You only have one chance to make a first impression, and when it comes to co-op and condo buildings, your lobby is that first chance. The way a lobby is designed expresses what kind of building residents and visitors are walking into, both in style and in what kind of service residents can expect. "It sets the tone for the value of the building," says Marilyn Sygrove, owner of Sygrove Associates Design Group, Inc. "The lobby is the building's face. If a woman is going out to an evening function and you see her step out of the car and she has on a beautiful cloak and nice shoes and diamond earrings, that's the street. When she walks into the party and takes off her coat, that's the lobby. The lobby is the whole picture. It's the value, the dress, the smell of the perfume. The lobby is the whole romance of the building-you get a sense of what the apartments are like from the lobby."
Getting That Special Look
A lot of thought should go into how a lobby will look. Various factors-the developer, the residents, the neighborhood, the building-will influence what a lobby will become. Howard Zimmerman, of Manhattan-based Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, PC, says that in new construction, there is usually an interior firm that designs the lobby, hallways and other common areas. In the case of existing buildings that need a new or updated lobby, there are architectural firms that specialize in redesigning lobbies.
Lots of factors are taken into consideration before a lobby is designed and built. "In a new construction, [the lobby is discussed] at the beginning when they decide what market they're targeting," Zimmerman says. "In existing buildings, boards have a responsibility to maintain the building and fulfill the desires of their shareholders. And as people pay more and more money for their apartments, they're paying for the look of their building."
"The developer works with the marketing group when they put together the whole package, and the marketing people will identify a demographic," Sygrove says. "The age group, the structure of the families, what the residents spend their money on, what's important to them. From there, they will design," she says. "And a lot of it has to do with location. You're not going to get an upper East Side-type, stodgy formal building in an area with lots of lofts. It's driven somewhat by the neighborhood."