Imagine you are looking for an urban apartment. You visit a number of buildings and receive a tour from a leasing agent at each.
As you are taken through the amenity lineup, you’re struck by the jaw-dropping grandeur of the clubhouses, parlors, and speakeasies that have become the hallmarks of luxury apartments. They are elegant, comfortable, and state-of-the-art. Each minute detail has been considered and tailored to an enhanced experience. You can easily imagine yourself frequenting these spaces with friends old and new as a proud resident.
But then you are taken outside. You rapidly blink as your eyes try to adjust from the dimly lit interior lounge out onto a stark, bright courtyard. You immediately sense (from the large expanse of empty plain concrete) that you are standing on top of a parking structure. Five to six stories of apartments loom above you, completely encircling the space with an uncomfortable amount of large glass windows.
In a matter of seconds, you and the leasing agent retreat back inside, either because it was so unbearable to be outside, or because there really wasn’t much to see out there. The leasing agent sheepishly says, “It’s nicer in the evening, when it’s not so hot.” But it’s clear even they aren’t convinced.
What happened? you wonder. It’s as if you had just visited two different properties – one you liked and another that was very disappointing. For a moment you had forgotten all about the luxurious interior amenities. In their place was cheap outdoor furniture strewn about a tiny fire pit in a sea of concrete.
Don’t Create Indoor/Outdoor Amnesia
This all-too-common experience is one reason why it can be so easy to stand out in the multifamily development world. So many projects have this indoor/outdoor amnesia. The interior of the building is far superior to the outdoors. It’s as if the outdoor spaces were totally forgotten about or designed completely apart from the rest of the project.
Some developers may think there’s a lower bar for outdoor space, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about them. If you have a strong community brand that you are trying to get across, gearing it toward certain individuals, you can’t offer something so inconsistent. Take the same amount of care for the indoor and outdoor spaces and you’ll see a huge difference in your property’s marketability.
Consider the following tips for balancing the indoor and outdoor amenities and avoiding a mismatch in the resident experience.
1. Rally Under the Banner of One Distinct Brand Vision
A lot of real estate developers still have a misconception about brand. They consider their brand to be a logo, some colors, and maybe a monument sign. But your brand is not your property name, website, or exterior building paint. Your brand is what apartment residents think and feel about your property.
Each multifamily project should start with a clear understanding of what you want residents to think and feel about your property. It should be core to everything you do and clearly communicated to every member of your design team. How else will they be able to translate it into a set of experiences that make it discernable?
Indoor/outdoor amnesia occurs when there is no clear brand direction. Designers will default to their own personal preferences and past experiences which usually guarantees a jumbled, mismatched result. While creative designers will always find a way to infuse meaning into their designs, the brand direction must come from the developer in order for it to be uniform across the project.
You’ll find that having the design express a cohesive brand identity is as simple as making a decision on it and communicating it with the design team. Designers are trained to connect brand with user experience and are anxiously awaiting your direction. You can give them the opportunity to be creative and make something distinct that will set your community apart from the competition.
2. Coordinate Finishes, Materials, and Furnishings
When your interior amenities are reminiscent of 740 Park Avenue, your outdoor amenities shouldn’t look like a Walmart patio display. Rooftop decks and courtyards in particular should be more in line with interior design than streetscape design. Apartment outdoor amenity spaces need to feel more like a resident’s personal space than a public plaza.
Indoor/outdoor amnesia happens when there are no coordinated finishes and materials between the two spaces. Look for ways to incorporate the same features inside and outside. Maybe it’s the same porcelain pavers. Or perhaps it’s the same wood stain. Furniture should also match as much as possible.
The best way to think about indoor and outdoor amenities is to consider them one continuous amenity space. You wouldn’t abruptly change styles between your kitchen and living room. The same logic applies to amenities.
3. Organize and Add Structure to Your Outdoor Spaces
A common mistake when designing outdoor amenities is forgetting the biggest difference between the indoors and outdoors: Indoor amenities have rooms, ceilings, and walls – outdoor amenities do not.
This makes outdoor spaces potentially less inviting and less comfortable. Human instinct drives us to locations that have a balance of prospect and refuge, where we can feel sheltered and have a wide view of our surroundings.
Indoor/outdoor amnesia arises when outdoor spaces lack structure and organization. It may sound like a contradiction, but a wide open space can only comfortably accommodate one individual or group because it’s awkward to occupy the same zone as strangers. Outdoor spaces need to be subdivided into smaller spaces so that multiple groups of people can use the space at the same time without conflict.
Shade structures are critical in providing shade and a ceiling (even if it’s just implied). Overhead structures neutralize the fish-bowl effect that occurs when you have several floors of windows looking down on an outdoor space.
4. Be Realistic with Outdoor Amenity Budgets
Too many real estate development projects get off on the wrong foot with their outdoor amenity budgets. Often, a dismal result is due to a developer’s tendency to handcuff themselves to an unrealistic budget from the start.
Indoor/outdoor amnesia relates to budget when developers plan for outdoor amenities as if they were just another landscape area. There is a massive difference in cost between an outdoor amenity space and the landscaping on the periphery of the site. Outdoor amenities are at least ten times more expensive per square foot than landscape areas.
Proper planning and informed budgeting can prevent the unfortunate removal of quality outdoor experiences from your project and ensure you get the result your project deserves.
Avoiding Indoor/Outdoor Amnesia
A great way to evaluate whether or not your project has indoor/outdoor amnesia is whether or not you leverage the outdoor amenities in your marketing and sales. If you are touting your rooftop and outdoor amenities on your property website, but you don’t show them in images or on virtual tours, you’re really telling the prospect that they aren’t that great.
Your outdoor amenities don’t have to be a disappointment. Instead, they can be a valuable marketing and community-building resource that contributes to your overall project success. Have a project in mind? We’ll help you stand out. Get started.