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5 Key Principles of Interior Details

The artist and architect, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe once said, “God is in the details”. As interior designers, we create comprehensive environments that tell a story about each community. Carefully thought-out details that become an integral part of a space might not be immediately obvious to the eye – yet, are nonetheless crucial to a successful design.  Here you will find 5 key principals of interior details.

Make a Statement with Lighting

 

Lighting is a key feature in all successful interiors. When done right, it becomes a design statement, a way-finder and sets the mood.

At Instrata Pentagon City, the decorative lighting is used to focus the attention to the center of the space, over the seating. The placement helps to direct the eye to the concierge on the left and the leasing office on the right.
Selected for their quality and unusual design, these Italian pendants with handcrafted shades are used in lieu of architectural lighting to create a brand identity. Multiple shapes arranged in what appears to be a random placement speak to the quality of the property while introducing a design story that captures the energy of a chic European boutique hotel. Like the artwork in the room, this low-energy, LED fixtures are both practical and represent a significant design detail.

Create a Sense of Place

 

Over time, residents will develop a relationship with their apartment homes. Each time they experience a space or building detail that they connect with; the association is reinforced. The idea is to create a design that residents feel a personal attachment to. Special details that that resonate with an individual personalizes the space and help them love where they live.

Paying homage to the property location is one way to create this connectivity. At 1800 Oak Street, the design concept embraces wood materials reminiscent of the “Oak theme”. Details include oak bark at the face of the concierge desk and custom cast bronze, oak branch door hardware featured at the entry door and throughout the interior. With an eye to subtlety, design details that nod to the location creates a sense of place.

Make Function Beautiful

 

Functional details like convenient charging opportunities for smart devices and laptops speaks to today’s trend to blur work and play. Searching for a charging port need not happen when design details that consider easy access are paramount to the design concept. Mindfully electrifying tables, upholstery, and coworking spaces can be beautiful as well as handy. In this coworking library, table-top ports are built into each workspace creating a well-designed power source that masks cords and unsightly electrical devices.

Create the Unexpected

 

 

Walking through the doors of this building on DC’s hip H Street, Coda on H, residents, and guests are greeted with whimsical A-OK door hardware. The custom handles, that create the initial intrigue, were cast from the hands of our project manager’s daughter and put a smile on everyone’s face. They set the tone for the building design that is all about street art and playful experiences in this gritty-chic apartment building.

Details that surprise and delight are not just memorable, they create a building’s personality. People will engage on a deeper level if they feel the place reflects who they are or aspire to be.

Tell a Story

 

Storytelling through interior design details creates a powerful, memorable impression, especially when aligned with the property brand. Seth Godin, author, blogger, and former dot com business executive said that “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories, you tell”. A great brand story is about creating emotion. What better way to enforce the building brand than to continue the story into the interior?

Branding the building with its name, “Cheval” (French for horse), this high-end Bethesda condominium had a story to tell. The connection between horses and humans is a powerful one. Winston Churchill said, “There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”. The long wall in the lobby provided the blank canvas for a subtle nod to the theme and began the interior story. Inspired by Irene Suchocki’s ethereal horse photography, a glass mosaic artist translated a fine-art photograph of galloping stallions into this dream-like vision.

Boutique, elegant and understated.

Design is all about the details that ground a property in its geographic location and tell a story that helps residents love their home. Whether it is a funky, edgy neighborhood or a sophisticated urban center, how the elements of design are curated, make each building unique.

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Small Space Large Personality

Living affordably in a thriving urban environment often means giving up space—but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style along with it. Developers are offering smaller apartment units to make them more accessible in sought-after, high-rent districts. At Hartman Design Group, we like to get creative when designing model apartments to show prospective residents how much personality and function you can fit into these pint-sized pads. Take a look:

Studio Apartment at 2 Hopkins
Downtown Baltimore

Try introducing multi-functional pieces when your bedroom is basically a nook, and it faces the only wall where you can place the sofa. A queen bed leaves room for a dresser that doubles as a bedside table. A console table becomes a desk when you pull up a chair. The dining chairs also provide extra seating for guests, as do the ottomans that serve as accent tables when not in use. A pop of color on an accent wall adds a personal touch without taking up any space at all.

 

One-Bedroom Apartment at 360 State
New Haven, Connecticut

Several tricks are at play to visually expand this living room, like a large mirror behind the sofa to reflect the views and bounce light throughout the space. Allowing for a wider sofa, oversized wall lamps eliminate the need for side tables, and the furnishings have open legs to maintain a spacious feel. White, gauzy window treatments allow for natural light to flood the room without giving up privacy. When coordinating a model, we’re not afraid to mix styles—eclecticism makes a personal statement by mixing vintage and recycled furniture with new and updated pieces: Do your dining chairs have to match? Absolutely not! A transparent “Ghost” chair from Homegoods adds a great vibe without any visual weight.

 

One-Bedroom at Insignia on M
Washington, DC’s Navy Yard

The lesson here is not to be afraid of color in a small apartment. The tangerine accent wall makes Ikea’s white lacquered modular storage unit pop and highlights the fun, mid-century modern floor lamps. Mixed in with a vibrant rug that anchors the colorful upholstery, the energy of this living room is much more the focus than its size. And like other small models we’ve designed, the open legs of the dining table, coffee table and chairs visually expand the space.

What a view! In this small bedroom, the floor-to-ceiling windows open the space and connect it to Navy Yard’s hip, up-and-coming neighborhood. A low European-style queen bed maintains the broad sightlines, while wall lamps allow more surface area on the nightstands.

 

One-Bedroom at Insignia on M
Washington, DC’s Navy Yard

Here’s a great way to maximize living function. Ikea’s modern, modular white-lacquered wall system surrounds a “found” vintage dining table that doubles as a work surface. Shelving expands the function of small spaces and provides the opportunity to display special objects, books, photos, and art.

 

One-Bedroom at Vy
Reston Heights, Virginia

Make every wall count when you’re living small. This long entry provides an opportunity for both design and function. The stripes—an easy do-it-yourself touch—add color, make a personal statement and provide an intentional place for jaunty hooks from World Market to hold hats, bags, scarves and the dog leash. The design naturally draws your eye across the airy living space to the broad, outdoor views beyond.

In this compact, one-bedroom apartment, the window nook provides a natural enclave for the dining table, which can easily turn into a light-filled workspace. Imagine having your morning coffee or afternoon tea overlooking this lovely nature scene. And instead of a simple end table for the sofa, use a bookshelf with storage options.

Create your own artisan vibe! You don’t have to own a ton of artwork to generate impact. Paint and molding from the local home store go a long way. A neutral palette provides solid grounding for changeable accent colors in pillows, accessories, or rotating works of art.

The brightly colored credenza in the main living area not only adds personality to the room, it’s the perfect place to store AV equipment, games and anything else that might clutter the space.

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Mothers Day Gift Ideas for the Interior Design Lover!

Happy spring! Mother’s Day is coming up fast, if your mother is anything like us, an interior design lover, we have the perfect stylish gift for her! We surveyed our team at HDG for some thoughtful gift ideas. Allyson Horton, our procurement director, and designer, had lots of them.

House Plant

Always a sure thing. They add color and shape to both indoor and outdoor rooms.

How about this Levitating Pot? You heard right! Levitating pot LePlant is an amazing combination of nature, classic design and technology. It’s a zero-gravity system allowing you to cultivate your favorite plants in mid-air. Your plants will be nourished with 360 degrees of sunlight exposure, allowing them to grow straighter and healthier, all while floating supernaturally.

Impressive, majestic, and tropical, you can never go wrong with Bird of Paradise! This low maintenance plant is considered the queen of the indoor plant world and adds the perfect tropical touch to every room!

If your mom likes low maintenance plants, try this stylish six-piece succulent garden from Pro Flowers. The perfect finishing touch to any room. Each wooden triangle is handmade and filled with a colorful array of succulents:

If Mom isn’t into watering plants, we’re loving this artificial Jade plant from Crate & Barrel:

Terrarium

A garden in a bowl! Terrariums are easy to care for and no two terrariums are alike. Doddle Bird Terrariums offer a miniature scene with live moss. Each piece is handcrafted using the highest grade plants and supplies.

