When you hear “third place,” your mind might jump to the Olympics, or, say, your elementary school spelling bee. But what if the term actually held the key to creating a successful multifamily or off-campus community people want to call home?
Sociology professor Ray Oldenburg coined the concept of a third place in 1989 — defining it as a place that isn’t home (the first place) or work (the second place) but is a “neutral ground” that promotes conversation as the main pastime. Other activities are more than welcome in these kinds of spaces, though — like sharing food, or playing games with friends!
The third place could be somewhere like a coffee shop or park — a place that’s easy to access and convene in, with a laidback, friendly atmosphere. (Now, you’re starting to realize why so many of your favorite sitcom friend groups regularly gather in a café, bar, or diner, right?)
While the concept of a third place has existed for more than three decades, it makes sense why you might be hearing more about it these days. With countless people working or studying from home over the past few years — and many of those remote arrangements continuing on a permanent or hybrid basis — many may feel like they’ve lost the built-in reason to visit their preferred third place, as they aren’t leaving home as often.
But there is an upside. If you are opening or remodeling a multifamily community or off-campus student complex, you have the unique opportunity of crafting a third place for your future residents! From amenity-packed community clubhouses, to vibrant outdoor gathering areas, third places don’t just serve as attractive perks for potential renters — they actively improve society, too.
So, what might go into a third place in your multifamily or student community? Here are just a few potential options to consider.
Comfy Sofas & Community Seating
From overstuffed sofas to breezy, resort-style hammocks, your third place — whether it be inside, outside, or both — should be appointed with fun, stylish furniture that invites residents to kick back and relax! As residents tour the property before potentially moving in, these features will prove that your multifamily community is just that — a community! — and not just a complex of individual apartments, where renters are limited to the amenities they have in their specific unit.
Let’s face it — we’re all kids at heart. Your third place is the perfect opportunity to give residents a chance to unwind and have some fun. This might mean anything from a movie theater, to a gaming room, to ping-pong table... you name it!
You’ve probably heard the expression about “leaving a light on” — aka, letting your loved ones know that you’re home and available to see them! The same idea applies to the community clubhouse. During operating hours, the right lighting can beckon residents in as they pass by or even get their mail — turning a seemingly mundane around-the-house errand into an opportunity for friends and laughter.
Signs Of Life
To give your third place that welcoming, lived-in quality even after the lease-up period, consider incorporating elements like houseplants, a community bulletin board, magazines, board games, and other small but impactful touches that remind residents: life is happening here, and you can be a part of it!
You can’t go wrong with a classic, cozy fireplace — or, outside, fire pit — to create a familiar vibe in your community clubhouse!
Layout, Layout, Layout
In real estate, they say that “location, location, location” is the most important factor — and while that definitely holds true in our experience, we’d also argue that “layout, layout, layout” is equally important when it comes to crafting a third place. As much as a community gathering space should be about big, welcoming furniture, it should also be arranged in a way that invites people to stop in and say “hi” to a friend, or to plop down for a conversation around a perfectly crafted seating nook.
Many otherwise lovely community clubhouses may inadvertently steer residents away from the so-called third place, simply due to awkwardly arranged furniture or other barriers (like the living space being tucked away at the end of a long hallway). Fortunately, Mood doesn’t just deal with staging your space with beautiful furniture — we also help you chart out the perfect floorplan for your unique property! One that effortlessly fosters that sense of belonging.
We hope that these ideas help you realize the power of a third place in your one-of-a-kind community. Now that you understand the importance — and opportunity! — of such a space, let Mood Interior Designs help you craft it. Our turnkey team of passionate design professionals can guide you through every step of the process, from conducting research on the most popular amenities in your area, to taking care of FF&E ourselves! Just contact us today to learn more.
From the comfort of the air conditioned inside - outside is so pretty, spacious and full of fresh air adventures. When warm weather rolls in, cooped up residents start spending time out and about, slathering themselves in sunscreen and bug spray and plunking ping pong balls into red solo cups of warm beer. So how do property teams dust off the outdoor furniture to accommodate these warm weathered activities?
