Curating a "Live-Work-Play" Experience Through Flexible Design
By Felicia Hyde Principal & Lifestyle Studio Director, H. Hendy Associates | January 26, 2020
The "live-work-play" lifestyle is a growing priority for modern consumers. Renters and travelers alike are in search of accommodation that offers a personalized and all-encompassing experience. In fact, 83% of consumers today are willing to trade in unit-square space for custom amenities and communal spaces that offer a built-in community. As a result, architects and developers are responding with designs inspired by the local history and culture. These properties are infused with multifunctional spaces to provide renters with access to their everyday needs – all under one roof.
While the growing demand for flexible design is transforming many industries, it's a concept that's revolutionized multifamily communities nationwide. With the goal to create a well-rounded experience and sense of community for renters, developers have evolved their approach to incorporate mixed-use design strategies, elements and spaces.
Here's a look at the key drivers behind this trend, opportune spaces for multifunctional design and best practices for creating multipurpose environments that result in innovative designs and deliver optimal return on investment.
Drivers of Multifunctional Design
According to the National Association of Realtors, multifamily units are shrinking as developers face a growing demand for studios and one-bedroom apartments. The average apartment size in the U.S has decreased by 10% – and in dense cities like New York and San Francisco – the minimum square footage per unit is as small as 220 square feet. Consequently, developers are rededicating square footage to communal areas and designing easily transformable spaces to ensure residents have access to more customized experiences and amenity spaces.
The Heritage Apartments include a large corridor that doubles as a communal lounge and meeting space for residents to work, connect and socialize.
Research shows that the focus on multifunctional design also is a result of consumers' shifting demands. This includes baby boomers and empty nesters relocating from suburban, family-friendly neighborhoods to urban developments in search of apartment living that's choc-full of amenities and boasts a strong sense of community. The National Multifamily Housing Council reported that by 2030 this demographic will demand 4.6 million new apartments as they look for living environments with less commitment and maintenance and more opportunities to engage in the local community.
Another driver behind this trend is renters desire for affordable luxury living. With apartment units downsizing and cost of rent rising year-over-year, consumers are opting for accommodation with access to luxury amenities and spaces. Multifamily designers are responding by incorporating multifunctional spaces including shared dining rooms with high-end decor that doubles as meeting and conference spaces and community kitchens complete with state-of-the-art appliances that also can be used for private dinner parties.
For example, in designing the clubroom and chef's kitchen at Broadstone Vilara in Laguna Niguel, architecture firm H. Hendy Associates (Hendy) incorporated adjustable design elements and furniture that enable residents to modify the environment for different uses. Featuring a roller counter space, residents can adjust the kitchen size to accommodate larger groups for events such as cooking classes and demonstrations. The clubroom and kitchen also feature large garage doors allowing tenants to enjoy an alfresco dining experience or create an indoor-outdoor space for special events.
Designed to provide renters with flexible and luxury amenity spaces, Vantis Apartments features a large pool deck with lounge and dining areas that can be divided into smaller spaces for multiple uses.
Key Multipurpose Spaces
Rooftop Decks and Green Space. To provide guests and residents with a true live-work-play experience, consider designing open areas such as outdoor green space and rooftop decks to be multifunctional. Successful multiuse areas feature a thoughtful layout, furniture and technology that allows residents to easily flow from one space to the next.
For example, the rooftop deck at Broadstone Vilara features an open lawn area including a furnished lounge space, garden and varied seating arrangements for gatherings of all sizes. The outdoor space also provides users with Wi-Fi access and charging stations creating a highly functional environment for remote working. The deck and lawn also double as an event space for wine tasting, popup shops, concerts in the park and more and is home to a fitness center complete with indoor-outdoor areas for instructor-led workout classes, personal training and stretching.
Lobby Spaces and Clubrooms. When designing communal spaces, consider the needs, habits and desires of your target demographic and leverage this intel to inform how the space can be designed for multiple purposes. The key to creating flexible spaces is balancing the larger layout with intimate, quiet areas and nooks for privacy and focused activities. Communal spaces – like clubrooms and lobby areas – can also be designed to naturally transform with the use of adaptable design elements such as lighting, furniture and decor.
The clubroom at Broadstone North Park features flexible design elements including double-sided open booths, garage doors and glass partitions – creating a highly-functional three-in-one community space.
The clubroom at Broadstone North Park in San Diego is an example of a successful and highly flexible environment comprised of three communal spaces in one room. In designing this space, the team at Hendy had to consider how to imagine a room that's multifunctional that's designed in a way that feels open and fluid. To deliver on this, the team incorporated active spaces like a game area with a shuffleboard and passive spaces including multiple dining nooks and a kitchenette and lounge for intimate gatherings. To separate each area without creating barriers, the team incorporated doubled-sided open booths and garage doors to promote an open, multifunctional space.