If Mom is more traditional, a la English garden, try this conservatory-style terrarium container from Pier One:

Or how about this Gordon Glass Terrarium from Wayfair:

If you need plants for your terrarium, stop by the Little Leaf Shop on 14 th Street in DC:

Flower Vase

For elegant, feminine beauty, Michael Aram’s sculptural vases are the way to go:

Tray

It’s a classic accessory, standing at the ready to hold all manner of objects from the bar to the coffee table to the foyer or boudoir. So many options!

Designer and blogger Paloma Conreras just introduced this brass tray with rattan handles – glam and versatile:

Does mom have a playful spirit? This butterfly tray by Barile Biagio through Horchow will fit any color scheme:

And how about the Rose Quartz Tray from CB2 for an elegant vanity? The polished slab is finished with square brass handles for easy holding. Gorgeous for displaying hand towels in the bath or jewelry on the dresser.

Tea Pot

Expand the gift with a flowering tea set from Crate & Barrel:

Or go with this painterly look from Danko Handmade:

Throw Pillows

Throw pillows are like a punch of personality on an otherwise neutral chair, sofa or bed. So it’s just a matter of figuring out where your mother’s personality lies.

The Pfeifer Studio is all about organic texture and color:

Serena & Lily is its preppy cousin:

And John Derian is full of decadence and whimsy:

Throw Blanket

The same idea applies to throw blankets. If you want to splurge on your mother, try this soft, ethereal handmade alpaca throw by textile designer D. Bryant Archie:

West Elm offers a shot of chunky color:

And how yummy is this sweatshirt throw from the Company Store?

Herb Garden

Beauty and function come together in a kitchen herb garden.

This vase-like garden is a riff on the traditional tulipiere, from Plow & Hearth:

Combine several herbs into one garden in this contemporary fluted earthenware container from West Elm:

Coffee Table Book

It’s the ultimate accessory for Mom’s living room or den.

A young mother will appreciate the stunning photography and moving narrative in this ode to motherhood:

Is she a wine connoisseur? Then this master guide will not disappoint.

Does she love interior design? Joanna Gaines knows how to create spaces you will never want to leave.

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Instrata Apartments at Pentagon City Transformed!

Bozzuto and Invesco partnered with Hartman Design Group to transform Instrata Apartments in the Pentagon City area.

Home to sports figures, government consultants and older professionals, Instrata Pentagon City is set back from busy 15th Street, making it a quiet respite in a thriving urban location. Completed in 2003, the building was showing its age and not competing well in the marketplace.

A full renovation of the property’s indoor and outdoor amenities to a premier level was necessary to retain current residents. HDG’s mission was to create a boutique hotel experience that would differentiate the property from its competition. The new design encourages connection among the residents, provides work and play space, and solidifies a sense of community. As a result, says Lesley Lisser, Senior Director, Asset Management, Invesco Real Estate, “We noticed significantly higher retention rates, rent growth and strength in leasing. We realized that we created an overall lifestyle experience that residents are willing to pay for.”


LOBBY AND CONCIERGE BEFORE

LOBBY AND CONCIERGE AFTER

 

MARKETING OFFICE BEFORE

CO-WORKING AFTER

LEASING OFFICE BEFORE

LEASING OFFICE AFTER

CLUB ROOM ENTRY BEFORE

CLUB ROOM ENTRY AFTER

CLUBROOM BEFORE

CLUBROOM AFTER

CO-WORKING BEFORE

CO-WORKING AFTER

BEFORE

AFTER

BEFORE

AFTER

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1800 Oak Street Transformed

Equity Residential partnered with Hartman Design Group to transform 1800 Oak Street Apartments in Rosslyn, VA to a Class A apartment community that competes with new product in this competitive market place. Now a stunning urban living experience with all of the amenities that today’s resident demands including multiple co-working spaces, a dramatic lobby, a sports bar, and a brand new state of the art fitness center.

Before completion of the major renovation in November, JiRod Freeman, the community manager, doesn’t remember anyone hanging out much in the lobby at 1800 Oak Apartments. “There was a lot of nonfunctional space.”

Since the new lobby opened, Freeman reports that these spaces are consistently occupied with residents who work from home or telecommute part-time—one day, he says, there wasn’t a single empty seat. “Everyone loves it. You’ll see random people come in here, taking pictures and selfies,” he says. “When you compare it to what it used to be, it’s just mind-blowing.”

1800 Oak Street comprises of 314 apartment homes and was originally built in 2004.


 

LOBBY BEFORE

LOBBY AFTER

 

SITTING ROOM BEFORE

LOBBY AND CO-WORKING AFTER

 

 

LEASING OFFICE BEFORE

CORRIDOR TO LEASING AND CO-WORKING AFTER

LEASING BEFORE

CO-WORKING AFTER

BUSINESS CENTER BEFORE

BUSINESS CENTER AFTER

FITNESS CENTER BEFORE

FITNESS CENTER AFTER

CLUB ROOM BEFORE

SPORTS BAR AFTER

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Love of Fire

When we think about design as a journey that leads to new possibilities for how we live in a built environment, biophilic design opens-up new horizons for interior designers and architects to connect people to nature.

As individuals become more isolated, it is important that design professionals intensify their efforts to re-connect buildings and interiors to our natural environment. Extensive studies have established the relationship between nature and human health.

 


The fireplace at The Signature in Reston, Virginia, brings the outdoors inside, with its glass enclosure as the centerpiece of the lobby.

Lifeforce elements such as light, sky, fire, and water draw upon on our survival instincts. Fire is perhaps the most dramatic way to infuse nature directly into the built environment. We are drawn to the color, warmth, movement and social engagement that fire elements compel.

“One of humanity’s greatest achievements has been the control of fire that allowed the harnessing of energy beyond animal life, and facilitated the transformation of objects from one state to another,” Stephen R. Kellert and Elizabeth F. Calabrese wrote inThe Practice of Biophilic Design .


A warm fire enlivens the club room at The Remy in New Carrollton, Maryland.

 


The dual-sided fireplace anchors the outdoor living space and allows for a lively connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces at  The Haven in National Harbour, Maryland.

 

That flickering of the flame, Rebecca Lindenmeyr writes inSustainability , is a “complex, dynamic natural scene” (like waves on the water or leaves rippling in the breeze) that can “capture and hold our attention better than artificial environments or stimuli.”

Header Image by Dominic Sansotta from Unsplash.com

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Pretty In Pink

Get ready to see more of the hue in 2019 as Pantone Color Institute announced “Living Coral” as its 2019 Color of the Year.

It’s hard to imagine that the movie “Pretty in Pink” came out 3 decades ago, but as we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, the term filmmaker John Hughes made famous is more relevant than ever—and NOT just for women.

Millennial Pink is “all the rage” and now, there is no longer any debate that pink is pretty on everyone.

So, let’s bring out our faded Nantucket reds and Lilly Pulitzer’s because pink is back and swaggy-er than ever before.

“With Millennial Pink, gone is the girly-girl baggage; now it’s androgynous,”

Lauren Schwartzberg wrote in this detailed timeline on The Cut of how pink has surpassed fad into fixture.

As we look ahead in 2019, notions of what’s Pretty in Pink are evolving yet again. “Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression,” says the company’s announcement.

More saturated than Millennial Pink, coral is not afraid to make a statement, as we can see in this collection from Anthropologie:

In these home accessories featured in Aspire Design and Home:

In this collection featured by Underscored:

Want to memorialize this shade with more permanent features in your home? Products Magazine has some great ideas. How about appliances for your kitchen?

Try sprucing up an accent wall. Sherwin Williams has 18 shades of coral.

Whatever you choose, it’s a safe bet that pink—whether it’s used as a neutral shade, as an alternative to gray or beige, or invoked as an assertive accent color—is a worthy investment for our wardrobe and home.

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Color and It’s Visual Connection with Nature

“One of the great challenges of our time is to bring the beneficial experience of nature into the design of contemporary buildings, landscapes, communities, and cities”.