Outdoor amenity spaces don’t have to dominate the entire CapEx budget - but they often look like they do. Who doesn’t want to enjoy a poolside lounger that feels upscale and relaxed. But small design details, like hanging bistro lights on pergolas or branding cornhole boards can help refresh the space.
The design and upkeep of any outdoor amenity space is a big responsibility for the property management team. Weather is no friend to FF&E, and yet - with the help of commercial designers that understand the importance of finish and fabric selections, procuring for outdoor spaces doesn't have to be an annual event.
Question of the day: Will your outdoor amenity furniture live beyond the summer? Below are 3 design tips that will ensure your outdoor furniture thrives for many summers to come.
1. Fabrics & Finishes
Outdoor spaces demand both style and durability. Design is critical, but those designs must last through the heavy use and rigorous weather that outdoor spaces require. Fabrics and finishes come in a variety of colors, textures, prints, and brands but not all fabrics and finishes are engineered to the specific challenges of high traffic, open-air environments. Interior Designers work with their vendors to bring beautiful, soft and durable textiles to busy outdoor spaces.
2. Clean and Durable
Although high-quality outdoor furniture won’t grow mold, it can still get dirty. Making sure the furniture is easy to clean is key in keeping the maintenance staff happy. Any dirt or grime that gets on the surface can easily be wiped off with a wet cloth or sprayed down with a standard garden hose.
All outdoor furniture should be stored in an upright position to allow for proper water drainage. Storing furniture upside-down may cause water to accumulate (and in the wintertime, freeze) inside the frame, causing serious structural damage that is not usually covered by warranty.
When procuring FF&E, know your warranties!. Better yet, keep a physical file of warranty information. Full warranties are uncommon with commercial furniture. They are an unlimited product performance guarantee that effectively lasts forever. It’s like a no questions asked policy - which won’t fly in a housing environment.
Limited Warranty are subject to manufacturer determined limits - like a 10-year limited warranty. For example, the standard aluminum frame on a pool lounger has a 5 year warranty - which would cover things like the finish peeling or blistering off. Within the 5 years, the manufacturer would replace, repair, or refinish the frame in the original color and style. Think of how much time and money would be saved at Turn if warranties were engaged!
Outdoor amenity spaces and FF&E can be a beast to manage if you don’t have the right guidance at the procurement stage. If you’re not sure how to budget, design, or refresh your outdoor amenity space, consider consulting with Mood Interior Designs.
As an entrepreneur, my response was to accept the challenge baked into the question and then - build a multimillion-dollar business. Entrepreneurs are funny like that; we see opportunity in places that others walk by without noticing they are in the presence of significant change. We hear doubt as a gentle nudge to explore. So, thank you for those who have suggested I stay small; when the gauntlet of doubt is thrown down at my feet, I am strangely motivated to take a giant step forward. No need to step aside, I’ll find an alternate path to where I am called to go. Mood Interior Designs was born in this way – a mocktail of a good idea, decades of experience, an abundance of faith, and a splash of oh yeah?
As a black woman with no outside funding in the middle of a global pandemic, I identified an underserved market in the commercial housing industry and surrounded myself with hardworking professionals who are eager to jump off the cliff of opportunity with me every day. Mood is comprised of six full time employees spread out around the US and Philippines that put forward a commercial design firm rooted in service.
Mood clients applaud our flexibility and willingness to lead them through the design process with clarity and transparency. Our designs are almost award winning; we’ll have to wait for the judges to vote in 2022.
In a Giving Mood
Together we have exceeded all of our business and financial goals for 2021 while giving 1% of all revenue to our charity partner DonorsChoose.
