Uncommon Spaces Updating Common Areas Adds Value to Buildings

Many professionals recommend a simple start for cost-conscious renovations, changing things over a period of time, and then keeping up with maintenance—a sort of rolling renovation approach for staying up to date and functional.

First impressions being what they are, designers know it’s best to begin with areas that look old and tired—especially upon entry. For Mary A. Wilczynski and Elise Irish, owners of Spec’s Design Group, Springfield, Massachusetts, the process graduates, literally, to “Lights! Action!” They examine indoor and outdoor spaces for appearance, lighting and usefulness.

Lisa Goodman, of Lisa Goodman Design in Sharon, Massachusetts, encourages managers to think positive. “There are great things they can do to make a space just really beautiful,” she says. Goodman advises against drastic makeovers, unless circumstances (a flood or fire) make that necessary. “It’s disruptive, it’s expensive, and it takes a lot of time,” she says.

Marc Maxwell, AIA, of Maxwell Architects LLC, Somerville, Massachusetts, has designed residential common spaces for condominiums and other large occupancy dwellings. When he’s working with a good interior designer and an involved building owner or manager, he’s found the right formula for success. Maxwell has worked on two very different residential areas with the same owner—Parkside Place in Cambridge, where 251 rental units fill an updated 1960s building, and the 376-unit Tremont on the Commons, an upscale Boston condominium that needed an update from its 1980s design. Parkside and Tremont’s differences are fundamental, dictated not only by resident lifestyles, but community surroundings. (You can view images from both locations at and click to ‘residential.’)

Time Equals Change

Over the life of a building, needs change. “Sometimes a different age group kind of builds within a residence, and you have to look at who is living in the building now—not who might live in it later, or once did,” Goodman says. For a small investment, managers can make a big start with new paint and lighting.


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