How architects can design spaces for renters, Renters can survive property crisis guide, housing advice, New building design

How Architects Can Design Spaces For Renters

10 May 2024

Architects can design spaces for renters

As an architect, you always have to keep a project’s scale in mind when designing a property. In some cases, your main goal will be inspiring potential tenants on a budget to file an online rental application.

In this guide, we break down what you need to consider when creating a renter-friendly space.

Understanding the Economy of Space
Rental properties come in all shapes and sizes, but many of them will likely be apartments — or otherwise short on space. Designing for renters means reining in some of your design instincts, especially if they would benefit from a bigger canvas.

Sometimes, the key to working with smaller spaces is to decorate them well, either by choosing budget-friendly furniture or the right color scheme. In the case of the latter, bright colors will help if a certain room doesn’t get much natural light.

Smaller spaces could easily make tenants feel cramped or boxed in. An architect’s job is always to make the most of any limitations. For example, larger doors and windows will offer the illusion of more space while brightening up the property.

Open floor plans are also a great way to add flexibility to a space, though possibly at the cost of a tenant’s privacy. Ultimately, your designs should be economical in every sense whilst keeping in line with the average renter’s space expectations.

Building Budget-Friendly Homes
Similarly, you need to craft a space that will be broadly affordable for renters in your area. While people of all budgets are shying away from buying a property, you should avoid design elements that make the rent higher.

The specific budget that you target will depend mainly upon the owner’s brief. For example, they might prefer an upmarket style that targets white-collar professionals. Above all else, you should defer to their requirements while maintaining a clear style.

Making the property as energy-efficient as possible may seem like a simple change, but it’s one that cuts down on costs for everyone. This can include high-quality insulation as well as the use of certain light fixtures and appliances.

As a good rule of thumb, if the end result looks especially luxurious, this will likely lead to higher rents. You’ll have to walk a fine line between creating a beautiful home you can be proud of and ensuring rents stay affordable.

Choosing The Right Materials
When designing a rental property, it’s important that the end result is durable and able to sustain years of wear and tear. If the home has any damages, it may be quite difficult (if not impossible) to conduct repairs while tenants are in residence. For similar reasons, refurbishments might also be out of the question.

This may even extend to the paint you choose for the walls. Satin or semi-glass paint can stand up to more than most flat finishes, for example. Carpet and wooden floors can be expensive and time-consuming to repair, so vinyl or ceramic might be better choices. In most cases, you won’t even need to sacrifice aesthetics.

Selecting the materials for the property will again be a negotiation process with the owner. They might have a preference that isn’t too effective at stopping damages, for example. If you worry their choice isn’t the right one, be prepared to make your case. However, they still have the final say in the property’s materials.

Key Considerations When Balancing Form and Function
Building a space that fits the rental property brief while exercising your creativity is quite challenging. You need to make sure the home fits a tenant’s budget, but you’ll also want to deliver a beautiful, high-quality property.

Here are just some of the ways you can find this balance:

  • Wall Art: You can help your property show more personality by placing art installations in communal spaces.
  • Lighting: How you light the home will give it a clear style and even make the rooms seem bigger to tenants.
  • Adaptability: It’s important that you still give tenants control over their home, such as via movable furniture.
  • Built-in storage: Integrating closets and cabinets into a property’s design will seamlessly lower visual clutter.
  • Local context: Understanding the neighborhood’s culture helps you fashion a home that fits future tenants.
  • Outdoor areas: If it’s possible to add outdoor areas to the property, this can make it a lot more open.
  • Greenery: Houseplants are quite popular with renting generations, and they rarely take up a lot of space.
  • Feedback: Blend your designs with the property owner’s ideas to find a compromise that everyone likes.

Even with clear limitations in a project’s brief, it’s possible to deliver an excellent property. These might serve to spark your creativity even further, but only if you can carefully balance practicality with aesthetics. With your help, even renters on a small budget are able to enjoy a beautiful new home.

Comments on this guide to How Architects Can Design Spaces For Renters article are welcome.


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Totteridge III House
Design: Gregory Phillips Architects
Totteridge III House North London England
photo : Andrew Beasley
Totteridge III House, North London

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