Before & After: How This Family Remodeled Their Home for Multigenerational Living

This ‘Ālewa Heights home was upgraded so a multigenerational family could age in place.


The Hayashis’ story is pretty common in Hawai‘i: three generations under one roof, including their daughter, son-in-law and 9-year-old grandson. So, when it came time for the retired couple to renovate their 1950s ‘Ālewa Heights home, interior architecture and design firm MCYIA had three things in mind: Redesign the space to balance functionality with great views, use green features and make it more accessible for when they get older. The team redid the entire house for $400,000.




Bathroom, left, and kitchen. Photos: Courtesy of MCYIA




1. Bathroom

Bathroom shower

Make a splash: Showers use less water, take up less space and are easier to get into than tubs. Photo: Courtesy of MCYIA



“The bathrooms were designed to allow [the Hayashis to] ‘age in place,’ while looking very clean and modern,” says MCYIA principal Chuen Yee. “Grab bars, benches and nonslip floors were added along with faucets that accommodate physical limitations due to arthritis.” The tub was replaced with a curbless shower. MCYIA also used surplus tiles from other projects.


2. Living Room

Living Room

Photo: Courtesy of MCYIA



“The main living area was renovated from compartmentalized rooms (separate kitchen, dining room and living room) to an open plan (great room). Bringing the outside in, small windows were replaced with continuous stacking glass doors, allowing air, light and the million-dollar views to permeate the main living area,” Yee says. Rather than replace the existing maple floor, MCYIA stained and refinished it. The designers also reupholstered existing furniture. “There’s only one dining area, so the entire family can spend dinner time together, but there are several TV areas, so different people can watch different movies or shows at the same time.”


3. Kitchen


Photo: Courtesy of MCYIA



MCYIA replaced the cabinets over the sink with a large bay window to maximize the Diamond-Head-to-‘Ewa view, ventilation and light; installed low-flow fixtures, energy-efficient appliances and LEDs, and dimmer switches; and used locally made countertops. The cabinets pull out, which makes them easier to reach from a wheelchair.


“Anyone could end up in a wheelchair, so to have a bathroom that is accessible for somebody with a disability, even if it’s temporary, is probably always going to be a good thing.”
— Jamie Jackson, Jamie Jackson Design


Multigen Tips

Hawai‘i has one of the highest costs of living in the nation. Partly because of this, 11.3 percent of family households in Hawai‘i consist of three or more generations—the highest in the U.S. and almost double the national average of 5.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Here are some tips for managing multigenerational homes:


Know Your Budget.

Rodney Kim, vice president of fourth-generation homebuilding company Atlas Construction, recommends starting with a realistic and firm budget you can stick to. “This lets you design accordingly and you can prioritize your needs and then your wants for the property,” he says.


Got Budget and Space? Try an ADU.

“It’s really depending on the size of the land or the property, but we’ve built accessory dwelling units on top of existing homes or detached in the backyard,” says Kim. These secondary, entirely separate homes come with a full kitchen and bathroom. Get a permit from the city Department of Planning and Permitting.


Got Budget, No Space? Work Inside the Home.

Says Kim: “A lot of times, older homes were relatively bigger than what you see nowadays; they had living areas such as dedicated dining rooms.” These rooms today can be converted into bedrooms. For safety, typical three-foot hallways can be widened just a couple of inches on either side to make room for walkers or to install handrails.


Small Budget, No Space? Work Smart.

Soundproof walls so Mom and Dad can watch TV without bothering people in the next room. Or make use of room dividers for family members sharing a space. Add a separate entrance (if can) to cut down on household traffic and let people come and go easily.