– Stephen R. Kellert, Nature by Design: The Practice of Biophilic Design

Biophilic design is an innovative way of connecting nature to the interiors of the places where we live, work, learn and heal. Considering that the average person spends 90 percent of their time indoors, we as design professionals need to consciously embrace the principles of biophilic design for multi-family condominiums and apartment buildings to ensure that in this stressful world, people feel that their home offers the ultimate health and wellness benefits. These benefits include reduced stress, enhanced creativity, clarity of thought and overall improved wellbeing.

In this first installment of a three-part post, we focus on the use of color as a visual connection to nature—one of 14 biophilic design patterns.


Photos, clockwise from left, by Kris Atomic, Thom Masat, Carlos Domínguez and Chris Lawton via Unsplash

 

Color is more than eye candy. Hue, saturation, tone and brightness define the ambiance of a space and impact our mood, motivation, productivity, creativity, and enthusiasm. When selecting a palette for a project, we closely consider the feeling that each room needs to evoke, and select color combinations that will help to express it.

Consider the emotions aroused by these colors of nature:

Blues and Cyans are colors that call to mind a bright blue sky or clean, cerulean water. Through this fellowship with nature, blues create a calming experience and reduce tension.

Shades of green are associated with health. Textures and tones of green in fabrics and other surface materials put us in touch with vegetation.  Effective ways to bring the outdoors inside include green walls, moss art, reclaimed wood, and other materials that mimic the natural world. Greens are proven to lower both your blood pressure and heart rate.

Reds are the color of fruits such as apples and berries. Their range paints a summer sunset and sprinkles the autumn leaves. Like a cluster of berries on a holly tree, red delights us when used in small bursts. Too much red, and its intensity invades our senses.

Yellow is the brightest color; used in the right intensity, hue, and saturation, it reminds us of the sun’s warmth, arouses feelings of happiness, and improves creativity and optimism. Yet, if overused, it can have an unpleasant or even disturbing effect.

 


Biophilic Case Study: Signature at Reston Town Center

Boston Properties and Bozzuto

The award-winning Signature at Reston Town Center, located in Reston, Virginia, features broad outdoor vistas that echo nature’s colors throughout its public spaces. In this sunlit corner, a grouping of comfy blue chairs looks out toward a courtyard animated with a waterfall and reflecting pond. We commissioned abstract artwork in shades of blue, green, brown and white; the colors channel shades that could be found in a forest, while the texture and movement of the patterns echo the rippling waters outside the floor-to-ceiling windows.

 


Case Study: The Haven at National Harbor

The Peterson Companies, McWilliams Ballard

From the Potomac River on one side to the surrounding treetops on the other, nature flows in and out through The Haven’s expansive windows. Our eyes connect to the blue water in the pool and the river, and also to the greenspace surrounding this award-winning multi-family condominium building. The warm wood ceiling and the milky stone indoor/outdoor fireplace monolith are natural materials that further ground the design in its organic environment.

 


For more information on Biophilic Design:

www.interface.com/US/en-US/campaign/biophilic-design/Biophilic-Design-en_US
https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/report/economics-of-biophilia/
https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/report/14-patterns/
https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/topics/wellbeing/four-ways-to-weave-nature-into-the-workplace/

“With biophilia comes a restless curiosity, an urge to investigate and discover the elusive places where we meet nature, where she plays on our senses with colours and forms, perfumes and smells”.

Sir David Attenborough

 

Header Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

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Hire Your Design Team Early

In this competitive multi-family environment, it’s imperative now more than ever that developers and architects involve an interior design team. I have noticed over the years, that the interiors firm is frequently one of the last critical consultants engaged.  Hiring the interior design team at the right time is not just a question of aesthetics, it’s also about the bottom line.

It’s understandable that interior design might not be top of mind for developers in the early planning stages of a new construction multi-family and mixed-use community, as there’s already so much to accomplish in this critical period.

However, many developers now recognize that well-designed public spaces play a leading role in the initial rental pace as well as future retention because their interiors form the all-important first impression for prospective renters and make them feel at home as they live there over time. Statistics tell us that thoughtful and well-designed amenities will outpace those with mediocre interiors. According to the Newmark Knight Frank White Paper, more amenities can lead to stronger project performance, but projects that are well-designed along with more amenities lead to even stronger performance and lease-up pace.

My experience tells me that when interior designers join the team early, and all the parties are involved in the initial concepts and branding, the process and end result is more successful and cost-saving. If we’re in from the beginning on a new construction project, we can help to avoid unnecessary redesign and provide critical coordination with all consultants.

 

So When is the Best Time to Hire Your Interior Design Team?

The ideal time to engage the interior design team for a new construction development is before the city approves the final building exterior and while the architect is in early schematic phase.

At this point in the project, relocation, expansion, and/or reconfiguring of amenities can be easily be accomplished. Fenestration and building entries can be reconsidered to work better with the interior spaces; ceiling heights can be raised and structure adjusted to allow for more impactful volume and better space usage, and the team can collaborate most effectively on how best to connect the interior to the architecture.

If the interiors team hired late in the process (especially after the city has approved the exterior), we often hear groans in the room as it becomes clear that improved interior spaces will require a change to the outside of the building and thus another round of city approvals.  Consider the cost of the redesign and the time lost that could have been avoided by hiring the design team early on.

Thoughtful Interior Design Takes Time

Residents are willing to pay higher rents if it means living in a resort-style setting, according to Multifamily Executive: “A great way to start meeting the expectations of today’s resident is to place the resident at the center of your business model,” its report says. “One of the most effective ways to appeal to residents is through thoughtful interior design.”

There is a process to interior design and interior architecture that is similar to the architectural phases of design.  While the interiors team has a different scope, the phases required are the same.  Most consultants have experienced unrealistic deadlines.  When this occurs, the team will always strive hard to deliver on time. However, a more successful project with fewer revisions will come from thoughtful, planned design and a coordinated process.

Case Study: The Signature at Reston Town Center:

HDG joined the team while the plans for this new apartment building were still in the early schematic phase. As a result, all consultants worked closely to assure that the building was coordinated from the outside in and the inside out.

For example, the HDG team had the opportunity to provide input on the exterior brick selection, which was so handsome that the team chose to wrap this metallic, textured brick into the lobby as well as other connecting amenity spaces.  Further accentuating the indoor-outdoor connection, the team worked closely to design a river rock trough that boarders the entry of the building both from the exterior and the interior.

Because the building had not gone through final approval, the fenestration was collaboratively designed to seamlessly support the interior.  Anchoring seating areas both inside the lobby and outside on the terrace, a two-sided fireplace was located on an exterior wall.   Having the opportunity to closely coordinate structure, MEP design, and optimal ceiling heights made all the difference in the design of this highly successful project.

Renovation vs. New Construction

By contrast, the HDG team is usually the first to come in when a multifamily project involves the renovation of an older building.  We drive the design, the space plan and work with the owner’s team to determine the budget, branding, and the best design approach.  A cohesive team is important.  Once the conceptual design is complete it is time to engage all necessary consultants, which might include an architect of record, MEP and structural engineers, and a landscape architect.

Case Study: Instrata Pentagon City:

HDG led the design for a substantial lobby-and amenities renovation that involved the complete re-positioning of this 1990s-era apartment building.  In addition to creating a high-end boutique design that would shine in Crystal City’s competitive marketplace, the goal was to open up all amenity spaces for a visual connection with the outdoor terraces, to provide for service amenities such as package lockers, an expanded package room, a concierge desk with views to the entry, a pet spa and a complete redesign of all social amenities and public spaces.

At the completion of conceptual design, the architect of record, landscape architect, MEP and structural engineers joined the team. Forming the team at this phase allowed for the most efficient use of the consultant’s time as they had a basis of design from which to begin their work.  A cohesive and collaborative team, together, completed the highly successful repositioning of The Instrata Pentagon City.

Conclusion:

Whether new construction or renovation, interior designers who think holistically about a building add more value to a project the earlier they are involved.

Sources cited:

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Adaptive Reuse: New Relevance for Old Buildings

As markets evolve, in response to changes in business form and economics, they leave countless structures in their wake as one manner of doing business gives way to another. Consequently, the built environment must make changes to accommodate these changes. The great question of our time is what to do with obsolete buildings—especially so many office buildings. Tall and boxy, they do not tend to be architecturally memorable, but to replace them would be wasteful—and in many cases cost-prohibitive. That is where the multi-family industry is stepping in.