MOOD: I DON'T KNOW #GenZ
Gen Z comprises an entire generation that seems to be uncomfortable - not knowing. It intrigues me how urgent their need to know can be, especially coming from a generation that collectively rolled our eyes when adults refused to give us the answer to a very simple question and responded with look it up! Unapologetically, Gen Z wants to know the who, the what, the why and the how does that work anyway?
I’m ok with not knowing. Not because I lack curiosity but because I grew up with the answer seeming far away - like in a book on a shelf in a building down the street. I'm practiced at not knowing. And quite honestly, knowing didn't seem worth the walk to the library.
Turns out, I was wrong. Having raised two Gen Z boys - and employ a few Gen Z designers,
have a brand new respect for the art of knowing. I barely wonder out loud before a solution is presented to me. Gen Z with a mix of Millennial and Gen X makes Mood a know-it-all design firm that serves our clients with a confidence only found in a multi-generational organization.
Picture above: Mood's recent clubhouse refresh at Evolve Tuscaloosa brings me such joy!
MOOD: Future of Design Budgets
Mood designs community spaces that cater to Gen X, Y, Z - even Alpha and Boomers. Once reserved largely for big budgets, interior design services are gradually becoming available to almost everyone, thanks to the accessibility and flexibility of design firms like Mood - a trend that will strengthen in the years ahead. There is a solution for every property, at every budget category.
Lori Ann Dinkins, President
I am experiencing fatigue - which is just down the street from exhaustion, around the corner from boredom, and the next town over from WTF.
Mood design leadership is about taking a tired concept, modernizing it, and making it more approachable and personal. Yeah, yeah - what does that have to do with the commercial housing industry? With the state of the world - labor shortages, global supply chain disruptions, lions and tigers and the threat of a bear market, the housing industry is calling audibles which is a terrific opportunity for Mood to step in with a creative solution for the win. Focus, discipline, accountability, consistency - naps, prayer, chocolate.
I spoke with a client the other day who agreed that the pace at which our industry is operating is absolutely next level. We have passed the safety ropes in the pool and are conducting business in the deep end of the ocean.
I’m not sure about your company, but Mood is made up of humans who have a collective desire to win - the project, the award, the attention of a soon-to-be client.
When fatigue sets in - we laugh together, take a long lunch, put The Office on in the background, turn our video off during Zoom calls, send emoji messages in Slack and eventually find ourselves doing what the GOATS do - go get another championship ring. Or in our case, leverage design to help our clients close a deal, a house, or an apartment. Way less sexy, but it’s what we do best.
Lori Ann Dinkins, President
Mood Interior Designs is more than throw pillows and color palettes. Behind every beautiful space is a well-planned budget that factors in everything down to the lightbulb. While establishing a budget isn’t a particularly glamorous task, it is an important skill to master to achieve project profitability and company growth. Because if you didn’t know, most design firms are for-profit businesses - just like yours.
Growth strategies often include the goal to keep profitability consistent. Strangely enough, Mood accomplishes this by not charging design fees. Mood finds fees to be ambiguous at best, and often cause client confusion. We found ourselves explaining - excuse me - defending our fee structure which distracted and depreciated the service we provide. So, we did away with fees altogether in an attempt to help us all keep our eyes on the ball.
What is Mood’s growth and profitability strategy? One of Mood’s values is transparency - so here goes…
Lori Ann Dinkins
President, Mood Interior Designs
A strong, vibrant community requires far more than savvy economic investment and top-down strategic planning. Real community thrives on an organic energy and intent that delivers a set of face-to-face opportunities to connect, share, interact, help and discover. Clubhouses and amenity spaces are critical to successful community building and offer properties a competitive advantage.
Though amenities are considered nonessential, there's no denying that they make life easier and more enjoyable. In today’s world of rapid change, it can be challenging to know which amenities are a flash trend and which provide true value, both for residents as well as investors. And yet, amenities need to be flexible to adapt to changing interests and needs. When implementing an interior design strategy, it is important to ask which amenities bring the most value to residents and investors, and which will enhance the quality of life of the residents and minimize turnover.
