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Spending design time and money on corridors in multifamily buildings is worth it.

Multifamily & Mixed-Use

Why Corridors in Multifamily Buildings Are Worth It

Corridors in multifamily buildings are often overlooked, considered areas to pinch the budget to save money for ”more glamorous” amenities, but it’s actually well worth it to invest in the design of a building’s corridors, not only from the perspective of the residents but from the perspective of the developer.

September 5, 2019

Corridors are much more than just a way to get from one place to another.

We’ve all been there — it’s been a long, busy day, and we’re doing our best to balance a bag of groceries, some dry cleaning, and our phone in one hand, stumbling into our apartment building. We lean against the side of the elevator cab and nudge our floor button with an elbow. Just a few more feet until we can kick off our shoes and relax at home. We get to our floor, walk down the hallway and stop in front of the door. We somehow manage to MacGyver our way into handling our key fob and get it to the door and then, nothing happens. We fob it again, and again, and still: no luck. Finally, the inevitable dawns on us — embarrassingly, we’re at the wrong door. How did this happen?

Residents deserve a better experience — one where a long day doesn't take a near miss into an awkward end. Thoughtful corridor design can deliver, but it's often overlooked.

Most apartment building corridors are, to be frank, a nightmare. We might enter into a grand, welcoming lobby space, with welcoming staff and a fireplace, and we get into our elevator, and suddenly we’re transported into a dreary alternate dimension. We’re deposited in a long, poorly lit, relentless cavalcade of identical doors, clone after clone of the entry to our home. The same trim, the same door, identical signage. By the time we arrive at our residence (if we’re lucky), our unit seems like a poor facsimile, a commodity at best. Any sense of “home” has slipped far down the list. How and why are nearly all corridors like this?

One answer, the one you might hear more often, is economy of scale. That is to say, if all the entries are identical, if the carpeting is inexpensive and easily replaceable, the cost per square goes down on these public throughways, and the overall project becomes more profitable.

But there’s another answer underneath that’s less talked about: most designers and developers believe that corridors simply can’t be made beautiful on any sort of budget. We hear so often, that without unlimited budgets, gilded halls, and opulent artwork, corridors can’t be a wonderful experience — so, why bother dedicating precious design time to them when we could be developing high-value amenity spaces?

We’re here to tell you that not only are corridors worth the design time, they’re also essential to a successful multifamily residential experience.

For starters, corridors are part of the leasing tour. Not only that, but — depending on the location of the unit leasing staff may be showing — the corridors very well could be the longest part of the leasing tour.

Developers, let that soak in for a second — in the brief time you have with a future resident, they may spend the majority of that time not in your amenity spaces or your lobby, but in your corridors. Do you want to have to be distracting them from exit signs, and fire strobes, and drab carpet tile, and unflattering top-down lighting that whole time? Or instead, do you want them to be fully immersed in the holistic experience your property has worked so hard to create for them?

Secondly, with only a slight uptick in budget, there are huge value adds in corridors that require nothing but some thoughtful design. For example, touches as simple as alternating paint schemes for entries, or designing floor-specific color schemes, can help with wayfinding without being obvious. Even small additional amenities — like butler windows for dry cleaning — are small line items in the budget of a project, but at the end of the day, they can make a building stand out for a potential resident as not just an apartment they can live with for a while, but a place they’re eager to call home.

So, developers, next time you’re chatting design, instead of letting corridors fall to the bottom of the list, consider the value of nudging them up towards the top. Have conversations with your designers about them early and often, and with thought, they’ll become the backbone of your design story – turning potential renters into residents.

What else is worth it in a multifamily building?

It’s way more than simply the units themselves that help lease up a building.

Why Amenity Spaces in Multifamily Buildings Are Worth It

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 potential renter.

Why Lobbies in Multifamily Buildings Are Worth It

Do you remember the so-so lobbies you’ve passed through? Probably not. But do you have pleasant memories of the ones where you really spent some time? Of course! Great lobbies make a big impression. When they are well-designed, they impact our lives in ways that stick with us — the backdrop for important moments in our lives.

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