Of all the shared amenities common to co-ops and condos, what’s more representative of gracious New York apartment living than the grand lobby? Think of how often movie depictions of New York life feature these rarified spaces, complete with polished marble, potted ferns, uniformed attendants, and the comings-and-goings of the glamorous residents fortunate enough to call these buildings home.
But in today’s world, where space is at a premium and the COVID pandemic has altered how we look at just about everything, the question of whether an ultra-luxe lobby is still a sought-after amenity or an artifact of another time is worth exploring.
Avoiding the 'Hotel Feel'
One of the realities of having a comfortable, elegant, well-appointed lobby is that many residents will treat it as an extension of their own living spaces. Tired of staring out of your windows at your spectacular view? Head down to the lobby and ensconce yourself in a plush couch for a change of scenery and some people-watching!
That may sound pleasant and innocuous enough - but there are downsides to having residents stake out favorite spots in the lobby and linger for hours. According to Marilyn Sygrove, president of Sygrove Associates Design Group in Manhattan, “With few exceptions - like a building we worked with in Brooklyn that was very community-friendly and wanted people to congregate (pre-COVID, of course) - most buildings don’t wish to encourage lingering, gathering or ever sleeping in the lobby.” And why is that? “There are concerns about the image of the building when residents use the lobby as the extension of their living room or playroom, and what that says to prospective buyers,” says Sygrove. “Owners also feel it is an invasion of their privacy if there’s always a ‘welcoming committee’ stationed in the lobby watching them come and go.” And, she continues, “There are even concerns about upholstery fabrics being the base for changing babies.”
Susan Lauren, principal of Lauren Interior Design, also in Manhattan, concurs. “Large or grand lobbies generally are welcoming,” she says. “Their size denotes elegance and grandeur. That being said, most boards don’t want residents, their helpers, or even guests sitting and gathering for long periods of time in the lobby. As the saying goes, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ and lobby-loungers detract from the overall first impression of a beautiful lobby. In addition, they often necessitate extra maintenance: kids can soil or wear out furniture by putting their feet up or horsing around on chairs, sofas and even tables. Guests can leave water bottles or trash behind often unintentionally, and no one wants to see caretakers changing diapers in the lobby! I’ve learned over the years to ask up front whether clients prefer to discourage lounging in their lobbies,” continues Lauren. “They usually respond with a resounding yes.”