Over the past three years, Hartman Design Group (HDG) has teamed with developers to convert aging office buildings in DC and Baltimore into Class A apartments, and this experience is part of a sweeping national trend. In the past 10 years, 18.1 million square feet of office space in New York and L.A. have been converted to residential units 1/. The DC region is following suit: The Downtown DC Business Improvement District released a 10-year forecast report in 2017 that includes a goal of encouraging the residential redevelopment of at least 400,000 square feet in outdated office buildings, 2/. and DC City Council members are considering legislation to provide tax abatements for developers to move in this direction. In Baltimore, The New York Times reported that 1.9 million square feet of office space has been converted to residential use just since 2013.

1. Case Study: The Historic Adaptive Reuse of 2Hopkins Apartments, Baltimore, MD

“I’d love to see the development community do more projects like this,” says Kevin Berman, the partner in charge of development for Berman Enterprises, which had the vision to convert the midcentury Mercantile Bank and Trust Building in Baltimore’s Charles Center into 2Hopkins, a Class A multi-family high-rise apartment building. The historic society required that the outside of the building and certain public-space features retain the original design, yet the design team (BCT Architects and HDG) had a free hand in the unit designs and the newly built amenities, such as laptop-friendly co-working spaces in the lobby and clubroom, electronic storage lockers for package deliveries, and a pet spa and indoor dog walk.

The lobby in particular helped set the tone for our team. “It was a tremendous architectural statement with this two-story volume with a coffered ceiling,” BCT architect Scot Foster says. HDG used that envelope to inform a newly multifunctional space with a concierge desk, coffee bar, and lounge/work area under dramatic custom chandeliers. The design team sourced furnishings for the lobby and 21st-floor clubroom in a palette of neutrals with accents of orange and turquoise—midcentury hues that hearken back to the building’s origins. A vintage 1960s clock display is another pleasant nod to the past in the thoroughly modern fitness area.

Many office buildings pose challenges for adaption to residential apartments, especially unit layouts, but 2Hopkins offered the perfect footprint for this endeavor. The floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides of the building, paired with 10-foot ceiling heights on every floor, created views of Baltimore that would be difficult to attain in a new-construction high-rise.

2. Case Study: The Non-historic Office Conversion at Legacy West End Apartments, Washington, D.C.

Many office buildings pose challenges for adaption to residential apartments, especially unit layouts, but 2Hopkins offered the perfect footprint for this endeavor. The floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides of the building, paired with 10-foot ceiling heights on every floor, created views of Baltimore that would be difficult to attain in a new-construction high-rise.

The Legacy West End at 1255 22nd Street NW is an example of a past-its-prime office building perfectly located for residential conversion. The existing, late-70s-era office building would not qualify as Class A office space today, says architect Michael Foster of MTFA Architecture, who drafted the Legacy’s new plans. Its interior spaces are smaller than modern office buildings, but those smaller dimensions are preferable for a residential setting, and its location between Washington and DuPont circles makes it an ideal place to live. MTFA gave it a stunning modern facade, plus three upper floors and a rooftop pool.

A new wing was added to increase the unit count. Yet the original structure, parking garage, and elevator core remain intact. As the HDG design team sought to transform the interior, we had to get creative with elements that could not be changed such as the elevator-core location and a slab that lowered a portion of the ceiling in the lobby.

The two-story lobby required significant renovation to transform the stark “office” feel into a residential vibe that expresses its luxurious address in the thriving West End. Lacking the expansive amenity space found in newly constructed residential properties, the design team looked for opportunities in every nook and cranny to add new features, like the open second-floor elevator lobby that we enclosed to create booths, small conference rooms, and co-working spaces. The main lobby area was too small to carve out an enclosed leasing office, so we designed a communal table where agents work by day that converts to a coworking area for residents after hours. The rest of the space is devoted to comfortable seating areas around a linear-flame fireplace, while broad window seats offer views of the streetscape. The top-floor addition—a glass box in the sky— offers a clubroom on one end and a library and outdoor terrace on the other. The sun-filled clubroom, which connects to the pool deck, enjoys sweeping views of the city, the National Cathedral, and Rock Creek Park.

Conclusion:

Due to changes in the way tenants use office space, some traditional office buildings are becoming obsolete. In some cases, this situation is incurable, and owners face a tear-down or conversion decision. A building in the right location with the right footprint offers an excellent opportunity for conversion to a multi-family residential property. A qualified design team will ensure success.

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/16/realestate/commercial/washington-dc-real-estate.html
  2. https://www.downtowndc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Downtown-2027-Vision-for-the-Future-Web.pdf
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Five Design Trends for 2018

Many industries mark the beginning of each year with trends and predictions for the months ahead. The design industry is no exception, as many manufacturers and press outlets report on new looks coming to the fore. And while we can’t be slavish to fads, these updates are always a useful reference as we contemplate our own design selections moving into 2018. Upon reviewing many of these reports, it’s notable to see how many of our choices, based on client requests, are in line with industry patterns. Here are five trends that stand out:

sunbrella.com

Color

An obvious place to start, now that the major paint companies have declared their “official” colors for 2018. This year’s paint colors, for the most part, are dramatic and deeply saturated: Pantone named Ultra Violet, while Benjamin Moore identified Caliente—a rich, lipstick red—and Sherwin Williams announced Oceanside, a vivid teal. Glidden and Olympic, meanwhile, declared their own shades of black—Dee

Onyx and Black Magic—as the year’s official hues. Our designers have been turning to black as a neutral for several years, but what’s new is that the deep, jewel-tone shades that have emerged this year have a black base to them. That’s what gives them their moody feel—a palette that House Beautiful magazine identified for 2018. Those tones make wonderful complements to the cognac hues we’ve been gravitating toward in our work. “It’s in the bronze family with a touch of orange and a little bit of red,” Hartman Design Group founder Phyllis Hartman says. Its rich, earthy tone looks gorgeous in textiles, leather, porcelain and ceramics. Even better, the deep, black-based teals, blues and greens are a powerful complement to this cognac/terra cotta color; they come alive against each other where one draws out the richness in the other. Houzz.com contributor Jennifer Ott confirmed this point in the home-design website’s 2018 trend report: “Warm grays with rich, earthy shades will edge out cooler neutrals for a more sumptuous look,” she says. “I’m seeing a move toward warm grays and rich, earthy shades of camel, rust, tobacco and brown-blacks.”

Maximalist Design

Along with these deep colors, we’re seeing a return to pattern mixing. Layering pattern on pattern has to be done judiciously, of course, but we see the trend becoming popular among Millennials who want to create their own identity with energy and a sense of individual style. We are finding that this age group responds to design styles that are warm, inviting and homey. This gesture is exactly in line with recent trend reports out from houzz.com and Dering Hall, both of which note increased appetites for eclectic design and the mixing of metals, texture and sheen. House Beautiful noted the comeback of bold, floral patterns in particular. “I love the resurgence on the feminine side of the big, beautiful florals,” Nancy Fire, creative director of HGTV Home, told the magazine. “It’s coming from a boho trend that’s more casual.” Along those lines, our clients are requesting fabrics and furnishings that exude comfort. Velvet, for example, used to be considered very formal, but when mixed in with wood accents like reclaimed lumber, the mood becomes much more inviting—not to mention that velvet is the perfect vehicle for these dark, striking colors that are so popular now. House Beautiful singled out velvet as its own trend, in fact, in its recent report. We’re also choosing plush furniture designs—nothing too precious—that invite condo and apartment residents to see their buildings’ public spaces as extensions of their own living area. We look for materials that embrace the person sitting on them; their tactile feel needs to create a sense of sanctuary. In its decorating report for 2018, Country Living magazine noted that shapely furniture—full of curves, no hard edges—is the thing to look for this year. Even CB2, known for its minimalist furnishings, is coming out this spring with furnishings that have more rounded silhouettes, the report said. Dering Hall also emphasized soft edges in furniture, which are so much more inviting than hard angles.

