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Meridian on First, Phase 2: Bringing Sophisticated Whimsy to the Navy Yard

Partnering with Paradigm Companies, the HDG design team dialed up “sophisticated whimsy” in this Washington, DC apartment building. Located in the diverse Navy Yard district, the interiors are inseparable from the active neighborhood scene.

Both spacious and inviting, the two-story lobby is designed to foster a sense of community while intimate nooks encourage informal gatherings. Artful screening elements are used to delineate zones without sacrificing a sense of openness. Throughout, multiple booths and pods provide private concentration havens, everything the modern-day nomadic worker might need.

And nestled in a sunny corner of the lobby is a maker room where the property hosts craft classes and wine tastings.

Residents and guests are drawn to the mezzanine coworking lounge by a glass, steel and wood staircase that overlooks the lobby. The cozy lounge atmosphere offers multiple opportunities for heads down work.

To seamlessly integrate the indoor and outdoor amenities the HDG team was tasked with design of both the indoor and outdoor amenities. Located on the penthouse level, the light filled, three-sided glass clubroom spotlights an indoor-outdoor bar, a floating gas fireplace and multiple seating arrangements.


Blending the interior and the exterior space, the expansive roof deck features a pool, multiple fire pits, outdoor coworking niches and, a shade pergola with day-bed swings. Views of the Washington, DC skyline are vast and draw the eye well beyond the confines of the site.


Developer/Contractor/Management: Paradigm Companies
Interior Design: Hartman Design Group
Do you have a project of in the pipeline in need of interior architecture and design? Contact Us to schedule a meet and greet today!



Affordable age-restricted multi-family communities can be

Want to see what affordable multi-family age-restricted communities can be?

As interior designers of multi-family communities in all economic categories, our approach to affordable housing comes from the following beliefs:

  • We believe that affordable housing works when it provides more than just a place to live, when all stakeholders are committed to making a long-term investment in our community and in the health, safety and well-being of residents.
  • We believe that affordable multifamily buildings that look, feel, and live like market-rate apartments promote a sense of place and self-worth.
  • We believe that a beautiful home fosters feelings of sanctuary and elevates pride in one’s surroundings.
  • We believe that the connection to nature enhances wellness and it is our duty as design professionals to merge the built environment with the natural world.
  • We believe that through collaboration and design excellence, we can create engaging, healthy, energy-efficient, affordable homes for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • We believe that solutions take shape when caring professionals partner for the good of our community.

This charming 62-plus high rise multi-family community is nestled on a quiet block within Rockville Town Center, a walkable community. Residents enjoy the village green, restaurants, shops and cultural centers. The design is light and fresh and uses biophilic patterns throughout to enhance the health, happiness, and wellness of the residents.

Check out the following video walkthrough for more about this lovely residential community:

If you’re considering development of a new multi-family project, whether affordable or luxury, workforce or market rate, contact us to learn how our interior architecture / interior design services can enhance the tenant experience and your KPIs.

Remy Phase II is Open! (Berman Enterprises Partner to The Remy)

sofa, table, mezzanine area
Following the success of The Remy phase one, Hartman Design Group partnered with BCT Architects, LIVEbe Communities, and Berman Enterprises to complete The Remy II multifamily apartment building. Remy II rounds out the two-building community and creates a sense of place within walking distance of Amtrak’s New Carrollton station.
Playing off the transportation theme, this multi-family property was designed for the dreamer and the doer, for the person who craves the comfort of home and is ready at any moment to jump on a train to Washington, DC, or head north to work or play in Baltimore, Philadelphia or New York City.
The resulting community is a shared vision embraced by all. The interior design, with an emphasis on lifestyle and resident engagement, features double-height ceilings and views of the large, lush courtyard from every amenity. The spaces are designed to blur indoor and outdoor living. Biophilic design features are used throughout to benefit the residents with a connection to nature that positively impacts their mental and physical health.
Work and play anywhere is the theme at The Remy II. The interior is simultaneously generous and intimate. Maximizing natural light and establishing a sense of spaciousness, the open plan layout delineates the work/play zones using see-through shelving and screening elements. Supporting the “work from anywhere” trend, individual work pods provide residents their own personal “office away from office.” And with three distinct (and spread apart) kitchen/bar hospitality zones — from the main area coffee lounge and sports bar to the massive center communal kitchen, to the rooftop indoor/outdoor bar and grill areas, there are plenty of opportunities for communal dining and drinking.
There is truly something for everyone at The Remy II, and its award-winning lease-up pace reflects that!
Developer: Berman Enterprises
Interior Designer: Hartman Design Group
Architect: BCT Design Group
Construction: Chesapeake Contracting Group
Management Company: LIVEbe Communities
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Use Books as Interior Design Accessories

