Up on the blog this week, I'm sharing my thoughts on the interior design of amenity spaces in Multi-family communities Post COVID-19. We are in the midst of an extraordinary moment in history, the global COVID-19 pandemic. A time where seemingly overnight, the way we live, work, play, and fundamentally communicate — both personally and professionally, has forever changed and left an indelible mark on each of us at a global scale. Supported by a multitude of tools and technologies, many people were able to quickly adapt their work styles and continue forward within their diverse new “work from home” environments. Personally, this extreme convergence of live/work/play is not even remotely what I could ever have imagined it would be.
The latest mobile conferencing app and the endless number of virtual meetings that followed have been great for maintaining some semblance of work life. As amazing as these advances in technology are, the fundamental elements of human interaction are essential to personal health and well-being at home and in the workplace. In the matter of a few short weeks, many people were and still are feeling a bit disconnected from their co-workers and deprived of those casual conversations, focused discussions, and team collaborations that can only happen in person. It's been even more challenging for those of us who live in city apartments and in high rise buildings as many of the amenity spaces have been completely shut down in the wake of the Coronavirus. All due to social distancing requirements. The amenities spaces within the Multi-Family communities are intentionally designed to promote human interaction and culture, while reinforcing identity, collaboration, team building, and personal well-being considering how small the apartments typically are. How will these design intentions evolve in reaction to the world as we know it today?
The amenity-driven apartment building has grown up dramatically in recent years. What began as a means of creating enticing novelty features associated with the small scale apartment living, has since matured into a sophisticated set of services and branding measures that allows buildings, property managers, and tenants to distinguish themselves from one another. In the process, today’s Multi-family dwellings blend the best of residential, hospitality, and co-working features into a desirable contemporary work and lifestyle setting. Many lobbies now include cafes, bars, and little grocery stores for convenience to the residents. I see this trend continuing but with more space for residents to sit and breathe as well as more durable, wipe-able and anti-microbial finishes.
If Multi-Family design were to have its architectural equivalent of a “mirepoix” (sautéed carrots, celery, and onions. a flavor base used for stocks, soups, stews, and sauces), it would include location (urban setting), access to natural light and air, and a direct connection to an indoor/outdoor space. Not only have these three elements long provided the foundation to any amenity strategy, they have long been a central ingredient of good interior design and well-being. These components can be incorporated at varying scales to respond to individual project's program and budget, as contemporary living environments have evolved, so too have the building blocks of residential design.
As we have all learned by now, technology is as crucial to the interior design of the Dwelling as is the culture, identity, and resiliency of the community. From conference rooms and shared lounges, movie theaters, to fitness centers and remote workspace, the ability to incorporate technology is a priority and will surely remain a major priority. Residents want to be able to connect, anytime and anywhere, using flexible systems that allow them to maintain a high degree of mobility, while also offering extensive personalization. Free Wi-Fi is a perk in the apartment community but going forward I see the need for more optimized Wi-Fi being a necessity. More residents are sure to work from home in the co-working spaces and will also be streaming while doing it. In addition, contact less package service was already being implemented pre- Covid-19 but I see this ramping up post-Covid-19. Residents want to be able to get mail and packages without having to interact with yet another human. As sad as that may be.
In order to set themselves apart, a new generation of building owners is pushing this idea even further. Not content to limit amenities to a list of beneficial service add-ons, developers are looking across project types and exploring new types of partnerships to develop unique, curated experiences that become the custom calling card of a property. Collaborations with restaurateurs, artists, musicians, and fitness experts, to name a few, is leading to a new tier of amenities that result in a sophisticated set of experiences. In turn, the structure of the community complements a resident's lifestyle, allowing them to be their most productive self whether working from home or not. The apartment dweller is looking for the community to meet all of their needs. Getting coffee in the morning, taking a workout class after work, grabbing a bite to eat, getting groceries and even getting a hair cut.
How then do we design such a modern dwelling? Integration of all the elements that foster a specific lifestyle. Amenities need to be incorporated into the overall programming and building branding strategy so that the look and feel of the space is more than a cosmetic response. Rather, spatial adjacencies need to recognize the myriad of activities residents experience over the course of a day and provide opportunities for both individual interaction and collaborative communal gatherings. Multi-Family dwellings are no longer bound by the traditional front-of-house and back-of-house spaces. Building elements, such as lobbies and stairs, can play multiple roles and provide new forms of physical and social connectivity. It's not going to be uncommon for the lobby to be a cafe or a bar for example. There is going to be more of a hotel vibe in the community.
One thing is for sure, to attract young professionals, the contemporary dwelling must feature a holistic amenity strategy. To maintain a competitive stance in the real estate market, amenities become the X-factor that provide both building owners and tenants great variety, flexibility, and value as the nature of multi-family living continues to evolve. Moreover, amenities help drive economic growth and development and respond to the specific nuances of local markets and basic human needs. Amenities can foster urban revitalization; neighborhoods that have fallen out of favor can be re-imagined as new destination points. In suburban settings, amenities can serve as the catalyst for new place making ventures. Our home environments are no longer solely the domain of eat and sleep. Amenities act as the bridge to a new residence typology—a hybrid of residential, hospitality, resilience, and work functions that create a new model of 21st century live, work, and play.
If an apartment building’s amenity spaces are an afterthought during the design process, they’re going to feel like afterthoughts in someone’s life, too. Uninspired settings are not what today’s city dwellers are looking for. In a competitive market, without well-designed common spaces, your whole building may end up an afterthought to a potentialrenter.
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In addition to being a Philadelphia Residential Interior Designer, I design boutique hotels, fitness centers, office spaces, multi family development projects, other commercial spaces such as office and retail spaces, and the senior living community throughout the tri state area. We work here in Philadelphia, the main line, and even Nationally!
About the Interior Designer
Tina Delia, a native of Ocean County, NJ, current resident of Philadelphia, is the Founder and Principal Interior Designer of Delia Designs. For the past nine years, Tina has been steadfast in her vision and continues to develop herself personally and professionally. She is dedicated to excellence and insistence on forward thinking design. At the forefront of her designs is the idea that our spaces have the ability to transform our lives. She is looking to move us, inspire us to see, think and create freely. After all, it's not only about creating beautiful spaces.