Minimalist Design

No, we’re not contradicting ourselves from above. Streamlined profiles and neutral color palettes are classic companions—they don’t come and go like pattern and color tend to do, particularly with Scandinavian elements such as modern frames with warm wood finishes. These settings are perennially relaxing, offering up space to escape the craziness of the world, both politically and technologically. Our requirement for this look, however, is that the interiors must be comprised of authentic materials. Because there is so little color, the design must assert itself through the texture of wood, iron, porcelain and natural textiles. Harper’s Bazaar produced a 2018 report focused entirely on emerging Scandinavian design elements, such as folding-style leather-backed wooden chairs and wood-slatted walls, which demonstrate how natural elements define an interior, rather than color or pattern. In this type of setting, anything synthetic would, quite literally, cheapen the look.

Mixed-Use Development

It’s one thing to have a well-appointed lobby with areas branching off for impromptu gatherings or quiet pursuits. But many of the new developments we’re working on include coffee shops, wine bars—even an entrance to Whole Foods—in that lobby mix.

It’s living in such a way that you’re surrounded by activity and people, yet there are still places where one can be “alone” in the middle of the fray. In our business, that’s called an “activated space,” which sparks engagement and sociability. As designers, it’s our job to make all these functions aesthetically pleasing, with a seamless flow between communal workspace, areas that are slightly more private, and open social space that lies just outside the retailers’ doors. Those priorities steer the design in a much more casual direction, focusing on life experience rather than pure aesthetics—a quality that’s echoed in nearly every residential interiors report this year.

Green Design

Clients are becoming ever more sensitive to environmentally friendly materials in their buildings’ architecture and interior design. Country Living, Dering Hall, and House Beautiful all pointed to natural accents such as wood, stone, and brick as a big design driver this year. Our Design Director, Anny Falgas states, “The use of natural finishes engages people with their environment and reiterates the desire to respect and connect with nature. It’s our own way of honoring nature through the means of design.” That trend continues to grow, so our default in selecting textiles, furnishings and other design elements is always to make choices that are sustainable, from FSC-certified and reclaimed woods to organic fabrics and recycled materials.

Written by Phyllis Hartman, ASID, LEED AP

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Why Art is a Neccessity for Design

How does it feel to walk into a home with blank walls? Maybe it feels like the owner is there only temporarily—or that he or she just moved in. Either way, there’s a sense that something’s incomplete, or worse, that something’s just plain wrong. Such is the power of art in our lives: It defines and grounds us; it can lift our spirits and sense of wonder; it can make us smile; it can challenge, surprise and entertain.

“FROM A DESIGN PERSPECTIVE, IT CAN BE THE FOCAL POINT FROM WHICH A ROOM’S PALETTE AND STYLE EMERGES. ON A MORE PERSONAL LEVEL, AN ART COLLECTION TRANSFORMS THAT ROOM INTO YOUR OWN SANCTUARY.

 

Just as we’re rewarded with sweeping views once we reach the top of a mountain, art provides an interior vista as we walk in the door or turn the corner into a new space. From a design perspective, it can be the focal point from which a room’s palette and style emerges. On a more personal level, an art collection transforms that room into your own sanctuary.

The same idea extends to public spaces, particularly in condo and apartment buildings. At a time when the cost of construction is rising, developers are building smaller units with larger public areas to get the biggest return on their investment. This trend puts the onus on us as interior architects and designers to conceive public space that can double as an extension of one’s home.

“EMPTY WALLS AND SPACES DEVOID OF HAND-MADE OBJECTS CAN BE UNSETTLING—LIKE OPENING A BOOK TO FIND ONLY BLANK PAGES, WITH NO STORY TO TELL.”

 

The question then becomes: Where do you start? When the project begins, it’s rare that an individual or team of people will express their personal tastes and preferences for art style or genre. At times, of course, the building owner might have a personal collection he or she wants to display, and that collection becomes the design driver. But most often, we start from scratch in determining how to beautify communal space that includes lobbies, lounges, meeting and recreational rooms, chef’s kitchens and eating areas—even pet spas and outdoor “rooms.”

That’s when we as designers look to a building’s location for direction. Whenever we can, we like to bring in local artists whose works tell a story about the community. Is it an area like Georgetown, DC, with a deep sense of history? Or maybe Hyattsville, Maryland, which has a thriving art scene? Perhaps it’s a central urban environment with a grittier vibe or a big sports town? There are all sorts of ways to bring in that local flavor.

At The Signature in Reston, Virginia, for example, we reached out to artist Susan Main, the curator, and director of galleries and exhibition programming at VisArts in Rockville, Maryland. We admired the swirling, whimsical lines in her work—just the kind of thing you’d want in a commissioned piece focused on signatures. We’ve asked her to create a large encaustic work representing 25 autographs of famous people who hail from Northern Virginia—from historical figures such as Booker T. Washington and Thomas Jefferson to contemporary standouts like basketball veteran Grant Hill and comedian Wanda Sykes.

There’s a different narrative in the Crystal City section of Arlington, VA, where The Bartlett—Arlington’s tallest apartment building—enjoys sweeping, uninterrupted views across the Potomac River to Washington’s monuments. We brought that vista inside with commissioned photography of iconic DC images, while we asked acclaimed DC artist Maggie O’Neill to create oils that reinterpret Washington’s symbols—the Capitol building; Uncle Sam; the Washington Monument—with wild splashes of color. The whimsy continues with a huge wall graphic that portrays midcentury-style dollhouses, and look closely in the lobby: The abstract painting that anchors the lobby’s focal wall hides a Bartlett pear etched into the oil.

While location always has a large impact on the art curation of these multi-family residences, the building itself can wield influence as well. We are currently working on Stonehall, a small luxury condo project in Bethesda that channels the charming European boutique hotels where centuries-old architecture plays into the design. Here, we’re combining architectural details with art to create a mood of quiet, urbane elegance. Every elevator lobby will feature beautifully framed, old maps of a great city—Paris, Madrid, Washington, Chicago, New York, and Amsterdam are a few—to identify that floor. Each design project is special in its own way, and choosing art as the finishing touch is always a favorite endeavor—both for the developers who’ve hired us and for our entire staff as well. The energy palpably rises when the discussion turns to art, and trips to galleries both locally and around the country inspire the most passion amidst the countless other furnishings, fabric and finish selections we’re making throughout a building’s public amenities.

Empty walls and spaces devoid of hand-made objects can be unsettling—like opening a book to find only blank pages, with no story to tell. As the interior designers of large buildings that are home to hundreds of residents, we take our mission seriously—and joyfully—in creating environments through curated art that make you feel properly at home the moment you step through the lobby door.

Written by Phyllis Hartman, ASID, LEED AP

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The Amenities Race

With increasing competition, apartment properties are competing for occupants with newer and more original amenities. Which work? Which are worth the investment, upkeep and floor space? We believe the winner of this race designs space that enhances well-being.

Amenities that promote well-being:

10 years ago, did any of us in the multi-family design and development world understand how renters’needs and desires would transform into what they are now?   Who would have predicted that in 2017 some of the most important and critical amenities would revolve around on-line shopping and pets?  As sociological trends shift, we find many flocking to urban environments, living small for the benefit of city life, embracing pet ownership, and the convenience of having every impulse buy and necessity delivered to their doorstep.

Recently while sitting in miles of bumper to bumper Washington traffic, I had a paradigm shift of my own.  If we have a choice to spend the time in grid-lock versus walking our dog, having coffee at a neighborhood cafe, relaxing on a rooftop deck with friends and working in a well-appointed cyber lounge with free wireless internet, then why would today’s renter not choose to find more enjoyment in how they spend their time?

So how can we design properties with amenities that enhance well being?

“THE GAME CHANGER IS TO APPEAL TO THIS SOCIETAL TRANSFORMATION BY REINVENTING COMMUNITIES AND AMENITIES THAT RESPOND TO THE WAY PEOPLE LIVE IN THEIR LOCAL CULTURE – INSIDE AND OUT.”

