i+D - May/June 2019 - 54

Living by
Design
Multiunit
Residential

A Holistic Approach
Like many North American cities (and suburbs too), Toronto is enjoying a multifamily
construction boom. Local firm Diamond Schmitt Architects, with offices also in
Vancouver and New York, has been riding the wave and took a big step into the
interiors world about five years ago when it brought this function in-house by hiring
a director of interior design. With a few projects on the boards-both condos and
rentals-the decision to have complete authorship for multiunit residential projects is
proving successful.

1.

"Generally speaking, all of our projects are designed with the potential of a LEED
and/or WELL certification," says Bryan Chartier, director of interior design at Diamond
Schmitt Architects. And, the firm has recently taken on an initiative to have all
its interior designers become WELL Accredited Professionals (WELL APs). Their
holistic approach produces a unified result by having all design members of the team
collaborate at key moments in the process, rather than having interior designers take
on the project late in the design development stages.

Blank Canvas

"Multitenant housing is often compared to a vertical town, which will require
the resolution of many of the complexities of small town planning," says Chartier. The
generational spectrum is changing, with empty nesters buying more downtown property
and young families looking for family-oriented amenities like in-house daycare.

For residential designers, walking into a blank slate on this scale
might seem daunting. The challenge is to create a cohesive look
throughout, while also including moments of specialness that
every other apartment building does not share. The first step in
the process, according to Frampton, is to study the brief from
the sales and marketing team and building ownership.

"The more elaborate the lobby, the more likely an empty nester or young family will
want to take up residency," he continues. Multiunit lobbies range from basic areas
that have little to no security to very elaborate urban living rooms-complete with
24-hour security and concierge service.

"Then, we go into the mysterious world of concept development,
where the intangible design process unfolds," she states. After
editing and refining the concepts into a developed rendered
idea, it's pitched to the client team. "Too often multiunit housing
interior design leans too vanilla and the team's goal of attempting
to please everyone prevents aesthetic risk-taking," explains
Frampton. "We're experienced in walking that tightrope to
deliver a design vision suitable and sellable. We distill the building
identity into evocative and welcoming spaces designed to attract
potential buyers."
Whether located in a city or suburban environment, the lobby
is the first impression for potential buyers/renters. According to
Frampton, the spatial expression, color and materials palette,
and lighting story establish the design vocabulary for the rest of
the public spaces, such as corridors and amenities, as well as the
units. "We might consider an added layer in the public-to-private
sequence in a city environment where a sense of respite and
calm is in high demand," she notes.

1. Designed by Builders Design,
a multiunit common space is
created to feel like an extension
of a resident's home.
(Image: David Madison)

2. DARWIN home wellness
technology (see sidebar,
p. 55) has been installed
at the Lateral Estates Park
Blakehurst multifamily
residence in Australia.
(Image: Delos)

54

According to Chartier, corridors should be simple and well lit, and lobbies that have
a security presence often are designed to have a hotel feel. Many times, the front
desks provide secured storage for the tenants for food deliveries, Amazon packages,
and dry cleaning. "The lobbies act more like a hub than a front desk, and we tend to
design these areas accordingly by not emphasizing the desk but by providing ample
space for tenants to meet friends, wait for an Uber, and pick up packages in a warm
lounge-like environment," he explains.
Diamond Schmitt Architects strives to be contextual to the neighborhood and often
will draw from a building's location to provide inspiration for its interiors. Currently,
the firm is designing an apartment community in Midtown Toronto that is adjacent
to a park. The interiors are purposely designed to incorporate nature in many of the
common areas throughout the building.

2.



i+D - May/June 2019

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