The lobby of your building is the first thing residents see when they come home, and the first part of the building any guest (or prospective buyer) sees when they visit your condo or HOA. In light of that, it's important for your lobby, whether it be a sprawling expanse with acres of marble, or a modest vestibule with an armchair and some potted ferns—to be more than just a bare, transitional space. It should be comfortable and welcoming, with appropriate furnishings, attractive lighting, and a tasteful color scheme.
“The ideal lobby has to perform as a multi-functional space,” says Alex Estill, a senior designer with Gooch Design Studio in Chicago. “It has to represent the building, it has to be comforting for residents and appealing for potential new owners. It also serves as the security point for the building and an interaction point for residents and guests and building staff, so it has to do a lot of things.”
Just getting started on a lobby redesign can seem like a huge, unwieldy task. Before paint chips and carpet swatches even enter the picture, a designer must be selected. Since most people fancy themselves experts when it comes to interior design, everyone's got an opinion—not just on what they personally like, but on what they really don't like. “The selection process can be brutal, because everyone has a friend or a decorator who they recommend,” says one design pro. “It can turn into a contest between fifty people who are all trying out to design the same lobby.”
Other than an interior design death match—which would make good HGTV but probably not result in much progress on your actual lobby renovation—how does one whittle down possible candidates? Most pros recommend forming a design committee to research potential designers, narrow the field down to a handful of professionals whose past projects and aesthetic are in line with your own community's scale and personality, and then bid out the job as you would any other service contract.
“Communities all have different needs and wants,” says Sandra Dicus, an interior designer with Home Services Direct, a full service remodeling company based in Rolling Meadows. “I think a design committee is a good idea because it separates the details a little more. The board may not be so concerned with the details, so the committee will help everyone get on the same page.”