 

Work and play everywhere:

Great design is a good start and is fundamental to every successful project.  The art of architecture and design has throughout history had a significant impact on well being.  Yet it takes more than that.  The game-changer is to appeal to this societal transformation by reinventing communities and amenities that respond to the way people live in their local culture-inside and out.  This includes designing multi-family buildings that converge all of the features that people need to work, play, socialize and re-charge in a healthy environment.

Even though millennials may be the driver of this trend, regardless of age, people want a high quality of life and less stress.  Those in the workforce are spending more hours at work and many are constantly connected.  Developers and designers of multi-family properties can make the time more productive for residents and work more enjoyable by creating well-designed co-working amenity spaces.  Conference rooms, booth seating, work pods along with high tech audiovisual features create a live/work environment that allows for individual work as well as teamwork.  In a time when offices are being designed like homes, residential buildings that provide well-appointed workspaces support the trend of the live/work blur.  The owner, residents, and employers reap the benefit.  Less time spent in traffic or on mass transit translates to a more relaxed, happier, and more productive workforce and resident.

“DEVELOPERS CAN MAKE TIME MORE PRODUCTIVE FOR RESIDENTS AND WORK MORE ENJOYABLE BY CREATING WELL DESIGNED CO-WORKING AMENITY SPACES.”

 

Online shopping:

Package receipt and storage are an expected amenity and one that is growing more important. Our clients frequently ask us how large of a package room is required.  As we look to the future, I am not sure we can predict the need, though we know that the demand is increasing.  Currently, we are recommending 2 SF per unit.  In a 300 unit building, that means 600SF should be devoted to a large, secure room to store packages.  Package lockers can supplement and, in our experience, have been very well received by residents and operations.  They provide flexibility for residents and save much time for the leasing and concierge staff.

Consider turning the package locker area into a social experience for the residents.  If there is space, consider a wrapping station for easy package return, shipping, and gift wrapping as well as a communal table.

Pets:

We love our pets and it is proven that pet ownership reduces stress!  It is well known that interaction with a gentle pet has significant human benefits such as lowered blood pressure, endorphin release, pain reduction, and relaxation.  Pets are also social magnets.  What better way to get to know your neighbors than to get to know their pets?  Multi-family developers can create a sense of community by engaging and promoting a pet-friendly environment.  For planning purposes, we recommend that pet spaces move to the top of the programming list.

Much can be done to support your resident pet lovers without breaking the budget.  Instead of a closet with a washing tub, create a pet experience space.  Pet/human lounges that provide a place for pet owners to gather for conversation and pet play can be indoors or out.  Pet runs with play space and well-appointed spas are memorable and make a marketing statement about the pet-friendliness of the property.

Re-charge through connection to nature:

Our need for a connection to nature is deep and fundamental.  As we become a more urban society, designing spaces that bring the outdoors to our built environment is increasingly important to our health and well-being.  Incorporating elements of nature, even though graphics and interior plantings, have stress-reducing effects.  Biophilic Design is the emerging science that advocates the human connection with nature in the built environment as a way of soothing and energizing the mind and body.  Through thoughtful design, every common space can support our changing lifestyle and the tendency to blend work, play, and relaxation.  Buildings that are flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate our transformational and healthy lifestyle are the way of the future.

Written by Phyllis Hartman, ASID, LEED AP

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How Art is Reflecting Change in One Baltimore Neighborhood

THE PROJECT

The Icon Residences at The Rotunda Apartments, developed by Hekemian and Co., is located in Baltimore’s historic Hampden neighborhood.  With deep roots in the manufacturing and industrial past of Baltimore, the community is now known as one of the city’s most vibrant places to live.  Quaint, artistic and multi-cultural, the neighborhood became the inspiration for the HDG’s design team.  The result is a combination of sophisticated and bohemian style design that uniquely defines the Icon Residences.

CURATING PHOTOGRAPHY FOR THE ICON AT THE ROTUNDA

The HDG designers chose photography from Baltimore’s own Kevin Moore to showcase the energy of the neighborhood by featuring moments from Hampden’s iconic summer festival, HonFest. “Hon”, short for honey, refers to the term of endearment that has come to identify vintage Baltimore. The photos bring a smile to all by featuring this neighborhood masquerade, when people of all ages dress up in every exaggerated style from the 50’s and 60’s – large beehive hair, cat eye glasses, poodle skirts and allot of sass. Our designers chose black and white photos and added a playful spin by coloring just one element in each photo.

PHOTOGRAPHY BACKGROUND

Kevin has more than 30 years of professional experience. He has won several national competitions for his nature, urban and people photography. His images have been featured in many publications and media, including The Boston Review, SI.com (Sports Illustrated,) Bethesda Magazine, Baltimore Magazine, AAA World, Delaware Beach Life, Backpacker, Bicycling, Gawker, Maryland Public Television, and The Colbert Report. Kevin has photos in collections at the National Institutes of Health, Smithsonian Institution, Adventist HealthCare System, CoreSource, and Lockheed Martin.

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Budgeting Your Multi-Family Renovation

360 State Street Lobby After RenovationIn the previous issue, we discussed how to know when your multifamily property should be renovated and what level of renovation was appropriate.  Once you have determined this, you will need to set a budget.

How much should you budget for your renovation?

Too often the renovation budget is set by an underfunded escrow account or is a result of mere guesswork.  If the budget is set prior to a comprehensive understanding of the building’s existing conditions, the amount of space to be renovated, and the marketing challenges, the number will be inaccurate.  Either method can set the owner up for disappointment.

Determining a budget is a task that should take place long before the renovation is to begin. The budget for repositioning a property is frequently determined in the year preceding the expected renovation.  Depending on the level of the renovation planned, the budget may need to be determined farther out and the dollars allocated across multiple years. Collaborative discussions to prioritize the work will provide the best possibility for accurately setting the budget and obtaining future ROI. To assess the market, understand the conditions of the building, and develop a budget that is based upon real conditions, consider a team approach from the beginning.  Involving your design professional, management/marketing consultant, building engineer and asset manager before the budget is set will help to alleviate unrealistic expectations.

Depending on many factors that cannot be controlled for your plans, construction pricing can vary from year to year.   Even with the best planning, actual bids may come in higher than anticipated.  It is best to have a phasing and VE plan in place in the event that this occurs.

Phasing of the construction can be a great way to manage a budget that needs to be spread over a few years.  However, it is important to consider that there usually is a premium cost to phasing which will need to be considered in the budget.

360 State Street Before Renovation

Renovation Funding

Many owners frown at earmarking funding for renovation projects. They require management to meet the funding requirements from operational cash flow. This can be problematic for a variety of reasons.   The cash flow requirements for renovation projects are frequently substantial, and the funds are, in most instances, required at the early stages.  Professional and permitting fees, deposits, and advances need to be paid out before materials are procured and the contractor begins work.  Additionally, during the renovation process, the property will not show at its best.  This creates a tough selling situation for the marketing staff, which could mean a decline in revenue during construction.  This will further limit the operational cash flow available for the renovation.  To successfully meet your budgetary needs, you should consider setting aside funding specifically for the renovation.  A well-thought-out budget that includes a construction timeline will help to manage funding and decrease strain on operational cash flow.

360 State Street Lobby After Renovation

Realizing ROI

A cosmetic renovation may be considered an expense as it will serve to refresh and to maintain the look of the building for a period of time.  A more comprehensive renovation will actually increase the life of the asset, so it would generally be considered a capital expenditure.

Keeping in mind that the core purpose of renovation is to improve revenue streams, it is important to consider that this will happen effectively only when the life of an asset is increased.

Owners and stakeholders will demand bang for their buck. Any renovation project is going to be tough to sell if there is uncertainty related to the return for the investment.  Consequently, part of planning a renovation includes doing the math to obtain the estimated ROI.

So many variables impact rents – such as the age of the building, its location, the surrounding competition, and the tenant profile – that ROI will vary widely from market to market and from property to property within the same market.  As a result, nationwide data is difficult to come by for multifamily housing renovations.[1]  However, skilled property owners say it’s reasonable to expect a 10 to 30% ROI on their renovation projects, with wood floors, kitchen upgrades, and improved interior lighting as some of the top ROI generators.[2]  For purely cosmetic renovations, a 25 to 30% return should be the target.[3]  It is important to analyze typical ROIs in your market before setting a budget and determining what upgrades to include in your renovation.  The life span of your renovation will also have an impact on your ROI, so be sure to include this in your calculations.[4]

By addressing these considerations, you can have a successful renovation that will increase the life and profitability of your property.

