Back To Resources

Recent Articles

Considerations for an Effective Outdoor Commercial Design

Read Now

Open Range Brings Exteriors In-House

Read Now

The Charles Project: Setting the Mood with a Clear Vision

Read Now
Apr. 22, 2024

What It Takes To Be Great, Outdoors

Written by Belle Kurudzija - Head of Commercial Design

The outdoor spaces of a successful multi-family project go far beyond simple curb appeal. Well-designed, thoughtful outdoor designs serve as an extension of the interior, providing residents with space beyond their unit to commune with nature and entertain guests, without feeling like they’re in a fishbowl.

Achieving that vision is a collaborative process between the developer, who serves as the primary client, the landscape team, and the design team. Our initial conversations are driven by the needs of the project’s target audience, industry trends (which we’ll get into a little later!), and the available outdoor spaces in the design. As we all know, success doesn’t occur on its own, so we thought it might be helpful to outline our process and demonstrate how it drives collaboration between project partners.

Setting Your Commercial Project Up for Success

Planning for exteriors can be tricky, as execution tends to occur during the later stages of the project, once other details have fallen into place. This can make landscape planning and furniture allocation challenging, in that we don’t know exactly what items to buy, and how much. To help combat that, our most successful outdoor designs are a highly collaborative, communicative process between the developer, landscape team, and our commercial design team. Starting as early as the architectural design phase, we want to be meeting with this team to align on priority spaces, scope, budget, and design preferences. One of the key benefits of this exercise: getting all partners on the same page so that we can all work towards creating a space that feels full and inviting, without coming off as crowded.

Once our broader team is on the same page in terms of overall feel and expectations, and our design team wraps its arms around the target audience and what they need, we do a little research to understand how similar, award-winning projects are using their spaces, and what buyers/renters in this audience are truly looking for. We capture those initial ideas in renderings, which demonstrate how each space functions with adjacent spaces and helps our partners image what could be. While we’re knee-deep in research and ideation among our commercial design team, the partners on the landscape side are busy taking a first stab at the landscape plan.

Our goal in the partnership with the landscape team is to find the fine line between collaborating, while also staying in our lane and allowing the expert in each space to drive, when appropriate. For that reason, our team loves it when the landscape partner takes a first stab at the overall site map so that our team can effectively design in between. When we arrive at a clear vision for our design, we share that preliminary thinking with the landscape team, our primary goal being the desire to present as a united front during our next meeting with the client.

Sharing a Well-Defined Vision with the Client

This next meeting with the client is really about validating the (hopefully correct!) assumptions on the designs: how we marry and reconcile the various outdoor spaces with one another and the interior, serve the needs of the audience, and how best to steward the ever-evolving budget. We love doing these meetings alongside the landscape team, helping us to ensure the designs not only support but elevate one another. Each of us - the developer, landscape team, and design team - view the project from a different lens, so our collaboration is not just 1+1+1=3. Bringing these varied perspectives together changes the math - 1+1+1=10!

Once the team is aligned on the design, my commercial designers work with the landscape team on an implementation plan - essentially, we decide who will do what. While we’re plugging away on furniture and fabric selections, the landscape designers are focused on the plant selection. Throughout that process, we’re constantly communicating and providing feedback so that the designs complement one another. For instance, does this fabric work well with that plant? Does the furniture play off of the height and density of the shrubs? Once we’re happy with the approach, we like to schedule another team meeting with the client where again, designs are presented alongside one another. At this point in the design process, the client should have a very holistic sense of how everything is coming together.

Wanna learn how all of this comes together? Stay tuned for part 2 in our outdoor design series.