Like many of today’s properties, Yaupon in Austin, Texas, has a functional co-working center for remote work.
Matt Batista Like many of today’s properties, Yaupon in Austin, Texas, has a functional co-working center for remote work.

While many believe 2020 was a pivotal moment for residential design, some argue it was merely an accelerant. Before March 2020, attributes such as healthy home environments, sustainable qualities, work-from-home capabilities, and unique amenity offerings piqued the interests of many renters, but they weren’t necessarily top needs at the time. Ultimately, the effects of the pandemic pushed those trends to the forefront quickly, and the industry is shifting to accommodate.

To see what’s in store for the coming year, MFE compiled predictions from several industry design experts. Some build upon trend expectations from the past year-plus, including a continued focus on health and wellness and remote work, while others focus on solutions to creating larger units and better outdoor escapes. See below for 10 trends that will influence multifamily design in 2022.

1. Hybrid Work: For many occupations, hybrid schedules are the future of the workplace. With this model becoming more popular, buildings will have to meet the needs of residents. Laura Britt, president and managing principal of Austin, Texas–based Britt Design Group, says “state-of-the-art business centers and co-working lounges are being designed to incorporate multifunctional areas such as private offices, group meeting facilities, breakout meeting areas, and single workstations.”

2. Furry Friends: Pet ownership climbed during the pandemic, making many communities pet-friendly. From dog wash areas to feeding and sleeping stations, pet amenities are a significant draw for pet lovers, says Mary Cook, president and founder of Chicago-based Mary Cook Associates. Britt adds “community dog parks on property is another trend that’s here to stay. We are seeing layouts in multifamily design that include one or two dog parks.”

Dey & Bergen in Harrison, New Jersey, includes a dog run and a pet spa for its many furry residents.
Courtesy Mary Cook Associates Dey & Bergen in Harrison, New Jersey, includes a dog run and a pet spa for its many furry residents.

3. More Mail: The increase in delivery-based consumerism is directly impacting multifamily design, with spaces to accommodate packages of all shapes and sizes, says Cook. “Spacious and multifunctioning mailrooms are a big trend moving forward,” agrees Britt. “The mailroom is not an afterthought; it is a major amenity.” Mailrooms are being designed with larger layouts with multiple types of storage and pickup areas and with eye-catching designs.

4. Lap of Luxury: Ryan Kimura, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at construction and renovation services company Premier, believes the pandemic stirred the migration of high-end renters. “More folks are moving from Los Angeles or New York to Dallas, and they are looking and expecting the same standard of premier amenities that properties had where they came from on the coast,” he says. “Many times, the necessity for ‘luxury’ design and amenities in Hollywood wouldn’t pencil into the budget for a property in Uptown Dallas, but recently there’s been a shift in the behavior.”

5. Biophilic Design: In the residential industry, there’s been a growing interest and awareness toward biophilic design, or a concept used to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment. Several forecasters in the paint and color realm selected green and blue hues as their 2022 Colors of the Year because of this trend. In addition, Prasoon Shrivastava, CEO and founder of Prasoon Design Studio, says “as we move forward, the inclusion of principles of biophilia with elements like the inclusion of outdoor spaces, maximized natural elements like terrace gardens, natural light, and views are finding heightened adaptability.”

6. Walkability: With more work-from-home capabilities, people are spending more time in their neighborhoods during the day. Going for walks is not only a pleasant way to connect to nature, but stepping out for groceries or coffee gives a reason to get out of the house, says Tom Pflueger, senior associate at MBH Architects. As a result, walkability will continue to be important when designing multifamily communities as potential residents are more likely to consider safety and proximity to grocery stores, social opportunities, and public transit.

Opposed to a traditional mailroom, Kilby in Frisco, Texas, boasts a modern design with seating areas.
Courtesy Mary Cook Associates Opposed to a traditional mailroom, Kilby in Frisco, Texas, boasts a modern design with seating areas.

7. Outdoor Escapes: Whether a roof, a terrace, or a courtyard, developers are putting more thought into outdoor areas, says Sejal Sonani, principal, managing director at HLW. “The past 18 months of being homebound in the small footprints of apartments or condos have brought increased attention to the availability and design of outdoor amenities. The expectation is not just the availability of roofs and terraces but adequate infrastructure and build-out of these spaces to function as outdoor live/work/play environments.”

8. Extra Space: Another adjustment of increased remote work is renters are craving more space and separation. Walter Marin, senior principal and founder of New York–based Marin Architects, says “in New York City, we are moving away from studio apartments—people are looking for a separation between work and life. People seem to want separate rooms rather than a huge open layout. Remote work, exercise, and child care require the ability to close the door at times.”

9. Smart Buildings: From keyless locks to smart elevators, intelligent-building management systems are likely the future for many multifamily developments. Britt says “post-pandemic contactless entry is key. We will start to see this more and more in multifamily design moving forward. Developers are incorporating hands-free entry systems to get in and out of the premises and personal living spaces, replacing a key with the wave of a card or key fob.”

10. Health and Wellness: With the ever-evolving COVID-19 virus, people are still focused on overall health and well-being. John Lewis, studio director at NELSON Worldwide, says “as we move into 2022, it will be important to create environments where people feel safe, productive, and supported. This desire for emotional support will drive well-being to take precedence, going beyond physical wellness, including mental and even financial health, activating amenities like meditation rooms, on-demand financial counselors, child care offerings, increased outdoor space, or even virtual therapy.”