360 State Street Lobby After Renovation

[1] Jason Van Steenwyk, Rental Property Renovations that Pay Off, (Sep. 2, 2015), http://www.allpropertymanagement.com/blog/2015/09/02/rental-property-renovations-and-improvements-that-pay-off/.

[2] John Caulfield, Rehab ROI: Which Upgrades Cause the Biggest Rent Bumps?, (May 28, 2014), Multifamily Executive, http://www.multifamilyexecutive.com/design-development/renovations/rehab-roi-which-upgrades-cause-the-biggest-rent-bumps_o.

[3] Harrison Willis, Repositioning a Multifamily Asset, (2016), Cornell Real Estate Review, 14(1), 62-69,  http://scholarship.sha.cornell.edu/crer/vol14/iss1/12.

[4] Donald M. Davidoff, Rehab ROI: Do the Math, (Oct. 28, 2014), Multifamily Executive, http://www.multifamilyexecutive.com/business-finance/commentary/rehab-roi-do-the-math_o.

 

Check out the full renovation of Park Bethesda here: http://www.hartmandesigngroup.com/renovations/Residences-at-Capital-Crescent-Trail/

Written by Phyllis Hartman, ASID, LEED AP

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Repositioning a Multi-Family Asset

When Is It Time to Renovate?

There is no hard and fast rule about when to renovate a multifamily asset.  However, the objective is to complete the renovation before a property begins to have negative reviews on social media and to lose residents to its competitors.  Awareness of what competitors are implementing will also help guide the timing of renovation.

A visually tired asset is challenged to keep pace with market rents.  Waiting too long to renovate can draw a manager into a vicious cycle.  A property that has begun to show signs of wear will most likely begin to show a decline in income because residents will move to newer, trendier properties.  As income goes down management tends to pull back on spending.  But delaying a much-needed refresh ultimately costs more.  The longer the property is in decline, the greater the risk of losing residents and missing out on rent increases.  And the longer it is in decline, the more money it will cost to bring it up to speed.

Proper timing for budgeting, planning, and executing a renovation is critical to getting ahead of the tired‑building syndrome.  To stay current with lifestyle and design trends, most multi-family properties are looking at a 7- to 8-year cycle for the public spaces. This will naturally vary depending on location and competition.  In most cases, at least a cosmetic renovation is required on this schedule.   Due to the cost of unit renovation, it is unusual for a property to upgrade before 10 to 15 years.  It is, of course, wise to budget with a healthy capex well ahead of the need for renovation.

What Level of Repositioning Is Right for A Property?

Repositioning is a broad term.  It could encompass a minor upgrade all the way to a complete gut of units and public spaces. Or perhaps even a new structure.  The level of the renovation selected by management will be budget-driven, optimized by return on investment.  Age of the building, the amount of wear-and-tear, and market trends are important factors to consider.  Prioritizing the upgrades becomes an important piece of the planning to adhere to budgets. For more on the budgeting process, see our article in the next issue of this report.

The “lipstick and rouge” approach:  If a property is 3 to 7 years old (or was upgraded 3 to 7 years prior) and is showing wear or beginning to look dated, a minor upgrade may be all that is needed.  This approach may involve some new furnishings, art, and accessories and perhaps some new finishes.  The idea is to spend just enough to provide a lift without “breaking the bank”.  Allow 4 to 6 months for this type of renovation.

A mid-level upgrade:  A mid-level upgrade takes the “lipstick and rouge” approach a step further and could involve the full replacement of FF&E.  This level of renovation would not normally involve moving walls.  A mid-level renovation can do much to improve a property and will help to keep it viable for several years.  Allow 6 to 9 months for this type of renovation.

 

A full renovation:

If a property has held up well, the time to consider a full renovation of the common areas, amenities, and corridors is likely at the 10-year mark.  This is generally the point in a renovation cycle where design, lifestyle, and operation trends have shifted noticeably.  Waiting too long to begin the process will negatively affect the competitive advantage in the marketplace.  All too frequently, old buildings (built in the 1960’s to 1990’s) have had the common areas and amenities renovated for some time.  To keep rents on track, stay competitive in the market, and maintain a happy resident base, a more extensive renovation is recommended for these properties.  In a full renovation, expect to have more construction – including building new walls, reshaping spaces, or changing the room usage.  This level of renovation will increase the planning time, overall investment, and resident disruption.  The new design will likely require MEP changes.   Allow 9 to 18 months on average for this type of renovation.

Factors To Consider In Determining The Level Of Renovation Needed

  • The program – how do the spaces need to function to meet the current resident expectations and management needs?
  • What is the existing condition of the building – a little out of date or very tired?
  • How old is the building, and when was it last repositioned?
  • Is the building energy efficient? Do the mechanical and lighting systems require replacement or retrofit?
  • How does the property compare with the current competition, and what new construction is in the pipeline?
  • What are the residents and prospects saying on social media?
  • What does management expect to achieve by renovating? For instance, is the building to be repositioned from a C to a B, a B to an A, or is the goal to make the property the best B in its submarket?
  • Will the renovation involve only finishes and furniture, or will spaces be re-arranged?
  • What is the expected completion date?
  • Is there a fixed budget that cannot be exceeded?

By keeping these considerations in mind, management can keep the property in the best shape to compete in the marketplace.

 

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Lighting Your Way to Excellent Design

5

Lighting is one of the most important elements to consider when designing any space, and this important tool is continually evolving. Meeting the requirements of the state, county and national regulations, as well as the electrical engineer’s energy model, necessitates the evaluation of our client’s needs on a grand scale.  This evaluation must balance many factors including budget, aesthetics and energy efficiency.

Though the first cost is still considerably more than conventional fluorescent and incandescent luminaires, LED lighting is the way to achieve both the low wattage requirements and the appealing effect. With this in mind, a realistic approach to the lighting budget is important. Considering that the savings over time will well outweigh the initial cost, LED lighting is an investment that pays off.

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Not only will the cost of electricity be substantially lower, the greatly reduced labor (to re-lamp) and bulb replacement expense quickly help to recoup the initial cash outlay. Additionally, when renovating a building, consider the many retrofits LED lamps on the market. There could be no need to replace light fixtures and Pepco rebates may well be applicable. Whether using retrofit lamps for a renovation or new construction, choosing the right color temperature and rendition is critical to setting the mood and obtaining the desired ambiance. For calm, relaxing spaces, consider using soft, warm lights with orange and yellow hues (2700K or warmer). For a room that is intended to be livelier, like a fitness center, a slightly cooler temperature (3000 or 3100K) is ideal. The color rendition of 80 or higher is recommended for the best color interpretation.

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To create the mood, many different types of lighting fixtures are required. Downlights provide general lighting and pooling of light on the floor, accent lighting is used for special features and art, while sconces and chandeliers are used for additional layering of light as well as decorative elements. The good news is that there are LED lamps for most fixture types today so you can easily achieve the look desired and contribute to the green initiative. If you’re working with an interior design firm, make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the mood you wish to create, the budget and required energy efficiency. Your interior designer will know the best way to utilize the natural light coming into the room, and how to properly support that light with general, task, accent, or a combination of all three types of lighting.

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Time-Less…is More

 

Timeless design can be functional and sensible. It is a style that suggests a quiet confidence. It’s not over the top, nor is it boring. The timeless design is perfectly scaled and proportioned. When using the elements of timeless design in creating a functional space you will see that the furniture will fit the room perfectly. It should belong to a room and be neither too large as to overpower, nor too small as to seem unimportant.

What defines Timeless Design? The irony is that it’s hard to quantify, but when you see it, you know it. It somehow stands out above that sea of mediocrity and looks, feels, or acts different. Timeless Design does not just happen. It cannot be rushed, nor is it hastily completed. It is borne of inspiration and preparation and executed with experience and skill. Timeless Design means that someone set out to create a space or product that remained relevant for the ages.

