2 Tips for Developing & Designing Multi-Family Housing

Updated: Jul 21

Developing and designing Multi-Family Housing is an exciting niche within the commercial design world- yet also takes a highly unique approach. Residents now expect robust amenities, fresh styles and functional spaces. A challenge though, is that space is often extremely tight.


In response, designers have turned to communal areas to provide more options for residents. From game rooms to dog parks- fire pits to yoga studios- outdoor kitchens to bike repair shops- multi-family housing developments can create amazing lifestyle options for their tenants.

While the potential spaces and user-centered functions might be present, it still takes lively and specific design thinking to attract tenants. So how do you effectively design for this market?

Black Hound Design Company has completed many FF&E projects focusing on Multi-Family Housing. From custom millwork to dining tables- booths and banquettes to conference tables- casegoods to game tables- we've done it all. And we've had the honor of collaborating with some of the best-in-the-best Interior Designers, Architects and General Contractors in this commercial design space. Suffice to say, we've soaked up quite a few lessons along the way.


So, in this Two Part Blog Series, we're sharing some easy, actionable tips for designing for Multi-Family Housing.


Design Idea: First Impressions Matter

Thoughtfully designed and functional spaces result in faster rentals and happier tenants. When a prospective tenant first arrives, what do they see? What is the entrance like? Pay specific attention to the leasing office and lobby. Think of these areas as the first impression of the entire multi-family housing project.


Right when a prospective tenant walks in, they need to be able to imagine themselves there. The vibe must resonate with them- right from the very start.


We built the FF&E for this lobby of Waterford at Cherry Creek, working with Camp Construction and Studio 10. It is welcoming and elegant, and immediately sets the tone for the entire space.

It's also important that the design and architecture aligns with the target demographic. Perhaps you're designing for the 55+ community. Consider neutral pallets and simple elegance in the FF&E. A millennial audience? Think big, bold patterns and minimalistic, organic furnishings. Likewise, the geography can inform the design. Is the target audience vacation-condo owners in Florida? What about vacation-condo owners in Colorado? There will be a vast difference in the design approach.


In short- the colors, textures, finishes and fixtures must resonate with your target audience, and it all starts with the lobby and leasing office.


Design Idea: Show Love to the Wifi-Lounge, Cyber Cafe & Conference Room

While the concept of a traditional business center has certainly shifted over the past several years, it is still an expected and sought after amenity at multi-family housing developments. Residents look towards these spaces as an area to be productive, but it also allows them to get away from the distractions of children, pets or let's face it: Netflix.


Since these spaces are typically used by more than one person at a time, adding in privacy features is important. Partitions, dividers or pods can all create quiet areas where a tenant can focus on their work. But forego the typical office cubicle; you don't want to pull that too formal vibe into this space. Simple, elegant partitions can do the trick.


Likewise, adding in a separate conference room is a major value-add for residents. They can host meetings and have a bit more space for spreading out. Since there will likely be little other furniture in the conference room, punch up the design with a statement table.

And don't forget the details; we made this live-edge conference table for the interior designers at Studio 4 D for one of their Multi-Family Housing projects. They specified a power port- with USB chargers- to be built in the middle. This small addition makes the table extremely functional for residents, while maintaining the overall design aesthetic of modern and edgy.


Keep It Casual

Depending on the target demographic, these spaces might be casual and take the aesthetic of more of a lounge than a formal business center. Clustered seating arrangements and a relaxed atmosphere can make the work lounge comfortable and informal, yet still an effective place for residents to get work done.

You can set a focal point with a large, dramatic table in the foreground, and then add other seating in the background. Think about an oversized mural or photo on the wall to add even more design punch.


In the photo, we worked with the talented team at Johnson Nathan Strohe to create this custom walnut conference table for the Alexan LoHi in downtown Denver. They did an incredible job of setting the design drama, while still producing a comfortable space for residents. Notice the banquette that runs the back wall; this produces even more seating for tenants and gives the area an elegant vibe.


Want More Tips for Designing Multi-Family Housing? Check out this next post, here.

What tips do you have for designing multi-family housing projects? Please share in the comments below. We'd love to hear your thoughts.


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Black Hound Design Company

FF&E Furniture Makers and Fabrication

in Denver, Colorado