What the Future of Apartment Design Looks Like

Philadelphia-based architect and former developer Cecil Baker shows MHN which trends he expects to gain popularity this year.

By Mallory Bulman, Associate Editor

It’s hard to be forward-thinking – most of us just got the hang of writing the date with ‘2016’ instead of ‘2015.’ Thankfully, the design industry is always ahead of the curve, and architects and designers are already predicting the trends that will saturate the multifamily market in the New Year. MHN spoke to Cecil Baker, a Philadelphia-based architect who also has a background in development. Baker’s market-savvy development foundation coupled with his eye for design make him a venerable force in the architecture world. The award-winning architect told MHN he expects that projects in 2016 will call for more attention to detail and sustainability, and he predicts that the following trends will become the most ubiquitous.

Manufactured Materials

Today’s technological advances coupled with a growing emphasis on sustainability have produced a rise in the use of manufactured materials as a design feature. Modern manufacturing techniques have made it possible to recreate the look of a variety of natural materials like wood and stone with man-made materials. Before, imported woods and stones were the mark of a quality design, but Baker said, “A change has come about, largely driven by this digitized manufacturing process, where materials are coming on the market every day that are as exotic-looking, as special and as one-of-a-kind as any of the harvested or mined products.”  Baker also said he sees that porcelain is overtaking stone, medium-density fiberboard is usurping plywood and sophisticated paints and lacquers are being used to mimic the finish and texture of natural wood surfaces.

LED Lighting

Many architects and designers are finding new ways to utilize lighting, and specifically LED lighting, as a way to define the space. LED lights can be used to create continuity or break up a space, and they can be small and versatile enough to be placed almost anywhere. Noting that LED lights can be placed within certain materials, like concrete, Baker added, “You’re getting luminous architecture where the lighting is coming from the very materials that are on the walls, ceilings and floors.”

Low-Key Color Palettes

If this year’s Pantone colors are any indication, 2016 will be a banner year for understated pastels and muted neutrals. Baker attributes these color trends to “a fluid, economical urban paradigm that is moving into architecture.” He also says this may be part of the Millennial influence; that young professionals are trying to get away from the ornate Colonial or Georgian styles of their childhood homes.  “There is a desire for more nuanced color, so we’re seeing a lot of white and pearly white, light grays and smoky grays. It’s almost as if the color has been bleached out of the architecture,” Baker added.

Overall, Baker sees the aesthetic of modern design moving toward a more flexible, less austere look.  “There is far less resistance to change; a more exploratory, more inventive, more embracing approach to the way people live, and they don’t have to hide behind anything or anyone. We’re free of chair rails and molding and the other things that used to define our sensibilities,” he said.

To view some examples of upcoming trends and Baker’s work, click through the slideshow above.

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