Come Into My Parlor Tips for Painless Lobby Renovation

Nothing communicates the character of a building like a well-designed lobby area. In just the time it takes for a resident or visitor to glance around and take in the visual impact of your building's "front room," as it were, an opinion of the building and its residents is formed.

Given the powerful visual potential of your home's entryway, it's no wonder that shareholders and board members alike have strong feelings about how their lobby looks and functions. Is it too stuffy and old-fashioned? Was it once on the cutting edge of interior design but now suffers the effects of time and changing tastes? The issue doesn't stop with pure aesthetics, either. What about durability? Did the last generation of board members try to cut costs during previous remodels by using cut-rate materials? And then there are the seemingly trivial details - like where the guard or doorman is stationed, and his proximity to the package closet - that have a real impact on the overall efficiency of building operations.

An attractive lobby or entry foyer is about more than just providing residents a pleasant space to stroll through on their way to the elevator. The approach to your building also affects the value of the apartments within, says Lina Gottesman, president of Altus Metal and Marble, a renovation and repair company in Manhattan. "You never have a second chance to make a first impression," Gottesman continues. "People's opinion of a building is made up before they even see the apartment you're going to show them. If the lobby looks worn down, they think maybe the building isn't as cared for as they'd like it to be."

Getting Underway

Karen Fisher, president of Designer Previews, a Manhattan firm that shows potential clients the work of different interior designers, says that before a board hires someone to execute a project, they should be prepared to discuss not only their ideas and vision with that person, but also to hammer out what's feasible and realistic in the given space. "The [board] needs to have a full vision of what they want to do. Sometimes boards aren't happy with the results they get because they just want to change the concierge stand and think that will change everything."

Of course, a good designer will do whatever they can to accommodate a building's wishes, but even the coolest professionals can become frustrated when approached by a gaggle of poorly organized board members without an agreed-upon plan for executing the project. "Some designers are afraid to work with a committee," says Fisher, "boards need to decide what the chain of command will be before they hire a designer"¦They also need to be realistic about their budget."

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