Nothing beats a good first impression. That's why a building's lobby can be the most important space when it comes to keeping residents happy and property values competitive.
When lobbies begin to decline, it's bad news for everyone involved from shareholders and unit owners to board members. Keeping public spaces up-to-date and looking good is vital, but not every building board has hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on complete renovations every few years. Happily, there are a number of options available to those who need to design on a dime - or at least keep their budgets within reason.
That said, however, renovating a lobby is no time to be cheap. It's important to do the job right, and one of the keys to doing that is organization. There are three things that need to be agreed upon before planning for a renovation should even begin. "There needs to be agreement on quality, budget and timeline," says Joel Ergas of Forbes-Ergas Design in Manhattan. Often, it's best for a board to appoint a committee to manage the decorating task at hand and to work with the designers and contractors necessary to get the job done.
Working within a tight budget does not mean that boards should forego the expertise of a qualified designer. "Get a designer," says Michael Love of Interior Options, a Manhattan firm that specializes in lobby design. "Even if you only pay $1,000 for a consultation, it's worth it."
Stay on target with your budget though, right from the start. "Don't ask the designer what the project will cost - tell them what you want to spend," Love says. "You can give them your wish list, but ask what can be done within your budget. That's very important. You should have all of the money planned out before you even call anyone." With the decimals in place," says Love, "it's important to have realistic expectations."