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Why Lobbies in Multifamily Buildings Are Worth It – Board & Vellum

Multifamily & Mixed-Use

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.

May 23, 2019

Lobbies support community engagement and building identity.

When a lot of us are headed home from work, our brains are abuzz with the day. Even if we stop for happy hour on the way back to our apartments, all we can think about in that last bit of commute is getting back home and decompressing. Though you might love your apartment, many urban apartments built in the last decade aren’t a super spacious place for a soft landing after a long day. But, how about the lobby? If you arrive into a big, modern lobby, how does that feel? Opening the large, heavy doors leading to the lobby lounge, a fireplace framed by luxurious couches and a curated assortment of stylish seating; the sound and smell of coffee brewing in the background; and a soothing color palette of blues and grays, and natural walnut; all bathed in soft, moody music. There, you can kick back in front of the fireplace and play with your phone or chat with a neighbor and pet one of their dogs coming in from an evening walk. Those 10 minutes each day are the moments you might be happiest living in the building. When you renew your lease, that incredible lobby very well could be a big reason why.

Maybe you’ve lived in plenty of modern apartment buildings before. Some of them perhaps had small, sad, “token” lobbies: those are almost worse than none at all. Some lobbies are big and opulent, but thoughtless, which makes them feel vacant and dead. How does a big modern lobby with its sprawling, plush lounge give you such a sense of serenity and relief when you came home? How does it succeed where so many others fail? The designer and developer valued the lobby and understood how important it was to make sure residents have fulfilling experiences from the minute they walk through the door. They didn’t see them as merely “renters” or even “residents” — they saw them as people.

The way we live is changing, and the “Monopoly” house with the big yard and the white picket fence is no longer a reality for most of us, at least not anywhere near a city job. Many young professionals’ lives, (yes, even those with families), happen around, and in, apartment buildings. Precious memories are made in these buildings: personal achievements are celebrated on rooftops, family visits spark impromptu reunions in the lounge, friendships are sparked with the neighbors and staff in their shared spaces. The lobby isn’t just a foyer in an apartment building, it’s the backdrop for special moments and surprises, quiet minutes of reflection, real sorrow, and joy.

The design of a lobby space needs to not just accommodate these moments, but do so much more. Not only are the best lobbies a backdrop for life’s in-between moments, they’re also sometimes a functional working space for the leasing staff, an area where prospective residents wait, where packages are delivered and handed off, and where ideally, the personality and culture of the building is on display to attract new community members. And, all the while, it’s a space that should make current residents feel comfortable, welcomed, and relieved. Designing a lobby that does all of these things well is a trick in and of itself. Pull back a bit and see a lobby from the eyes of a developer and it gets even more challenging.

Why Lobbies in Multifamily Buildings Are Worth It – Board & Vellum
Lobby at the Jack Apartments

This lobby at the Jack in Seattle is a lobby refresh paying homage to the local music scene.

There are dozens of apartment buildings in many neighborhoods, all vying for the attention of renters, and the only ones that stand out, are the ones that look and feel different, especially during that crucial first impression. Those moments between opening the front door and beginning a leasing tour are usually the moments people make up their mind about a building. The rest of the tour (including looking at the units) is usually just confirming what you’ve already assumed from that crucial first impression.

Welcoming elements like couches and a fireplace, some higher-end finishes, and a curated look and feel helps a little, but what matters more than any amount of design, is people. A lobby should be a space where people feel safe, comfortable, and welcome. A space that invites us all to relax and be taken care of. A successful lobby is a place where people don’t just come to visit, they stay to enjoy themselves. A lobby isn’t just an entrance, a place to wait for the elevator or get a package. It’s an experience, and one that, each time the door opens, should make every visitor think the same thing: “I’m home.”

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 Corridors in Multifamily Buildings Are Worth It

It might be easy to brush off corridors as simply functional — linear spaces you have to pass through to get where you’re really going. But, not only is it more pleasant for residents if the hallways aren’t a dreary, monotonous slog, but your leasing staff won't have to gloss over the space future tenants are inherently spending a lot of time in moving from place to place in a tour. Well-designed corridors can be the touch that seals the deal for a tenant, making the whole building, not just a unit, feel like home.

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