It’s an exciting time to be designing multifamily properties. At least, that’s how Nancy Ruddy, co-founding principal and executive director of interior design at CetraRuddy Architecture feels in this post-pandemic period. With the last year highlighting the importance of flexibility and function within a space, it certainly paints an interesting picture for the design of future rental buildings.
This time is exciting because it provides a challenge. It’s a period that requires creativity in being able to provide better spaces that fit into budgetary and spatial constraints for property owners and tenants. It’s also an opportunity for property owners to further differentiate themselves against competition.
Overall, its expected that future rental spaces will feature new and innovative interior design and architecture to better meet with the needs of a renter’s evolving lifestyle, and Ruddy and her team are here to share their thoughts on where they think those changes will occur.
Work From Home
While people are continuing to return to the office, many still expect to work from home, either fully or in a hybrid capacity for the foreseeable future. This is a dynamic that is expected to be even more common within metropolitan areas.
“Projects should include devising floorplans offering residents flexibility to incorporate work environments in varied ways in their apartments while maintaining typical square footages,” Ruddy says.
“From a design standpoint, try adapting space previously allocated in foyers, linen closets and pantries into compact yet elegant work areas that create efficient, dedicated work zones and afford residents the ability to ‘turn off’ at the end of the day. Developers and asset managers have seen blossoming value in these creative solutions, which maximize adaptability of individual units and can help drive leasing.”
More and more, Ruddy see renters placing a high value on outdoor spaces. By incorporating terraces and balconies into design, not only can properties increase lighting and air quality, but they can also create a dynamic and differentiated building form.
However, she also says small balconies with walkable decks can still hold a ton of value. “In many cases, zoning rules allow them without adding to a building’s floor area ratio, or FAR,” says Ruddy “Outdoor areas can extend the perception of the living space in terms of size and quality, and in fair weather these outdoor areas add functional floor area for remote work, fitness, relaxation and connection to nature.”
Beyond private outdoor spaces, Ruddy also sees this taking shape in the form of indoor-outdoor common areas at many rental projects. These areas offer greater opportunity for community engagement while giving occupants access to rich, natural scenery that has become such a key focus in both interior and exterior design. As such, expressive landscaping becomes a key differentiator, as well.
When considering that most renters are Millennials and Gen-Z, and that nearly 60% of these demographics combined own some sort of pet, it’s not too hard to imagine why pet-friendly properties have been doing exceptionally well. Especially following many pandemic pet purchases.
“Designing a building that is pet friendly, with pet social areas like dog runs, pet spas and community programs oriented toward pets, is both an asset and functional need for potential residents,” Ruddy says. “Incorporating these types of spaces also offers another opportunity to reinforce a sense of community within a building. Engagement through interactions with neighbors is another post-pandemic challenge where some developers and owners have found outsize success.”
Natural materials have been found to have a considerable impact on residential wellbeing, with certain tactile elements having similar effects. Even natural forms, such as branching systems or flowing curves, have been shown to have a beneficial effect on exposed individuals. A little goes a long way, in this regard.
“Our designers have been incorporating wood and natural stone in kitchens, bathrooms, and lobbies; for flooring and wallcoverings, cork or natural fibers or even living plant walls can be used in common or public spaces to create the sense of hygge or coziness and warmth, that makes our homes feel nourishing and enriching,” says Ruddy.
Health and Wellness Technology
Building developers and asset managers have also grown to discover the value building systems play in promoting not just health, but wellbeing as well. Touchless controls, circadian lighting and mechanical systems offering enhanced air filtration all play their own unique part role in keeping occupants safe, healthy and connected to natural rhythms.
“These building systems can be combined with core elements of biophilic design, such as plant life, access to natural daylight and outdoor views, the use of natural materials and colors, and even interior circulation and wayfinding patterns, to create residential communities that are truly healthy in every way,” Ruddy advises.