8 ways luxury buildings will never be the same, from touchless elevators to a lot more outdoor space

  • The coronavirus will transform the way luxury residential buildings are designed, according to architects and interior designers.
  • Outdoor space will likely become an even more coveted amenity than before the pandemic. 
  • There will an increased emphasis on "biophilic" or nature-inspired design.
  • And practical features like pantries and closets will become more important than lavish amenities. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus has completely changed what people look for in a home.

People are fleeing cities for suburbs and snapping up houses with yards and home offices sight unseen. 

To adapt to people's evolving preferences during and after the pandemic, luxury apartment buildings will likely change in several key ways, according to architects and interior designers.

Experts agree there will be an increased emphasis on outdoor spaces, a renewed desire for practical features like ample storage space, and a move toward health-conscious building materials like antimicrobial surfaces. 

Here are eight ways luxury buildings are likely to change because of the coronavirus.

1. Luxury high-rises may fall out of favor

In places like New York City, 80th-floor penthouses sometimes sell for tens — or even hundreds — of millions of dollars to tech billionaires and hedge-fund managers who want to live among the clouds.

But such towering buildings may not look as attractive after the coronavirus, according to Peter Darmos of Los Angeles design firm Astéras.

"For example, a packed elevator ride can contribute to the spread of germs and the increased risk of contamination," Darmos told Apartment Therapy's Brittany Anas.

Instead, buyers and renters may be more drawn to low-rise buildings with a smaller number of units, he said.

2. A greater focus on outdoor space

The coronavirus will likely make personal outdoor space in luxury apartment buildings even more coveted, Mark Ellwood previously reported for Business Insider.

Interior designer Clodagh told Ellwood that she'd been trying to convince one of her New York City-based clients to make better use of his lavish apartment's rooftop terrace for years, but it was only after the pandemic hit that he asked her to turn it into a more functional family space rather than just a space for occasional entertaining. 

Sybille Zimmermann, the founder of Los Angeles-based architecture firm Studio Zimmermann, told Apartment Therapy that the pandemic has made it even more clear that people need to be able to spend time in nature, and that it's safest to do so at home.

3. Nature will be brought inside via living walls and herb gardens

This desire for nature will likely extend to elements like vegetable and herb gardens and living walls in building lobbies, Texas-based designer Melissa Morgan told Ellwood.

"It's not about being a self-sustaining prepper," Morgan said. "But it's a combination of needing to go to the grocery store less often, and how everyone found themselves cooking, even people who usually had a chef." 

4. A move toward nature-inspired paint colors

The drive to incorporate nature in design will even extend to paint colors, according to Dee Schlotter, a senior color marketing manager for PPG Paints.

This is called "biophilic" interior design, or design that mimics nature, which can come in the form of paint colors that give the impression of being outside in nature, Schlotter told Architectural Digest.

"These colors promote internal peace in an age where mental and physical well-being are critical," Schlotter said.

 

5. Practicality over pure aesthetics

Forget marble bathrooms: lavish pantries and laundry rooms may become the new hot-ticket amenities.

Adam Meshberg, a Brooklyn-based interior designer and architect, told Ellwood that the Pinterest boards his clients send him have shifted from opulent, aspirational spaces to more practical features like laundry rooms and closets.

"There are more useful concepts, rather than just pretty pictures — instead of a beautiful marble bathroom, it's more storage solutions and closets," Meshberg said.

He said his clients are suddenly thinking about large pantries, as people are cooking at home more and going to the grocery store less often. 

6. Copper surfaces and 'sanitizing sieves:' a surge in health-oriented design

The coronavirus pandemic has made people more aware of their health, and that could extend to the very surfaces their home is built of.

More home materials and surfaces will be antibacterial and antimicrobial, according to both Clodagh and Meshberg.  

Meshberg told Ellwood that he suggests his clients look into a man-made alternative to stone called Porcelanosa's Krion, which is hard-wearing and stays clean. There's also copper, which he says is a natural germ-fighting surface.

Clodagh said she's a fan of a "sanitizing sieve" that's meant to be put in the entryway of an apartment building or large home.

"It's an art piece that you can walk through, like a stone circle, which mists water like you'd find on the street in Las Vegas — and as you walk through, it sanitizes," she said. "It could be quite beautiful."

7. A rise of rentable space in luxury high-rises

With suburban homes or townhomes looking more appealing than dense high-rises, some developers will likely pivot to converting condos into rental units, as the New York Times reported.

About 20% of the space in luxury condominium buildings are typically rentable, but that will likely dramatically increase due to the coronavirus, Meshberg predicts.

Some of that additional rentable space might come in the form of self-contained workspaces, Meshberg told Ellwood.

"It's going to be almost like micro-offices you can lease, so you can feel like you're leaving your apartment but still have an office within your building," he said.

8. Touch-free elevators and UV disinfection

As Laura Bliss recently reported for Bloomberg, residents of high-rise buildings are using toothpicks, lighters, and fingernails to avoid pushing elevator buttons with their bare fingertips.  

In the coronavirus era, new technology like UV disinfection and touch-free systems are likely to become more common in high-rise elevators, Karen Penafiel, the executive director of the National Elevator Industry, told Bloomberg.

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