It’s #WorldBookDay and we can’t think of a more appropriate day to celebrate the inherent beauty and timeless role played by books as a design accessory. More than just paper, ink and words, books offer a sense of warmth and create a sense of comfort. Books add a certain alchemy if you will, a je ne sais quois and yes, we celebrate them, both for their utility as a design accessory and for the words and messages they hold within their covers.

Hartman Design Group uses books in our commercial interior design schemes for lobbies, co-working areas, reading nooks, models and other amenity spaces within the many multifamily, senior living community and other projects we design for. Whether hardcover or paperback, books can be a great way to add color, visual interest and texture to an otherwise bland area. Even more, they can serve as a centerpiece and to showcase your interests too. Here are a few our favorite tips when incorporating books in your interior design scheme:

Use books to reinforce a theme

Books can convey a consistent look and overall vision: Use books to reinforce a theme. If you have a room decked out in a nautical style, think sailing, marine animal and coastal living-themed books. If the area you are designing is airy and light with big windows showcasing the gardens, perhaps floral and garden-style books would fit. Books on the motion picture industry, musical instruments, and celebrity biographies would be great additions to any media room. You get the idea.

Interior design using a book in a mint green color referencing a garden and outdoor theme is strategically placed near a breezy window area to bring nature indoors.
Reinforce a theme: A model unit at Haven National Harbor, designed by Hartman Design Group featuring a book in a mint green color referencing a garden and outdoor theme is strategically placed near a breezy window area to bring nature indoors.



Use books to showcase your interests and personality

Show off your confidence and individuality by strategically placing books about your favorite subjects in an area lacking personality and warmth. A dog lover? A stamp collector? An oenophile? Set up a collection of books featuring your passions to serve not only as a point of interest but a great conversation starter.

Interior design - Shelves with books flat against the wall displayed as artwork but ready to pick up and read.
Designed by Hartman Design Group, The Easton’s co-working lounge window seating is accented by books as art.

Add depth to a room by choosing books covered in patterns or textures. There are a range of textural choices in covers, ranging from glossy, to intentionally textured, to matte. Printed covers can feature repeated geometric patterns, organic patterns or abstracts. Choose books featuring these characteristics to strategically complement or serve as a foil for a room lacking in texture or patterns.

Use books to add a pop of color

Infuse your space with color: Books come in all colors of the rainbow and provide a great way to reinforce your existing color scheme or add contrast and interest. Group like-colored books together for emphasis.

Use books in a bookshelf display

Create a bookshelf display with carefully selected bookends to stand books upright, or stack several on their sides, spine facing the room, pages to the wall, with a decorative item perched on top, such as a candle, small plant or small figurine as a vignette. On another area of the bookshelf, add framed photos, perched on easels, other plants, or vases to add more interest and variety. Repeat as necessary to create your own personal work of art.

bookshelves with a grouping of green books, white books and other accessories, along with a black bar
A grouping of lime green books near another grouping of white books to break up the expanse of wood from the bookshelves at The Signature Co-working space.


Use books as a centerpiece

Finally, there’s always the use of a single book or book grouping as a coffee table centerpiece. The size of the table will dictate your choice here. This can enhance any room.

So remember, if you are looking for a way to add contemporary yet timeless depth and interest, take a look at books.  And if you are looking for an experienced, award-winning commercial interior design firm for your next multifamily or senior living community project, contact Hartman Design Group.

The Future of Amenity Spaces

Reese Towers Lobby

As our world expands and evolves, the amenities in multi-family spaces must also advance to keep residents entertained, productive, and healthy. The way we live, and work has forever changed since the pandemic, and we must keep up with the new standard of multi-family living in conjunction with societal needs. Studies show that a whopping one in eight people in the United States are living in multi-family communities and the demand for these buildings has reached an all-time high.

According to projections from a study commissioned by the National Apartment Association (NAA) and National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), many cities, including our very own Washington, DC, will need over a half million new units built within the next 13 years. The team at Hartman Design Group is ready and eager to be part of the evolution of multi-family living.

Our Founder and CEO, Phyllis Hartman, is weighing in on what to expect from the future of amenities and what we are doing as a business to rise above the competition.

What changes are currently being implemented into multi-family amenity spaces that differ from those pre-pandemic, and how does this affect the interior and architectural design?

The lifestyle shift to remote work began prior to COVID and is now a solid sociological change.  Residents expect that developers will provide convenient, comfortable, functional, beautiful, and healthy work area in the common spaces of apartment buildings. Some of the features include podcast and “Zoom” rooms, work lounges, conference rooms and communal tables-all with accessible power.

We are also designing outdoor spaces for remote working with covered pavilions and power.  Work from anywhere and the blur of work and play is the way people live today.

A building that feels and is healthy is critical to residents, especially since COVID.  Indoor air quality and a strong connection to nature has been proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.  We achieve this through thoughtful material selections, views of nature, and open fenestration that allows the interior to fully connect to the exterior.

Come join our award-winning, highly respected, boutique commercial design firm with a 35-plus-year history and reputation for professionalism and quality!prepared food delivery and pick up locations; cold storage for grocery delivery; pet spas; bike storage.  Residents value time over money and want every amenity that allows them to have more time for the things they love to do.

Designing Mixed Generational Multi-Family Buildings


The multifamily apartment market generates a vigorous $173 billion in revenue from rental income in the U.S. according to National Apartment Association and National Multifamily Housing Council statistics for 2020. The U.S. Census Bureau reports this sector houses more than 43 million renters or 35% of all households nationwide.  Such a competitive environment demands that apartment building owners provide quality housing along with truly innovative products, services, and amenities. According to, 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.

As of 2020, there were approximately 73 million Americans aged 20 to 34 (the prime years for renting) according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and from it’s American Community Survey (ACS) in 2020, there were approximately 42 million households in the United States headed by individuals aged 55 and older. Of those 55 and older, many are empty nesters. Today’s Empty Nesters are healthier and more active than at any time in the past and many will opt to rent, preferring simple luxury living that comes without the burdens of homeownership.

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, Generation-Xers 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.

The Avant at Reston Town Center, a project HDG completed a few years ago, demonstrated that a mixed-generational design approach is successful.

“The vision for the Avant, architecturally and operationally, was developed with a multi-demographic focus,” Rich Ellis from Boston Properties said. “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.” 

Hartman Design is currently working on another multi-generational multifamily community, One University. In addition to an affordable senior independent living community, the complex has a market-rate family building and a student housing building (which HDG did not work on) as well.

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.

At Hartman Design Group, we take pride in delivering exceptional multifamily interior design solutions. Contact us today to learn how we can elevate your next project to new heights.

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.


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.


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?



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.



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.


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

Budgeting Your Multi-Family Renovation

360 State Street Lobby After Renovation.

In 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),

[2] John Caulfield, Rehab ROI: Which Upgrades Cause the Biggest Rent Bumps?, (May 28, 2014), Multifamily Executive,

[3] Harrison Willis, Repositioning a Multifamily Asset, (2016), Cornell Real Estate Review, 14(1), 62-69,

[4] Donald M. Davidoff, Rehab ROI: Do the Math, (Oct. 28, 2014), Multifamily Executive,


Check out the full renovation of Park Bethesda here:

Written by Phyllis Hartman, ASID, LEED AP

Lighting Your Way to Excellent Design


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.


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.


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.

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.



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.

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.


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.