Re-Designing Common Areas It's a Breeze With Proper Planning

If two people have a hard time agreeing on what movie to see, it would seem impossible that the residents of even the smallest co-op or condo building would be able to agree on a color scheme for the new lobby.

But that's no excuse for putting off a badly-needed re-design job in your building's common areas. Whether your elevator cab needs a quick facelift or the entire layout of the lobby needs to be restructured, there's a design firm to fit your budget and needs. Once you make the decision to call in a professional, the details will fall into place. So why delay? There's no time like the present.

Making a Wish List

Your co-op or condo's common areas start at the front of the building, encompassing the facade and awning, and include the vestibule, lobby, mailroom, hallways, elevator cabs, exercise rooms, play areas, roof-top terraces and laundry rooms. According to Marilyn Sygrove, president of Sygrove Associates Design Group, Inc., an interior design firm in Manhattan, common area design projects are budget-driven. The work can be phased in over a period of time or tackled all at once. In this marketplace, boards are doing a lot, says Sygrove. We see a lot of hallways and lobbies being redesigned. Buildings seem to have the money to do both at once.

Some boards opt to work directly with the designer. In other buildings the board creates a special committee for the redesign project that sometimes, but not always, includes board members. For the designer, it's best to deal with the board or a small subcommittee of the board, says Sygrove. The board doesn't have to have a committee. They have the authority to make all the decisions by themselves. But typically they don't. According to Sygrove, buildings often prefer to invite all who are interested to participate in the committee so that residents feel that they are involved in the project.

The downside is that the more people there are involved, the longer the process can take and the more the building will spend in design fees. To facilitate the process, Sygrove recommends that the building make a wish list before the designer is brought in. This way there's some consensus as to the most popular colors and styles. Functional problems can also be discussed beforehand: are the mailboxes too small? Is the doorman too far from the door? The foundation of good design is to fix what doesn't work, explains Sygrove. You can alter the position of the doors, from the right of the facade to the center. We've done everything from putting in electronic sliding doors to bringing the doorman from the vestibule to the lobby and vice versa.


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  • own a condo unit within a small 8-units condo association (townhouse liked), which each has their own individual front doors. Does the door consider a common area? Do I need board's permitting if I want to change my own door or putting a gate? Thanks.
  • We are a condo located in Forest Hills.. We are redoing our cabs. Can you recomend a designer for the interior of our elevators?
  • minutes of our condo regarding a lobby update go back to jan 2009 nothing has been done other than a lot of talk as an owner, how can i light a fire under our current board
  • My coop is redoing our main lobby, can anyone recommend a designer/contractor?
  • The mailboxes in my small coop do not hold more than a day's mail. I often last-minute have to go out of town for indeterminate stay, thus forwarding the mail is not viable. I am a senior, w.disabilty, and my neighbor said I should rent a post office box - that's about 2miles RT. I'd purchased a nearly $600 devault USPO-approved white parcel drop box that was rejected by this one lady. What are my rights?