Where there is space for many...

Home is not just a three-dimensional space and a physical entity, but is also an environment that influences the moods and minds of people living in it. A space can be enlivening and homely if it caters to the needs of the residents.

Grandparents, parents and children, three generations living under one roof, a typical Indian way of living is fast disappearing. With the changing sociological pattern and a widening generation gap, the trend is to seek ‘my space’, ‘my independence’and ‘my privacy’.

But there are several instances where the design of homes have a great impact on arresting this trend.

A design that can understand the sensitivities of the people of different age groups can make them stay together, happily! This togetherness of a joint family system is definitely workable and has many advantages. Whether it is modification of an existing home to newer requirements or designing a new home tailormade to inhabit the elderly and the young, the architect is the key.

The architect should be able to assess, analyse and grasp the dynamics within the family. The spatial needs, hobbies and lifestyle of each individual will have to be addressed with sensitivity. There have to be individual spaces to take care of privacy and independence and some overlapping common spaces to take care of being and working together.

The spaces will have to be suitably located resulting in smooth flow of ‘forces’ and with least interference. These days, there are instances of providing a self-sufficient parents’ unit as part of the main house. The emerging trends are all about designing spaces that can merge when required and retract when needed.

Speaking about the architecture of her home, Prapulla, who enjoys living in a joint family system, points out:

* Open spaces create smooth interaction areas where family members meet unobtrusively.
* Individual rooms and nooks like balconies are ideal for entertaining different sets of guests.
* An open mezzanine floor keeps the children away from adult conversation and also creates a play area for them.
* A slightly larger kitchen accommodates more people and speeds up the cooking process, especially when cooking needs to be taken up for different needs.
* An island in the kitchen is ideal for the families to work together as a unit.
* A puja room in the common area of the house helps children become part of daily rituals and learn from observing  elders.
* Storage areas like attics in the rooms and walk-in-closets create enough room for a larger family’s storage needs.
* There is no need for extra furniture as most guests use the entrance foyer for informal chats.
* Sufficient open space outside the house for varied activities like gardening, playing and chatting.

Anitha, who has also been living in a large family explains,“Providing a small but well designed parents’ unit as part of the main house has contributed greatly.” “Our parents are very happy to be with us, their independence intact, even as we get to experience the joy of living with out elders.

The levels have been worked out with care making the interrelated spaces work efficiently and offer convenience. Also, children get to enjoy a great time with their grandparents ! We are here together for each other in different portions of the same nest!” she explains.

A thoughtful and personalised design input thus becomes important when it comes to living in a joint family.

(The writer is a civil engineer.)

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