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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.

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