Designing Common Areas What Works Best?

In the past, developers would throw a few chairs and tables into a large room and call it a common area or a recreation room and leave it at that. Today, however, there's more to designing, maintaining and upgrading a successful common area than just sweeping the floor and making sure the Nespresso machine is stocked with coffee pods. Over time, fitness centers, business centers, party rooms and movie theaters were added in for residents to enjoy. 

Take for example, these luxury Windy City developments. Aqua, a mixed-use residential building in the Eastern Loop, containing the 334-room Radisson Blu Hotel, 474 rental apartments, and 262 condos, sports one of the largest roof decks in Chicago, and has amenities galore. Its deck features a large pool, cabanas, hot tubs, a fire pit and designer seating areas. Surrounded by a running track, multiple rooms offer lounge spaces, a media center, a game roof area with a pool table, basketball court, a large fitness center, a business center with conference rooms, and to top it off, an indoor lap pool. 

Or consider the Legacy at Millennium Park, an award-winning high-rise condominium with its heated indoor lap pool, whirlpool spa, 15th floor sundeck and landscaped outdoor garden terrace, state-of-the-art fitness center, fully-equipped outdoor sky garden lounges with adjoining hospitality rooms, bike rooms and customized individual storage lockers.

Design Elements

Common areas in multifamily buildings and HOAs, particularly in denser urban areas where individual apartments may not exactly be spacious, “are often used as an extension of the resident’s home,” says Amy Courage, principal of DesignBar in Chicago, who has worked on the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Chicago, which include a theater, billiard room and a wine lounge. “Today owners are looking for social space, so the lounge space now has work tables where technology has been integrated. Before, the lounge space had been designed solely for watching TV, but now we provide work tables with plug-ins and comfortable chairs.”

Successful common areas include specific design elements that make the room aesthetically-pleasing and functional, not only for current residents but in a way that is attractive to new buyers as well. “A common area is successful if it is warm and welcoming and you feel like you’re home before you even get into your home,” says Gia Milazzo-Smith, founder of Designs by Gia Interior Designs, based in Massachusetts. “They should have warm, inviting colors that are soothing and uncluttered furnishings that can be used by everyone.”

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