One of the many benefits of traveling to a hotel or resort is escaping, temporarily, from the day-to-day responsibilities that keep us busy at home. Many destinations are designed to nurture this sense of escape, with everything taken care of for us, and we tend to return home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. We often think of our home as our personal sanctuary, too – except this is where the responsibilities reside with us. So what if we could cultivate a similar feeling of being cared for at home, in order to gain a sense of escape similar to what a hotel provides? For decades, WATG has designed industry-leading hospitality and residential experiences, and the integration of these perspectives points to an opportunity for developers and designers:
Multi-family residential developers and designers can elevate their properties and cultivate a comforting sense of ease and escape for residents when they consider their projects through these eleven hospitality lenses:
- Sense of arrival. In a hotel or resort, early design cues point guests to ways they can escape the busy life left outside the door and leave their worries behind. This can be emulated in a residential property’s arrival sequence with high-impact, high-touch elements that are not only familiar and welcoming, but that also convey a comforting sense of belonging that puts residents at ease.
- Emotionally engaging. In either a hotel or a residential building, this sense of arrival can trigger a positive emotional response when it’s thoughtfully aligned with the property’s target guest or resident. One customer might connect with an active lobby that encourages socialization, while another might be seeking more of a calm oasis. This underscores the importance of understanding who that customer is, how they live, and what kind of experiences or amenities help them feel understood and cared for, so they can unwind into a greater sense of escape.
- Progression of spaces. The resident or guest journey must be carefully crafted whether the property is located in a vibrant urban environment or a secluded retreat. An intentional progression through small and intimate points of entry into more open and expansive lobby spaces, punctuated by highly curated design details, can heighten the feeling of release along that journey. WATG works closely with clients to understand the design elements that will have the most impact and greatest return on investment.
- Convenience. Reducing or even eliminating points of friction or stress along the guest or resident journey is critical. Whether at home or on vacation, convenience typically comes in the form of amenities and services, which can be delivered by designing spaces on-site or by carefully selecting a site that has a variety of amenities nearby. Details such as wayfinding clarity, the distance from car to door, and elevator wait times also play a pivotal role in ensuring that the resident’s journey feels effortless, and must not be overlooked.
- Community. Nurturing social connections is powerful in both hotel and residential typologies, and can be achieved by designing a variety of flexible spaces that encourage gatherings, even chance encounters. Helping people feel connected helps them feel cared for. Thoughtfully designed communal areas, akin to hotel lobbies or upscale lounges, create opportunities for social interaction and relaxation, enhancing residents’ overall quality of life. This also extends to the community around the property and operating as a friendly neighbor through shared amenities, open programming, or employment opportunities.
Connections are not only good for people, but also for profits. UDR, a U.S.-based REIT with a portfolio of over 50,000 units, released the results of a survey that asked residents what motivated them to extend their lease, recognizing that lease renewals greatly impact a residential development’s profitability.
According to UDR’s CEO, Tom Toomey, connecting residents can yield a 75% renewal rate for residents who feel a friendly connection with one neighbor, and a 90% renewal rate if they are connected to two neighbors. These residents will also give positive feedback and referrals to outside friends.
6. Mixed-use mentality. Convenience and community are both enhanced by a development approach that integrates a variety of relevant offerings into the property, ultimately buying residents or guests more leisure time when the services and amenities they rely on are close at hand. This approach creates more opportunities for a diverse mix of neighbors to feel welcome, too, building outward connections with the existing community around the property and fueling neighborhood stability.
7. Contextualism. WATG has designed hotels and resorts around the world, and each reflects the natural and cultural context of its site. The use of local materials – including trees, stones and other elements that are affected by construction – indigenous design motifs, regionally-produced food and beverage, local art and more will contribute greatly to the overall ethos of the property and help residents and guests feel rooted. Contextual responses to the environment and climate also greatly influence the way the property performs.
8. Staff and operations. A positive guest or resident experience is not possible without a positive employee experience. WATG excels at optimizing back-of-house operations by designing spaces that prioritize employees’ wellbeing as well as efficient flow of staff and equipment. A key metric of success is staff longevity or turnover, which can be improved through design details such as access to natural light and functional layouts in staff areas.
9. Wellness. Feeling comfortable and cared for is an important part of an individual’s health and wellbeing. Encouraging socialization as well as offering connections to the outdoors, green spaces, natural light and air, and biophilia can all contribute to reductions in stress.
10. Security. Helping residents or guests (feel comfortable and safe is also critical if they’re to feel at ease. Visible indicators of safety include high quality lighting, roll-up garage doors (instead of arm gates), card-key access and cameras, while other design details such as the layout of a lobby with open sight-lines between the front desk and/or leasing office, front door, and elevators provide more subtle cues that the property and its staff are looking out for everyone.
11. Privacy. Just as luxury hotels and resorts convey an aura of seclusion, high-end residential properties can also provide a sense of privacy when residents seek it. Private garages, separate and rapid) elevators, and discrete service and delivery routes all help to ensure residents and guests that their concerns are understood and cared for.
Prioritizing comfort, convenience, and personalized experiences can transform multi-family buildings into vibrant communities that foster a strong sense of belonging. Ultimately, integrating hospitality principles into residential design elevates the living experience, turning buildings into more than mere dwellings, but rather into havens of comfort, ease, connection, and lasting satisfaction.
To learn more about Duan St Amand and the work of WATG, please www.watg.com/people/daun-st-amand/
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