Designing Common Areas What Works Best?

In the past, developers would throw a few chairs and tables into a large room and call it a common area or a recreation room and leave it at that. Today, however, there's more to designing, maintaining and upgrading a successful common area than just sweeping the floor and making sure the Nespresso machine is stocked with coffee pods. Over time, fitness centers, business centers, party rooms and movie theaters were added in for residents to enjoy. 

Take, for example, 20 East End Avenue in New York City, a luxury condominium development that is currently under construction. Architect Richard J. DeMarco of Manhattan-based firm Montroy Andersen DeMarco says that the building's common areas, such as the library and fitness club, are a definite highlight for residents and buyers. 

“The common areas combine both traditional and modern designs, which appeals to younger demographics,” says DeMarco. “The building’s library, and its billiards and game room, showcase rich, dark millwork, elaborate coffered ceilings, and other traditional high-end finishes typical of exclusive private clubs. The fitness center also reflects tastes of a younger demographic, including the prototypical design of commercial New York City gyms, with industrial exposed ceilings and infrastructure, together with the use of stronger, bolder colors.”

Design Elements

According to the pros, common areas in multifamily buildings, particularly in denser urban areas where individual apartments may not exactly be spacious, are often used as an extension of residents' homes. Newly-built condo buildings might include common amenities such as theaters or screening lounges, billiard rooms and wine cellars. “Today owners are looking for social space, so the lounge space now has work tables where technology has been integrated,” says one designer. “Before, the lounge space had been designed solely for watching TV, but now we provide work tables with plug-ins and comfortable chairs.”

Successful common areas include specific design elements that make the room aesthetically-pleasing and functional, not only for current residents but in a way that is attractive to new buyers as well. “A common area is successful if it is warm and welcoming and you feel like you’re home before you even get into your home,” says Gia Milazzo-Smith, founder of Designs by Gia Interior Designs, based in Massachusetts. “They should have warm, inviting colors that are soothing and uncluttered furnishings that can be used by everyone.”

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