How to design a family kitchen in a multi-generational home

As more of us are living under one roof, there’s never been a greater need for multi-generational kitchens. KBB journo Charlotte Luxford shares her expert tips on future-proofing your design…

According to estate agents Knight Frank, an estimated seven per cent of UK households now contain two or more adult generations. This means the heart of the home, the kitchen, has to work harder than ever, catering for a range of activities, from cooking and dining to relaxing and working.

We’ve collated our top tips to help you design a multi-generational kitchen:

A mix of statement globe pendant lights and round wall lights mimic the curvaceous island in this kitchen
A mix of statement globe pendant lights and round wall lights mimics the curvaceous island in this kitchen designed by Kate Feather. Worktops in 4023 Topus Concrete, £400 per sq m, Caesarstone.

Family-friendly layouts

First and foremost, consider who you’re designing the kitchen for and what the functions are. Think about your core unit of family and friends of all ages and all abilities. Include those who are likely to visit often, from grandchildren to grandparents.

Who does most of the cooking and how do they cook? Do you entertain, and is that formally or informally? Does a workspace need to be factored in? Have you got small children to keep an eye on? It’s easier to accommodate a range of differing needs when you think holistically at the planning stage.

“Every area from the hob to the home office must be considered and located so that no one feels cramped or bumps into one another,” advises Paul O’Brien, business development director at Kitchens International. “Key elements such as the positioning of appliances and the sink are also crucial to all-inclusive access and usability. Try to avoid the main household traffic being directly past the cooking zone, to reduce the risk of accidents.”

Multi-generational kitchen with banquette seating and bar stools
Family kitchen design from Mowlem & Co. Kitchens start from £40,000.

Seating for the whole family

Seating can be tricky, but there are lots of options to include the whole family. “Breakfast bars are great for informal meals and a quick coffee, but they tend to be higher than the average desk or table,” says Darren Taylor, owner of Searle & Taylor. “If space allows, it’s worth considering adding a lower-height worksurface, attached to the island or peninsula. It’s more comfortable to sit at for studying or working. For those family kitchens that have room for a separate dining area, space-efficient banquette seating is ideal, where people of all ages can sit comfortably together.”

Long banquette-style seating with colourful chairs
The kitchen from Roundhouse includes a dining table with banquette seating. Kitchens from £35,000.

Multi-generational kitchen zones

Maximising your space doesn’t always mean opening up the entire floor area. Sub-dividing a larger, open-plan space can help create some order and efficiency. Consider dividing it according to the various functions that the room needs to cater for.

You may want to allocate a designated space for children to do their homework or engage in creative activities. This could be a desk area with storage for stationery, or at the end of a kitchen island. Similarly, if you work from home, it’s important that your workstation is located away from the main kitchen but also separate from where you relax in the evening so you can switch off. 

Open-plan living space
Merge the kitchen with the living room with coordinated furniture. Masterclass kitchens start from £15,000.

Ergonomic designs for multi-generational kitchens

Renovations are a huge investment, so it makes sense to future-proof and create a multi-generational kitchen. “Even if you don’t have a wheelchair user in your family, there are still many great ideas to be borrowed for accessible features,” says Vaila Morrison, inclusive design expert at Stannah. “Eye-level ovens, especially those with slide-and-hide doors, are great for older users ergonomically, but also for families with young children. A heat-resistant pull-out shelf is also recommended to limit the need to walk around with hot pans.”

Green kitchen with lowered breakfast bar area
The lower-level breakfast bar is accessible to allow for little helpers. Naked Kitchens designs start from £15,000.

Dishwasher drawers are game-changing; not only are they a more efficient use of space, but they also negate the need for bending or creating a potential trip hazard. Adjustable rise-and-fall worktops may also be a consideration for users of varying heights, or wheelchair users. And, they’re also great for providing a temporary desk if you don’t have space for a dedicated study area.

It’s also important not to forget details such as lever-style taps and easy-to-use handles for both children and elderly users, who may suffer from mobility issues. 

Kitchen surfaces

“A family-friendly kitchen should be designed to withstand the test of time and the wear and tear of daily use,” advises Bill Miller, managing director at Der Kreis and part of My Kitchen Specialist. “Consider incorporating durable finishes such as quartz, granite or composite kitchen worksurfaces because they are more resistant to scratches, heat and stains. Consider adding a curved edge to your countertops to make them more accident-proof or a lipped edge to prevent spills from running off the counter.

“Kitchen cabinetry in a new easy-touch matt finish, rather than in a gloss finish, is less likely to show small handprints. Or you could invest in purposely designed anti-fingerprint kitchen doors. You should also opt for easy-to-clean surfaces like glass, stainless steel, or ceramic or porcelain tiles for splashbacks. As for flooring, it’s important the material you choose is comfortable, slip-resistant and low maintenance. Popular options include vinyl, laminate, or tiles with a textured finish that reduces the risk of slips and falls.”

Open-plan kitchen with table and chairs
Multi-generational kitchen design by DesignSpace London. Prices start from £25,000.

Storage, storage, storage

Ideally, everything in the kitchen should be easily accessible from a seated or standing position, so that’s the height zone in which to store your most-used items, according to Vaila.

Pull-out base cupboards such as mini versions of larders, integrated carousels or deep drawers can make accessing things much easier than struggling to reach things in the back of a cupboard. Likewise, pull-down baskets are an excellent solution for wall-cabinet storage, which can be difficult to reach for most users.

Blue and white farmhouse style kitchen
The bespoke Shaker kitchen by Krantz Designs, with units painted in Cornforth White by Farrow & Ball and island in Basalt by Little Greene, features a generous pantry, which is ideal for a busy family life. Prices start from £75,000. Photography: Paul Craig.

Kitchen appliances

“Induction hobs are the safest choice where there are children or vulnerable users in the household, because it’s the pan that heats up rather than the hob, reducing the risk of burns, plus most models will come with a built-in child safety lock for extra peace of mind,” says Simon Collyns, marketing and retail director at Symphony Group.

double dishwasher in wood kitchen
DD60DHI9 Integrated Double DishDrawer Dishwasher, Sanitise, £1600, Fisher & Paykel.

Using the latest WiFi technology and smart appliances that can be controlled through a tablet or smartphone will also help to future-proof the kitchen. Touch-free taps that operate via an infrared sensor are a great choice for all ages. A 3-in-1 tap is another alternative that removes the need to lift hot kettles, plus there are safety features on many boiling-water taps, which means scalding water will never be automatically dispensed.

Safety isn’t the only consideration – in multi-generational homes or those with larger families, it’s also about capacity and efficiency. Check the size of your key appliances, as well as their energy ratings to make sure they can cater for your needs.

boiling-water tap in gold
A boiling-water tap is ideal for family living, plus it’s safer to use than a kettle. Fusion Round tap in Gold, £2020, Quooker.

Designing a multi-generational home? Here’s our guide on family bathrooms

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