Pool Decks and Lounges. Known for attracting residents and travelers alike, pool decks and outdoor lounge areas are key opportunities to create flexible but luxury amenity spaces. These areas can be designed to easily transform from a lounge area by day to a private entertainment space by night. For example, the pool deck at Vantis Apartments in Aliso Viejo features a two-story volume lounge seating area comprised of four cabanas partitioned by decorative wood paneling. Each cabana can be rented for private events and includes comfortable seating, intimate space and beautiful decor for residents hosting friends and family.
The clubroom at Brio Apartment Homes provides renters with affordable luxury living and can be used for multiple purposes, including an upscale kitchen and lounge space.
Design Strategies and Best Practices
To create successful multipurpose spaces that deliver on consumer demands and provide optimal ROI for owners and developers, there are key design strategies and practices hoteliers should consider. These include:
1. Conduct Demographic Research
To unearth the specific type of multipurpose spaces needed, hoteliers should conduct in-depth demographic research to identify which amenities and community spaces travelers desire. This intel can be gathered by conducting focus groups or deploying online surveys to better understand what draws travelers and residents to the area, what they hope to see and do while visiting and what the enjoy most about the culture. Hotel developers also should take into consideration feedback from property managers to understand what communal spaces are and aren't being used. This insight also can be found by conducting post-occupancy evaluations with travelers and local visitors.
2. Tell a Story
The key to imagining successful multifunctional spaces is weaving the history, art and culture of the surrounding area into the environment. Hoteliers must think carefully about the communal areas that work well together in order to create spaces that tell a story and build a cohesive community. What makes your brand and region unique should be infused, not only in the decor, but through multiple dimensional and voluminous spaces balanced with intimate areas. This juxtaposition creates a unique atmosphere that visitors will want to explore and learn more about as they flow from space to space.
A hotel that seamlessly delivers on this concept is the Citizen Hotel located in the heart of downtown Sacramento, California. Where roaring '20s style meets 21st century grace, the Citizen Hotel allows guests to immerse themselves into a different experience as they go from one space to the next.
The Autograph Collection hotel is composed of classic stylings from early 1900s architect George Sell and decor inspired by the 20th Century U.S. political scene. The hotel is known for its eye-catching and multifunctional lobby space featuring a two-story voluminous lounge area that doubles as a library room. The walls are lined from floor-to-ceiling with law books and the room features nooks for reading or playing chess. The space balances open seating with private areas allowing guests to use the space for socializing, reading or working.
3. Keep Spaces Flexible
Multipurpose areas should be easily transformable to let residents and guests use the space for other purposes without any heavy lifting. It's also important to consider how these communal spaces will function at various times of day and throughout the year and make the furnishings adaptable for all. Key design elements should include lightweight and reconfigurable furniture such as rolling tables and chairs, retractable walls, glass partitions and drapery. These versatile design elements allow multifamily owners and hoteliers to deliver on multiple consumers demands. It also provides renters and visitors with extreme personalization as they have the power to adapt spaces to meet their individual needs.
4. Unique, Synergistic Spaces
Flexible design not only creates opportunities for efficiency and cost-savings. It also enables developers to realize synergies and solutions that results in innovative spaces. Examples include:
Corridors to Venues
Common areas such as corridors, hallways and passageways are now being designed to function as galleries, bars, speakeasys and more. For example, when designing Heritage Apartments, Hendy converted a large hallway into a unique lounge area for residents to connect and socialize. A main passageway for residents and formerly a large empty space, the design team saw this as an opportunity to create an area for residents to enjoy. The corridor now features comfortable seating and includes access to a courtyard.
DIY and Maker Spaces
As the DIY generation continues to grow, "maker" spaces are on the rise. This includes dedicated space, materials, and even training for creating goods. Think knitting, welding, gardening, bike repair and more - the possibilities are endless. Multifamily developers have turned common areas such as lobbies, clubrooms and coworking spaces into synergistic spaces for art, writing and music. These spaces also double as venues where residents can watch musicians, poets and comedians perform.
Benefits of Adaptable Design
Flexible design is the future of real estate. According to JLL, versatile spaces and the co-working sector has emerged as the primary growth driver in the market. By designing spaces that are fluid, business owners and operators can mitigate the unforeseen costs of underutilized space. For hoteliers, cost savings also comes in the opportunity to create fewer amenity spaces that can be used in a multitude of ways.
Not only does multifunctional design provide cost-savings, but it also delivers on shifting consumers demands. Modern renters and travelers alike are in search of accommodation that provides a built-in community. These fluid spaces provide residents with more opportunities to experience the local culture and engage in community offerings all at the same place. In fact, a study by the National Association of Realtors found that 78% of U.S. adults prefer to live in "work-live-play" communities as these environments provide the convenience, connection and sense of community they desire.
Remember, the key to creating successful multipurpose spaces is doing your research. Leveraging insight from your target demographic and property owners can help to identity the amenity spaces consumers desire. This intel will allow developers to find synergies and opportunities for multifunctional design, and most importantly, multipurpose designs should feature amenity spaces that create a cohesive community and tell the story of your brand and the destination.
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