Unit Design Trends

In an effort to meet the diverse needs of today's high-end luxury renter, developers are incorporating variety and flexibility into the unit mix by replacing traditional floor plans with an eclectic combination of products that include open flats, townhomes, lofts, and live/work units.

The Quarters at Memorial, Multifamily Executive's 2002 Resort/Luxury Project of the Year, is a prime xample. The Quarters site plan consists of 380 luxury units with 252 flats, 72 lofts, and 56 townhome units. The Quarters, which is located in Houston, offers 39 distinct one- to three-bedroom floor plans that range in size from 700 square feet to 2,000 square feet. This mix, which allows for various front-entry stoops, balconies, and window conditions, combined with the inclusion of a pedestrian-only brick-paved community walk-though known as "Main Street," invigorates the community.

The Quarters at Memorial in Houston, is an example of how developers are using open flats, townhomes, lofts, and live/work units to appeal to a variety of potential residents. Developed by McCaslin Development, this community offers 380 units, ranging in size from 707 square feet to 1,960 square feet.

The Quarters at Memorial in Houston, is an example of how developers are using open flats, townhomes, lofts, and live/work units to appeal to a variety of potential residents. Developed by McCaslin Development, this community offers 380 units, ranging in size from 707 square feet to 1,960 square feet.

Across the country, new trends in exterior and interior design are emerging. Today's apartments are much more contemporary. Exterior designs are unique and feature vibrant color schemes, eclectic detailing, commercial windows, and the creative use of different materials such as industrial metal siding and concrete block.

Units are larger in size and designed with custom home luxuries such as dramatic entries with rotundas and angled walls with built-in art niches. Ceiling heights have increased from 9 feet and now vary from 10 feet to 18 feet, and windows are now oversized and more abundant. The flooring found in today's units combines hardwood or stained concrete with carpet, while countertops feature granite or marble finishes.

There has been a great demand in recent years for lofts that create nostalgia without sacrificing modern amenities. Loft units today are often refined, creating a distinction between traditional lofts and soft lofts. Soft lofts continue to possess many of the same loft features, yet are less industrial than in the past. They include minimal exposed duct work, stained concrete flooring, large glass transom windows, and track lighting. The walls can be angled, or designed as sliding bypass walls, to separate the bedroom from the living areas. Also noticeably different are the kitchens, which feature modern islands and cabinets that are either open, or designed with glass doors instead of raised panels.

The live/work unit is a new trend rapidly gaining popularity with residents looking for convenience. These live/work units feature ground floor commercial space with street frontage and an individual retail address. Private one- or two-car garages offer direct access to the unit and are located in the rear. Live/work studios are typically 800 square feet to 1,500 square feet and feature ceiling heights that range from 9 feet to 19 feet with full height windows. They include several unique interior characteristics such as stained concrete floors, iron staircases, and gourmet kitchens designed with granite countertops. Moreover, live/work units feature high-tech computer libraries, complete with desks, and multiple data and phone connections.