The concept that perception is reality, originated by Lee Atwater but much adapted over the years (remember the Rolling Stone magazine ads of the late ’80s?), is eminently applicable to multifamily communities. Indeed, a beautiful design can make all the difference in how a property is perceived and how residents feel about living there, and can even influence the quality of the neighborhood. So the current wave of creativity is important for its impact. Even more, it is important for its extension beyond luxury housing.
And why not? After all, a less expensive property doesn’t have to be built like a box. A little bit of different thinking can result in something much more interesting and enjoyable to experience. And while keeping costs in line may preclude designing multiple unique properties, applying one or two more interesting designs to a community or a portfolio still has an impact.
Selective use of quality materials can also improve impressions without breaking the bank. A desirable shared amenity, a high-end appliance, a beautiful light fixture, or a sophisticated color combination in paint, tile or cabinetry can make a big difference.
The Fifield Cos. has experimented with such attention to design with great success. As co-principal Randy Fifield relates in “Achieving Harmony,” the company has improved some properties with use of a higher-end appliance or upgraded bathroom layout, but the developer in other cases has selected imprinted versions of less expensive but durable materials (such as tile) to create a luxury feel at a more affordable price.
Meanwhile, KTGY Architecture + Planning is introducing greater aestheticism into affordable and market-rate housing by striving to be “artfully simple,” as principal David Obitz relates in the Q&A “Attractively Affordable.” The firm focuses on scale and proportion, textures, and how the property engages with the community, both physically and through amenities.
Other such efforts include Blumenfeld Development Group’s first residential project, Gotham East 126th Residential in East Harlem, planned for a 2018 completion and targeting market-rate and affordable renters. Featured among the 10 communities presented in “The Year in Design,” which opens our special design section, the 233-unit property, which will include an art studio, is as creative as any of the luxury product that represents the majority of the 10 featured developments.
The variety among these developments offers a window into the degree of creativity made possible by advancements in engineering, technology and materials. The more we delve into those possibilities, the more interesting reality will become.
Originally appearing in the December 2016 issue of MHN.