Luxury Living Without High-End Costs

By Reesa Fischer, Beacon Communities LLCBy combining the design principles of luxury living and affordable and market-rate rental communities for diverse populations, Boston-based Beacon Communities LLC has created a new standard for multifamily housing with its “Living Well by Design” concept. This philosophy is reflected in Rosemont Square in Randolph, Mass., a working-class suburb just south of Boston.The developer purchased the 384-unit apartment development in 2007 as part of its Fund I Limited Partnership. The 38-acre property, which was built over 30 years ago, has not had much upgrading in the years since its construction. Still, the fundamentals of the structures were sound and the floor plans of the homes gave Beacon, and its designer Mercedes Farrando, much to work with.”My challenge was to translate the experience I have in working with high-end condominiums and luxury homes to improve the quality of life for families and people living in reasonably-priced apartments,” says Farrando. “Within a modest budget, I implemented key principles of design to meet the needs of today’s lifestyle and added features to enhance comfort, style and functionality. There are ways to make housing look and feel top of the line and stay within low to moderate budgets.”So, how can this be accomplished?1. Start with the basics.The apartments themselves were soundly constructed but dated.  Beacon focused on the kitchens and took a holistic approach to the redesign. Beacon’s goal was to bring sophisticated, high-end design to the masses, something like “Vera Wang-designs for the Kohl’s shopper.”Beacon used Benjamin Moore earth tones to produce neutral palettes and added accent walls for the interiors to create a warmer, more inviting home. Beacon is also paying attention to the design of the common areas of the community and making sure to identify sustainable products, such as Mohawk recyclable carpet, low-VOC paint and energy-efficient lighting.An important part of the new vision for Rosemont Square that is crucial to elevating the community and providing a unique value proposition for current and future residents are the improvements to the building exteriors and the overall property. Over the 30-year history of Rosemont, buildings have been added and there are a variety of building designs. Farrando is working with architects to enhance all of the existing buildings for a more cohesive look and reinforce a sense of community. For instance, each building now has a combination of brick and vinyl siding and Azek white trim.2. Create additional living space.The kitchens at Rosemont Square were enclosed and uninviting–barely providing a space for a breakfast table. Farrando added an opening in order to integrate the kitchen into the rest of the living space. In doing so, she was able to create an eating bar/gourmet prep area that added much needed storage and counter space. “We turned dead space into smart space,” says Farrando. 3. Update appliances.Farrando brought in stainless steel, energy-efficient models to help residents manage their energy costs. The bathrooms are also being retrofitted with new vanities for optimized storage, and water-conserving low-flow showerheads.4. Mix it up.Farrando felt that the chandeliers in the dining area dictated the use of space exclusively for dining, so she decided to remove them. She replaced them with wall sconces, which gives residents more options for the use of their space: office, additional seating, etc. 5. Reinforce community feeling.Crucial to the success of the “Living Well by Design” concept is providing enhanced services for the residents to create a connected and supported community. To simplify this effort, Beacon is developing a resident portal Website that the company is calling its online village. The portal will not only allow those living in Rosemont to place work orders on line, schedule walking groups and pet Yappy Hours through a community billboard, but it will also provide important information on local services and amenities, including restaurants and shops, within the town of Randolph.  Randolph isn’t a community that has a lot of luxury living. But the improvements that the company has made to Rosemont are having a positive impact in the town. Beacon Communities is bringing urban-style design, features and lifestyle to a location that is an inner ring, working-class suburb and creating a whole new level of living in this community. Reesa Fischer is the vice president of product and brand development at Beacon Communities LLC in Boston.