The percentage of Americans living in multigenerational households has nearly quadrupled over the past 10 years, from 7% to 26%. In Hawaii, the numbers are even higher.

Fittingly, in-law suites have never been more popular. And according to Evan Fujimoto of Graham Builders, a holistic approach to the design of an in-law suite can actually enhance a family’s relationships and connection.

“Living together means more than co-existing under one roof,” suggests Fujimoto, who is president of the award-winning Honolulu design/build firm. “It also means that each generation values one another and cultivates involvement in daily life — sharing stories; teaching lessons; providing feedback, support and encouragement.”

The vast majority of multigenerational households — some 98% — say their homes are happy. That’s thanks to smart design, good support and services — and strong family relationships. For aging-in-place, those relation-ships are critical.

“Accessible features provide access, but how do kupuna stay involved with family? You don’t want them to feel isolated where they can’t — or won’t — participate in daily activities,” Fujimoto observes.


A thoughtfully designed in-law suite, planned with input from everybody in the ohana, can help a family stay meaningfully connected in ways that enrich and deepen all. In fact, 79% of those living in multigenerational households say enhanced bonds or relationships with other family members is the greatest benefit.


While not quite as elaborate — or as expensive — as a full ADU (accessory dwelling unit), the well-planned inlaw suite is comfortable and accessible. It both facilitates privacy and encourages family interactions, and can be modified to accommodate a family’s future needs.

“In Hawaii, the in-law suite is normally built as a wing of the main house, or separated through buffer zones like laundry rooms or carports,” explains Bonnie Oda, client care advisor for Graham Builders. “It’s generally designed as an en suite — a master bedroom with attached master bath, sometimes a sitting area, and often a wet bar, with fridge, sink, and counter space for small appliances.”

Ideally designed with high sound insulation for privacy, in-law suites often include intercom systems for easy, quick communication.

“We also recommend pet-friendly design,” says Oda. “Many kupuna have pets they’ll want to bring along.”

The suite should have a wide, separate entrance, easily accessible by medical professionals in the event of an emergency. Its bathroom should have grab bars, a comfort-height toilet and bidet, and a zero-step shower, and optimally, a “loading” zone next to the commode. Outside, a security system with cameras and extra motion detector floodlights can help ensure safety. When the design is complete, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist should review it for safety and accessibility.


Ensure that your investment will be able to adapt to future needs.

“An experienced designer will help you think beyond current need,” says Fujimoto. “Perhaps your budget doesn’t currently allow for an ADU, or you don’t have need for one now. Needs change. It’s good for your designer to discuss the potential options of your space, so possible future renovations will be easier and less costly.”

Fujimoto recommends that the entire ohana participate in the process.

“Everybody must feel active, valued and involved in the decision-making and design of the in-law suite,” he says.

This helps create a sense of satisfaction and contentment with the results, and desire to nourish the connection.

“Living with family offers surprising gifts,” Fujimoto observes. “The greatest gift, as many families later realize, is that the culture of the family — history, stories, recipes, songs — is passed from generation to generation.”


A leader in the design and construction of multigenerational homes and aging-in-place design, Graham Builders is the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii Torch Award for ethics in small business. The next free Building Your Home for Life seminar is scheduled for Saturday, July 9. Register now at or call 808-593-2808.

CONTACT 808-593-2808