With new generations entering the market, housing leadership faces the challenge of stitching together a social fabric that is compelling to residents, making them feel a part of something larger and more enduring. That is why authentic social communities are rising in priorities for amenities. For example, maker spaces are becoming popular. They feature dedicated space, materials, and knowledge-based programming - like gardening basics, bread making, and watercolors.
And retro gaming is playing a big role in amenity entertainment offerings — think full-size arcade game versions of ‘80s and ‘90s-era favorites. Pac Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong - I call, next!
You can immediately identify really good communities by how people use the common spaces. It is the in-between moments and spaces that bind diverse groups of residents, and it is the community that gives a property its distinct character. Common areas are even evolving to include podcasting and recording rooms available to budding musicians, poets, and performers.
Time is finite, making it the ultimate luxury. A wonderful byproduct of community driven amenities is making the residents lives a bit easier, so they have more time to experience life. Housing leadership can do this by bridging the gap between living and working. Communal workspaces for residents may seem like a pandemic driven design decision, but the pandemic only accelerated what was already in the works - allowing for both formal and informal co-working spaces, complete with silent areas and meeting rooms with full conference technology.
Successful communities help us feel a part of something real, integrated, tangible. They deepen and refine our sense of place, bringing out the best in us, and helps us recognize, unquestionably, that we belong. Owners and developers must think carefully about amenities and services that work together in support of a cohesive community.
If you need help strategically designing community inspired amenities, please reach out. Mood’s design team would be happy to host a conversation.
The housing industry is built on margins, and any efficiencies gained or disasters avoided can dictate the underlying success of investments. To thrive in this competitive market, a model home/apartment has to stand out from the crowd. Mood’s design team helps our clients focus on what the future resident/buyer will need to see and feel when they walk through a space to inspire them to sign a lease or make an offer right away.
Buyers and renters - let’s call them visitors for the sake of this article - must be able to visualize themselves living in the space. The overarching goal of a professionally designed and merchandised model is to create a memorable feeling that will last long after the tour has ended.
While some investment is required when merchandising, refreshing or moving-over a model, follow our guide on where to splurge and where to save below. The goal is to create an exciting space that holds visual interest.
Stepping into your model should be an experience. If you're not excited or inspired when you walk through the door, then it's time to shake things up a bit. It’s important to keep your entryway open and spacious to create a better flow - nobody wants to feel cramped the moment they walk in the door. Mirrors work well because they tend to make narrow spaces seem larger and brighter. Adding a few thoughtful touches like baskets for shoes, a tray for keys and a wallet, or hooks to hang a bag or coat will help the visitors visualize the functional use of the entryway.
Save: Throw Pillows and Blankets
Textiles are not only one of the quickest ways to switch up a room’s style, but they’re can also be one of the least expensive. Adding a variety of textures in the throw pillow fabrics—rather than a variety of colors—introduces plenty of visual interest. Textures are also on your side when it comes to blankets. Rather than searching for that perfect color match, work within a family of hues and tones, or gravitate toward bold patterns or geometrical shapes. At the end of the day, just be sure to select items that are cozy and inviting.
Splurge: Wall Art
Always splurge on at least one larger piece that can be the focal point of the room. Oftentimes, a piece that will receive plenty of ooh’s and ahh’s is worth the high price tag. We believe if you are going to splurge on anything, it should be art, particularly art that offers a memory point for your visitors. One good piece of art can make your space unique and elevate the overall style. Plus, it’s something that can easily move from model to model, property to property. Art creates subconscious feelings and associations and can evoke an emotional attraction. When choosing the right art piece, you can make your visitors feel a true connection to your model.
Save: Side Tables
Already smaller than the other furniture in your model, and therefore less expensive, accent tables demand less attention, so you can get away with spending less on them. They are great for layering and there are lots of affordable options out there. Whether your model is modern, eclectic, bohemian, or traditional, choose an inexpensive accent table that matches your space’s mood and no one will ever suspect it came from a big-box retailer.
