What does my crystal ball say about design this year?
Over the years that I have been involved in new condominium marketing and sales, I have seen suite designs evolve to keep up with changing purchaser needs and wants. Separate kitchens have morphed into linear layouts and become part of the main living area. Barn doors on bedrooms have eliminated the space required for swing doors. Entrance hallways are rare nowadays, as they represent wasted space.
I have been thinking about what changes might be next, and I believe one may be the attitude toward balconies by both developers and buyers. As prices have increased dramatically over the past few years, square footages have gotten smaller to make suites more affordable. Currently, having a personal outdoor space is a must for many buyers, so developers typically include as many balconies as the building design will allow for. Nowadays, however, with prices continuing to rise, I see buyers wanting every square foot possible in their suite interiors. If you look at, say, a 10-by-five-ft. balcony, that is 50 sq. ft. that could make a big difference inside. This predicted trend is a reality in cities such as New York right now, where you do not get balconies in new condos period.
Looking at this another way, keep in mind that the outdoor shared amenity spaces in today’s condos are extraordinary. When residents want to commune with nature, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in courtyards and on terraces and rooftop gardens. We even see urban vegetable and herb gardens in some condos.
The other design trend I see catching on in the future is the addition of more Zen-type spaces in the amenity rosters of condos. In many ways, the condominium lifestyle is conducive to well-being and healthy living. Buildings are located close to local amenities so residents can walk or bicycle to run errands. Exercise facilities right in the buildings makes keeping fit convenient. Lately, I notice yoga/Pilates and stretch studios being included as well, plus Zen gardens to encourage meditation.
There has been a lot of media attention recently to circadian rhythms – our 24-hour cycles that are affected by internal physiology, as well as sunlight, temperature and other external cues. In short, our circadian rhythms are our sleep/wake cycles. When these are out of whack – which happens a lot nowadays because of our hectic lifestyles – we can experience insomnia, daytime sleepiness or both, putting us at greater risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. The trend toward including Zen gardens and areas in new condos has started, and I see more of this type of shared space in the future. We will likely even see nap rooms in offices and work areas, to encourage mindfulness and enhanced health.
The word from the agencies we deal with at Baker Real Estate Incorporated is that condominiums represent 60 per cent of new construction, and that percentage is growing. Imagine the positive impact that the increase in well-being for condo residents will have on society as a whole!
BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog.