivenbode The "fore" part is the northern side of the home, which faces onto the street, presents a more closed-off facade that has been painted black, in order to reduce thermal loss and to soften the noises of the busy street. Most of the bedrooms and bathrooms have been placed in this darker and quieter zone of the home, which has been partitioned off to create rooms. Ossip van Duivenbode In contrast, the "aft" and southern side of the residence is less closed, thanks to the generous use of triple-paned glazing that permits lots of natural light to come in, thus maximizing passive solar gain. Here the plan is more open; there are kitchens, lounges, dining spaces and balconies here, to make the most of the sunlight. Ossip van Duivenbode The third floor that is sandwiched centrally between the couple's and grandparents' apartments is envisioned as a flexible space that can transform with changing needs, say the architects: "The building has been engineered to facilitate the transfer of space on the second floor. Initially used as a space for guests for the grandparents’ apartment, the space can be easily added to the lower apartment through a few minor adjustments. The position of the double-helix staircase makes it possible to stretch the inter-generational living concept even further. Two studio apartments could be made on the north façade to allow the younger family’s children to live in the building past their adolescence." Ossip van Duivenbode This project is a great example of what the multifamily, multigenerational future of housing might look like: simple, functional, and thoroughly adaptable. While there's a lot to be done to push things on both the policy and social level to make multigenerational living something that is more broadly accepted, it's clear that things are indeed evolving. To see more, visit BETA.