Splurge: Area Rugs
Because your model is a featured stop on the Tour Path, avoid ending up with a rug that rips, sheds, and fades by investing in a quality rug from the get-go. Area rugs provide comfort, warmth, and decorative interest (color, pattern, texture, etc.). They can act as artwork for the floor, and they can create a frame in which to place furniture and define spaces. Rugs not only tie together a room, but they protect your floors and can be a worthwhile investment in the long run.
Save: Window Treatments
If you’re not decorating a high-end model with custom draperies or tailored curtains, you can easily save a few dollars on window treatments. Most curtains come in a variety of lengths, designs, colors, and thicknesses, so you have countless options to choose from. Curtains are another item that you’ll want to change from time to time, updating your space with new patterns and colors. But regardless of the price tag, make sure to take the time to steam the wrinkles out of your window treatments - we want to save money, we don’t want to look cheap.
Splurge: New Bedding
Bedrooms, especially the primary bedroom, hold a lot of weight in a visitor’s analysis of a model. This is a room where it is especially important to make them feel at home. Something as simple as new bedding can make a world of difference to elevate the mood of a room. Having a bed that looks elegant, cozy, and inviting will spark visitors’ imaginations and make them feel that much more at home in the space.
As you can see, creating the right mood for your model doesn’t need to be expensive. It’s all about knowing where to spend the budget. Mood understands that model design sets the tone of your community and affects how future visitors perceive the rest of the property. The probability that visitors are looking at your competitors is high. Make sure your model stands out in a positive way. Assessing your model appeal doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. Mood Interior Designs would be happy to help. Give us a call, we’d love to hear about your next project!
While the housing industry still struggles with diversity, progress has been made in recent years, and leading property management companies are deeply committed to the goal of inclusivity - both within their own organizations and with respect to the resident for whom they are housing. Current efforts to diversify the talent pipeline ensure a more equitable future.
The power of diversity in our organizations is only as powerful as we are willing to push ambiguity to the side and replace it with a commitment to embrace diversity beyond the About Us page on the company website.
But diversity is not only about race and gender and checking the proverbial boxes; it is the catalyst for innovation, thought leadership, cultural relevance, and creativity. In an industry as universal and entrepreneurial in nature as housing, its persistent sameness is illogical at best, which is why diversity needs to be paired with action.
If we want things to be more diverse, it helps to make diversity more convenient, more accessible. And so enters interior design. Design leaders are seizing opportunities to better narrate the stories of those who are often overlooked or excluded in our spaces.
Suddenly, it’s a lot easier to find a diverse perspective that opens doors and sets a wider standard for what’s traditional - but the question remains, whose tradition? The well-grooved pathways of habit often cause us to choose neutral every time, instead of exploring the vibrant color palette of diversity. All too often, people run out of energy or resolve to do what they know they ought to do, resorting to the easy thing or the practiced thing instead. It never seems like the right time to stop doing what worked and start doing what we said was important in our diversity committee meetings.
In order for spaces to feel more welcoming to those with diverse backgrounds, non-European art and culture ought to be embraced by those designing and approving property interiors. Being inclusive also means considering vulnerable and under-resourced populaces, and being proactive about designing solutions for them. When residents are exposed in a positive way to the different cultural backgrounds of those in their community on a daily basis, it fosters a natural inclination towards inclusion and acceptance of their peers.
Ethnic design is influenced by patterns, motifs and handicrafts from non-industrialised cultures, drawing its ideas from indigenous communities across South America, Africa and Asia. Bohemian design today is about incorporating many different things from different philosophies, parts of the world, and ways of life. The result is an eclectic style that's as diverse as the people who inspire it. Tribal is a blanket term usually applied to crafts from the African continent. Quite often, you will see traditional textiles and patterns being used, such as the Kuba cloth, to denote a tribal aesthetic.
