Designing multifamily properties used to be a matter of checking all the boxes: resort-style pool, fitness center, barbecue grills, dog park, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops.
But after spending a lot more time pondering their homes during the pandemic — and a lot more money as rents have skyrocketed — residents aren’t willing to settle for cookie-cutter, fast-casual design.
They’re demanding places conducive to work, in their units and in their buildings, and they want their surroundings to help them stay healthy — in mind, body and soul. They crave community and a sense of place, a home they can flaunt on TikTok and Instagram.
“The biggest trend we’ve seen — and it’s never going to go away — is that our residents have much higher expectations because they see so much more on social media,” said Joan Sizemore, an associate partner at Minneapolis-based design and architecture firm BKV Group. The company has U.S. offices in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, D.C., and works with multifamily companies such as Mill Creek Residential, Lincoln Property Co. and Dominium.
“They want to walk into a high-end apartment situation and have great design around them, things they could never afford on their own,” she said.
But, in a predictable backlash, they also want “un-Grammable hang zones,” with a welcoming vibe that doesn’t translate to social media, said Mary Cook, president of Chicago-based design firm Mary Cook Associates.
“These are spaces that have such an incredible aura to them that people are drawn in and linger longer, with a sense of calmness and well-being you can’t capture on film,” Cook told Multifamily Dive.
Sizemore sees her firm’s role as providing a luxurious environment tailored to residents’ design tastes.
“They may not own that world, but they can live in that world and pay for that world,” she said. “We’re creating a dream, a place they want their friends to see them living in.”
This experience includes larger windows and courtyards to bring in more natural light; flexible, intimate spaces where residents can gather; leasing agents wandering the floor with tablets like associates in an Apple store; kiosks offering everything from filtered water to healthy snacks to rentable vacuums and tools; bike rooms with beer on tap; and pickleball courts — the new must-have luxury amenity, according to Barron’s.
“If you cut a slice through what we’re all doing, we’re all moving in the same direction,” said Clodagh, the single-named CEO of New York City-based Clodagh Design, which designs multifamily buildings worldwide. “We want to make people well, make people happy and design homes that support people’s lives.”