Timeless designs, much like classic design, steer away from overly decorated and overly busy patterns, shapes and spaces. It mimics the phrase “less is often more.” Be careful when incorporating a Color of the Year into your home. While fun and energizing, many of these colors will not stand the test of time. It may be best to incorporate this color with accent pieces and accessories.

Creating timeless design is relatively easy. Background colors should be neutral, and not busy. There should be an emphasis on clean lines and shapes. Furnishings should be timeless in design as well, drawing inspiration from antiques and items that continue to popular over the years. Hartman Design Group employs these timeless elements into their work, and nowhere is it more apparent than at Cathedral Commons in Washington, D.C. The HDG design team devised a sophisticated gray, blue and white palette accented by deep wood tones and natural stones to create a contemporary yet timeless, classic interior.

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Q&A with Phyllis: Multi-Family Renovations Part II

Multi-Family Renovation: 4 Valuable Questions to Ask Your Team

In our last post, Phyllis shared her insight on a commonly asked question about multi-family renovations: “How much will it cost?” Once the design team has a clear understanding of the project restrictions & goals, they can begin to move forward with planning. Here’s more insight from Phyllis on other commonly asked questions about multi-family renovations.

Question 1: How will you incorporate design & lifestyle trends so that our property is competitive in the marketplace?

Due to social media, generational shifts, and market competition, we have found that design trends are rapidly accelerating. In the past, most owners would contemplate a repositioning when the property or previous renovation was 10 to 12 years old. Today’s residents and prospects shop the competition, are extremely informed and expect the very best for their money. Those properties that are beginning to show wear and suffer from an amenity shortage will most likely see a resident exodus and may have to drop rent pricing to compete. Today’s modern resident wants a lifestyle. As units get smaller, great amenities have become critical. They serve as an extension to the resident’s living space. Buildings that opened 5+ years ago are already behind in the trends. These buildings can be updated by transforming every available space to a resident amenity. Lobbies that were previously designed for visual impact can be turned into a socially active amenity by adding the right kind of furniture and creating intimate seating for groups and singles alike. Adding plug-and-play areas and communal tables will turn a dead lobby into space with a great, active vibe. In today’s rental market, we recommend an evaluation of the common areas after 3 to 4 years. If the design has a timeless appeal, a simple refresh (ie: pillows, accessories, art) may be all that is required. At 6 years, it will most likely be time to deeply evaluate the market trends, the competition, resident expectations, and condition of the finishes.

Question 2: When is the best time to start construction?

March through October is the prime leasing season. To avoid disruption during this time, it is ideal to plan the construction start for the end of October and completed by March or April of the following year.

Question 3: What does the renovation timeline look like?

Whether simple or comprehensive, any kind of refresh or renovation takes time. Every client wants to spend their renovation dollars wisely, so it is important to allow time for the design team to program, design, vet, and budget the renovation. If permits are required, additional time should be allotted. Even a furniture refresh takes time to plan, and in today’s furniture world, it could take from 12 to 16 weeks to procure. For example, HDG designed a renovation on the first floor of Gables Dupont Circle Apartments in Washington, DC. Even though the space was a mere 1,500 square feet, the planning, vetting, budgeting, coordination, permit drawings and construction all took one full year. Capture

Question 4: How to keep residents happy during a renovation?

  • Make it fun! Have the staff wear colorful hard hats.
  • Keep the residents informed of work schedules.
  • Have a kick-off construction party for the residents.
  • Plan for extra services during construction, like coffee and bagels in the morning, then cookies and tea in the afternoon.
  • Display finish boards and renderings to get the residents excited about their new home.
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Q&A with Phyllis: Multi-Family Renovations Part I

Renovation Costs: How to Nail Your Renovation Budget

After over 28 years of business, we’ve found that many of our clients come to us in the beginning stages of a project with many questions about what a multi-family property renovation looks like. To give you a glimpse of our process we sat down with our Hartman Design Group president, Phyllis Hartman, to discuss some of the most commonly asked questions. This will be a multi-part series so stay tuned for part two!

Question 1: How much is the renovation going to cost?

Working within a budget when renovating a space or an entire building is usually the owner’s primary concern, meaning “how much will it cost” is usually the first question we are asked. In order to best help our clients set priorities, as well as create a realistic budget and project structure, our design team must first understand many aspects of the project, asking questions such as:

 

What is ownership expecting to achieve by renovating? For instance, is the building being repositioned from a C to a B, a B to an A, or is the goal to make the property the best B in the marketplace?

Will the renovation involve only finishes and furniture, or will spaces be re-arranged?

How old is the building and what is the current condition? A 5-year-old project may only need a quick furniture refresh, while others that are over 10 years or older may require a complete overhaul to remain competitive in the market.

Can the property compete in the current marketplace?

Are you losing residents or prospects? If so, try to determine if the condition of the interior is a factor. What is being said on social media about the property?

What is the schedule? An accelerated schedule can cost more than following a normal design and construction schedule.

Will the work be phased or completed at one time?  Phasing is usually more costly.

Will building operations need to move to another part of the building during the renovation? It is important to factor this into the budget.

Can the contractors and subs work in the building during normal business hours?

Will there be security concerns during the renovation that may require either additional staffing or cost?

 

In an effort to gain the highest return on investment, we encourage collaborative discussions to determine where the clients can best spend their money. Phasing the design and construction is a great way to spread the budget over several years, though it is important to consider that phasing does add to the total cost, and can be frustrating to residents and prospects. Living or working in a building that is in a state of perpetual construction can be difficult.

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The Meridian at Carlyle located in Alexandria, VA is an example of one of our projects that were finished in phases. Because the building was 12 years old when the repositioning began, the first priorities were the lobby and leasing spaces. The corridors have been phased over four years, and the clubroom was renovated two years after the lobby. This allowed the owner to spread the cost of the renovation over 5 to 6 years.

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Designing Mixed Generational Multi-Family Buildings

 

The apartment market represents a vigorous $1.1 trillion industry, housing 35+ million renters nationwide.  Such a competitive environment demands that apartment building owners provide quality housing along with truly innovative products, services, and amenities. According to Apartments.com, nearly 60% percent of respondents prefer to rent, since this provides them an opportunity to enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle combined with convenient access to amenities.

By 2015, there will be 67 million people aged 20 to 34 (the prime years for renting) and 12.4 million empty nesters who will also be seeking opportunities to rewind; not just wind down. The younger generations may not be able to afford to buy a home or may choose the flexibility of rental housing versus homeownership. Today’s Empty Nesters are healthier and more active than any time in the past and many will opt to rent, preferring simple luxury living that comes without the burdens of homeownership. At first appearance, these groups seem to have different needs.

In actuality, the amenities that both groups look for in a property are quite similar. Transcending age, today’s educated renter expects a multitude of amenities including fitness centers, business centers, dog walks, pet spas, socially-active lounges and lobbies, club-rooms, game rooms, bike storage, and workshop, as well as great outdoor living spaces and swimming pools…all with an atmosphere that equals the quality of a fine hotel. So the idea is not to necessarily target a specific age group but to design for people of different generations with common interests.

Millennials, Generation Y, Eco-Boomers and Empty Nesters alike have demonstrated that they prefer hanging-out in groups and like to participate in social activities frequently. Yet people also want to feel comfortable spending time alone in public areas. Whether indoors or out, defined intimate spaces provide cozy areas for groups as well as for the resident who is solitary yet prefers a social setting.  Regardless of age, amenities with options for both singles and groups create socially-active spaces that provide a sense of home and community.

Opening in November of 2013, the Avant at Reston Town Center, has demonstrated that a mixed-generational design approach is successful.  Rich Ellis from Boston Properties says “The vision for the Avant, architecturally and operationally, was developed with a multi-demographic focus.  Market studies and the Company’s experience in the Town Center told us that the project would attract a wide range of prospects, from young professionals to empty nesters to divorcees to corporate users seeking a home 5 nights a week. The goal was to create a community and building that made each of these groups feel comfortable while also tapping into their shared interests. 

Realizing that the mixed-generational trend in housing will continue into the future, at HDG, our design approach for residential buildings is creative, holistic and practical.  Considering the needs of various age groups is important, yet finding the common thread allows for design that will bring generations together.

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