Interior Designers have the talent to fuse personalities, styles and beliefs in a very balanced fashion to incorporate diverse styles like Indian vibrancy, Japanese minimalism, Scandinavian chic, Spanish revival, and Moroccan splendor into a space that will appeal to the flow of future residents walking the tour path.
This forward-looking lens must now be applied as the race to the bottom is brutal, and the only way to avoid it is to create projects, innovate on strategy, and build something worth seeking out. There's a real opportunity to be different, by embracing diversity in design - by leveraging the magic that comes from diversity of opinion, background and aesthetic.
Design is a creative way to foster a deep sense of inclusion in the resident community. There have always been shortcuts to design. But the only true responsibility of the designer is to shape the experience of the interior space, and this action happens when there’s trust involved.
We begin designing for a property or a space to add financial value, but we ultimately design for the resident. As a community, residents long to be noticed, to be cared for, to matter. Designing with diversity in mind benefits all of us, over and over again.
To learn more about how the Mood design team can support your organization's diversity initiative through interior design and vendor partnerships, please reach out directly to Lori Ann Dinkins, President. firstname.lastname@example.org
It makes sense that some investors seek higher class properties to protect their downside in an economic downturn. However, from our vantage point, higher vacancy rates are found in luxury properties during a recession than in workforce housing. The reason is that people need a place to live at all times during the economic cycle, no matter what their financial circumstances. For most people who are going to stay in their general area, the price of rent will be a major factor in determining where they go or why they stay.
Operators of B/C properties can keep their rents low and keep their buildings full during a recession, as workforce renters would generally not be able to afford Class A units. On the other hand, Class A units in the neighborhood may elevate the value of B/C properties. For example, where charging $1.00 to $1.20 per square foot for rent, owners of newly constructed Class A properties need to charge a minimum of $2.50 per square foot to earn a profit. If rents are slightly raised by $.10 or $.20 per square foot, B/C property owners are more than satisfied and still have plenty of headroom before a tenant would compare facilities to the nearby Class A property.
According to the National Association of REALTOR, the demand for multifamily properties, especially class B/C, and rents will likely increase in the next 12 months. The large but temporary loss of jobs in the food service, housekeeping, and personal care industries has an impact on the multifamily market because workers in this sector are more likely to be renters compared to other occupational groups. Class B/C properties that are more affordable will tend to be in higher demand than Class A as households work through improving their financial positions.
From the Interiors perspective, operators who believe they can raise rents by upgrading unit and common area interiors are on the right track - mostly. It’s not possible that every property has the same value-add potential. And working with properties that have been held by the seller for more than five years implies that the seller has a significantly lower cost basis and does not have as much incentive to push rents to the top of the market. On the other hand, sellers who are flipping the property in one to three years are eager to complete upgrades and push rents until a point where there is no more room to grow without the market rising on a macro level. This process requires experienced commercial interior designers to identify what value-add improvements can be made to the interiors of the apartments and community areas in order to bring the rents up to the current market levels.
In an industry built on margins, any efficiencies gained or disasters avoided can dictate the underlying success of investments. Inviting Mood Interior Designs to join our client’s Deal Team when acquiring or evaluating property interiors creates valuable scalability to investors’ return on investment. The initial data points uncovered guide the client’s operational strategies and shape their capital budgets over the duration of the projected hold period.
The operational due diligence investment provides the opportunity to take a deep dive into the static, in-place operations utilized by the existing ownership, distinguish strengths from weaknesses while identifying potential upside. This includes fine tuning assumptions relating to capital improvement projects, tenant improvement allowances, renewal probabilities, preleasing, value-add opportunities, and more.
To learn more about how Mood Interior Designs can help you identify your property’s interiors financial strategy, please email email@example.com. With clients around the country, we've worked with companies of every size, allowing us the versatility and knowledge to serve a diverse array of clients within the housing, corporate, commercial, and hospitality industries.