Luxury vs. Affordable Multifamily Housing: Design Considerations

When building multi-family housing, there is an inherent decision to be made between luxury vs. affordable multifamily housing design. Luxury units with high-end amenities will attract a higher rent and greater profitability. However, there is a higher demand – and need – for affordable housing in almost every community. Developers preparing for a multi-family project must make the decision. Of course, excellent architectural design can also help you walk the middle line with choices that may please both audiences.

Luxury vs Affordable Multifamily Housing

In architecture, “luxury” is often used to represent high-cost, high-quality materials, as well as features that may be impractical for more affordable designs. In contrast, “affordable” housing has a reputation for stark utilitarianism. However, as overall tastes shift toward luxury-style designs, there is often a point of compromise that can provide luxury feel and features using affordable building principles.

Floorplans and Spacious Design

Luxury: Spacious Units with Open-Plan Design

Luxury multifamily unit design suggests spacious units with vaulted ceilings, fewer bedrooms, and a generally open-plan design. Each apartment should feel like a slice of a private mansion with elegant features and a sense of space.

Affordable: Compact Floorplans and More Units

Affordable apartments tend to be more compact, with tightly boxed floorplans and more bedrooms per unit. Ceilings tend to be of average height and personal space is limited.

Compromise: Compact Open-Plan Units with Ergonomic Design

However, open-plan designs are universally desired. Creating more open family rooms can make any occupant happier in the space. Ergonimic design in bedrooms, kitchen, and bathrooms can also ensure that even small spaces feel roomy with efficient and easy-to-use arrangement.

Flooring Materials

Luxury: Hardwood Board or Engineered Hardwood

Whole-home wood floors are popular in any price range right now. Luxury homes favor real hardwood – either genuine hardwood board or engineered hardwood which features a veneer of hardwood over pressed boards beneath. Luxury wood flooring is in high demand, even in kitchens.

Affordable: Durable Laminate Tile

Of course, practical design for affordable multifamily housing suggests truly durable flooring such as laminate or ceramic tile. You want floors that are easy to clean and difficult to damage during busy family life.

Compromise: Luxury Laminate Board

Fortunately, there is a perfect compromise. Laminate floorboards are layered pressed wood and laminate with a high-end artificial wood grain over the top. These boards are popular even in wealthy home renovations, but with the price and durable features that make them ideal for affordable family housing.

Kitchen Design

Luxury: Entertainer Kitchens with High-End Appliances

Luxury housing always features spectacular kitchen design. Entertainer kitchens are still in, with a gorgeous kitchen island that faces the open-plan family room. Real stone countertops are accentuated with high-end appliances set into every kitchen layout.

Affordable: L or U Kitchens with Efficient Appliances

Affordable kitchens tend to be compact L-shaped or U-shaped in design. They may feature sealed granite or artificial countertops and appliances that prioritize energy efficiency.

Compromise: Compact Open Kitchens with Efficient Appliances

It is absolutely possible to have both. Efficient appliances are desirable at all price-points, and granite is the perfect meeting place between affordable and natural stone for countertops. Favor open-plan L-shaped kitchens with an island or breakfast bar peninsula that faces the family room.

Bathroom Design

Luxury: Spacious and Spa-Like Bathrooms

Bathroom design is where luxury and affordable designs truly deviate in multi-family construction. Right now, spacious and spa-like bathrooms are in. Walk-in showers and soaker tubs, integrated bluetooth speakers, and smart mirrors place the high-end of bathroom design in the astronomical range. But simple, elegant design will often “do” even for luxury apartment and condo residents.

Affordable: Cramped Family Bathrooms

Affordable apartments typically feature cramped ensuites and family bathrooms, trying to fit all the necessities into the smallest possible space.

Compromise: Ergonomic Bathrooms with Spa Features

You can design bathrooms suitable for both audiences, however, by foregoing the most extravagant of luxury choices while adding some cost-effective and functional design to the family bathroom standard.

Build family bathrooms with a little more space, using ergonomic principles to ensure each section is comfortable. Use the water closet design for separate yet tidy toilet areas, include enough counter space and clever storage for personal items, and add a high-end adjustable shower head for a spa-like feel without the cosmic price tag.

Apartment Amenities

Luxury: Clubhouses and Dog Parks

Finally, there is the difference in amenities. This may be where your final choice occurs. Luxury residents expect more amenity space, including lounge or clubhouse space, a fitness center, business center, and manicured outdoor/pet areas in addition to basic amenities.

Affordable: Laundry and Green Space

Affordable multifamily housing typically offers only basic amenities, but is also more likely to have a playground as apartments are often a hub of family life. A laundry room and green space are all that is expected.

Compromise: Community-Focused Amenities

Whatever room you have for amenities, make sure they are beautifully designed and community-focused. Make sure sunlight reaches the laundry room. Enclose the playground in a manicured courtyard. Provide a simple jogging path shaded by a few trees and a pavilion for summertime sitting. If you have extra room and budget, add a lounge/lobby with a welcoming space to gather or a business center in the corner.

Perfect Your Multi-Family Development with Ted Trout Architectural Design

Every multi-family building should be a welcoming and uplifting place for the residents. Whether you are building luxury units, affordable family housing, or walking the middle road with features from both, Ted Trout Architects can ensure that your project embodies practical design while providing a place for joy, community, and wellness of the residents.