In this Q&A, Principal & Head of Interiors Caroline Robbie and Design Director George Foussias explore the connections between rental residential, amenities, and quality interior design
What role does interior design play in increasing property value for multi-unit residential buildings?
CR: Interior design is the touchstone that people come into contact with most often when they are contemplating a new living situation. It's what you touch, see and feel that make you comfortable and feel at home so these are important considerations when contemplating a new place to live.
Is there a difference in how you approach the interior design of rental and condominium projects?
CR: We’re finding more and more that it really makes little difference if a residential development is ownership or rental simply because the markets are in competition with one another in trying to capture the same demographic. Rental appeals to those not yet able to make an ownership commitment, but they have to satisfy the same needs and desires. Rentals and condos are almost indistinguishable from one another now.
GF: With condos there is the notion that residents feel they should be using the amenities because they're paying for them. In rentals we provide different types of incentives including spaces that are more specific to the end user and spaces that speak more to their lifestyle.
Is it possible to bridge hospitality design into residential product? Is there an appetite for this in the rental market?
GF: Hospitality design has been integral to designing condos and rental amenities for the past decade. These properties have been designed like hotels to both function and look as such. Amenities in rental buildings used to be empty rooms. Now, especially in the age of social media, people will be exposing the amenity to their networks so it has to look like hospitality.
CR: Hospitality is a key component of residential design now. People expect the touches that they get in a hospitality environment such as concierge services and enhanced amenities no matter where they’re living. Those concierge services are probably the largest growth of additional services provided at rental residences - doing things like accepting deliveries on behalf of tenants and helping to book appointments.
Do residential amenities drive value and demand? If so, what types of amenities should be considered?
CR: The more that a rental property can compete with an ownership property of a similar quality, the more attractive it becomes. Healthy lifestyle amenities commonly found in condominiums are now also common in rental such as gyms, pools, dog spas, and games rooms.
GF: The in-house amenities have to compete with the city amenities that tenants would be paying for externally. In particular, a good selling point is fitness and wellness space that the tenants would pay for regardless and prefer to do in house.
Are there particular demographic targets you consider when designing building interiors and amenity spaces to drive marketability?
GF: Always. The amenities we design have a lot to do with the type of units being sold or rented which drives the type of demographic. Properties with smaller units on urban streets favour larger fitness areas and “third space” environments like a café where people can go and have a meeting or work outside of their unit. Larger units, family and/or empty nester properties favour more lounge and event amenities with larger spaces to entertain. In both types of demographic, we are also finding more and more of a demand for pet-based amenities.
CR: The demographics for rental are the same as for the housing market – it is no longer simply single, young professionals. Young families, downsizing retirees, blended families, newcomers - it's everybody.
What are some examples of innovative ideas being incorporated into common areas and amenity spaces?
CR: The thinking has shifted from rental accommodation being short term to becoming someone's choice of home and so all aspects of home life and the services that support this are now being considered in the design of rental accommodation. Things like guest suites for visiting relatives, amenities and services needed for pet care, and enhanced storage needs.
GF: Integrated third party hospitality (branded cafés, food service, private fitness spaces) and new services like electronic parcel delivery systems.
Is there opportunity for existing rental properties to compete with new-build rentals? What can be done to the interiors of existing properties to increase value and drive demand?
CR: Absolutely. We’ve had great success working with property owners to help them bridge that gap and adapt existing properties to add ownership options as well as upgrade rental options within the same building to the same standard. Think about the property as an investment in long-term living solutions and invest accordingly in quality materials and flexible, robust amenity choices.
GF: Suites and corridors can be upgraded cosmetically and technologically to compete with new-build. Traditional rentals don't have the amount of public amenity that condos do, but with a careful strategy behind adding amenities to the rental building you can successfully make buildings that are as desirable as nearby condos.
What are some examples of interior finishes for common areas and suites that should be considered in rental properties for long-term use and durability?
GF: The most important consideration in designing rental property is longevity. Better fabrication of built elements like cabinetry, furniture, kitchens and bathrooms (including better quality electric and plumbing fixtures). Materials that will withstand the test of time and are durable - think more hospitality-grade rather than residential so that they can maintain their look with minimum upkeep.
CR: A simple example would be making the lifecycle choice to use genuine hardwood flooring versus laminate flooring assemblies as the durability factor for genuine wood product is far higher. Another lifecycle investment in water-saving bathroom and kitchen fixtures will pay off in the long run for operational costs.
A condo needs to sell itself once. A rental building needs to keep selling itself. So, the key is to design for longevity by ensuring that the space remains relevant and withstands wear and tear.