The Return of the Lobby

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The Return of the Foyer

As the pandemic has changed the way many of us live in our homes, potential buyers are increasingly interested in a dedicated area near the front door where masks, coats, shoes and boots are dumped and packages are deposited and groceries are stored under Words can be quarantined just to shake off the outside world.

In response, some developers and builders are rethinking or revising their floor plans to include a foyer.

"Before Covid, buyers wanted the feel of big open spaces, big open kitchens and open living rooms," said Matthew Muller, construction director and builder at Glacier Equities, who is doing extensive home renovation projects across the city. especially in the Bronx and Queens. "I've always thought of it as a kind of floor plan where you go to the kitchen, toss your keys on the counter, take off your jacket and shoes, and start your evening."

But now, continued Mr. Müller, "the idea of ​​getting off the subway or getting off an Uber and throwing your keys on the kitchen counter just doesn't sound right anymore." Buyers have announced their priorities and that "has led us to make design changes and architectural changes in the middle of the river," he said.

Prior to the pandemic, Glacier often moved the front cabinet from its traditional location, generally perpendicular to the front door, and instead made it parallel to the front door. This was the preference of the clientele, because then "the closet door wasn't the first thing they saw and the connection to the rest of the apartment was improved," said Müller.

Now, if possible, his construction teams moved the front closet into the hallway a few feet from the front door and held it in a vertical position. They also install a ceiling light and lay floors that are different from the hardwood that paves the rest of the apartment, maybe tile or stone, "to create a sense of separation," said Müller. "It's an airlock between the hallway and the rest of the house."

At 450 Warren, a Gowanus Brooklyn condo slated for completion this summer, each of the 18 units has a small piece of covered outdoor space with a built-in bench right on their doorstep.

"This was before Covid and we dipped our toes into the idea of ​​a foyer," said Sebastian Mendez, co-founder of Tankhouse, the design development firm behind 450 Warren.

Covid had just met when Tankhouse completed the purchase of its next lot, 219 Jay Street, a 13-story condominium project in downtown Brooklyn that is scheduled to break the ground later this year.

"When we were designing the new building, we had to decide whether to explore the foyer idea further," said Mendez. "The pandemic made us think that we were not only moving in the right direction, but that we needed to maximally increase their size and make them a key element of the project." Each of the development's 27 units will have a foyer, in this case an angular covered outdoor area of ​​100 to 200 square feet that will be furnished with a bench that can serve as a terrace.

Granted, for some in the industry, the foyer is just another word for a waste of space. “The developers ask the architects to use every square centimeter as efficiently as possible, to pack as much as possible. In this way, the architect minimizes or clears the foyer, ”said Whitney Kraus, director of architecture and planning at Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing, which offers services such as location analysis and market research for housing developments. "However, based on everyone's experience over the past year, we firmly believe that it is very important for buyers to have a transition zone where they can take off their shoes and drop off their packages."

Developers and design teams reacted accordingly, "because they experienced the pandemic together with everyone else," said Ms. Kraus. Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing advises condominium developers on the Upper East Side, Gramercy and the Upper West Side "to ensure that each apartment has a defined foyer".

Once a building is under construction, the developers are pretty well tied to a floor plan. If a foyer wasn't part of the concept in the beginning, design elements can be a fix. "Since Covid, people have been trying to separate the 'drop off area' from the main part of their home," said Manuella Moreira, an interior designer from Danbury, Conn.

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Ms. Moreira worked with a married couple who bought a three bedroom apartment in TriBeCa in the early days of the pandemic. The elevator opens directly into the long hallway of the apartment. The wardrobe is far down in the corridor to the actual apartment opposite the dining area. "That might not have been a problem before Covid, but it is now," said Ms. Moreira. "My customers don't want to keep items outside near their food or in the main area of ​​the apartment so we can bring the locker closer to the entrance."

To make the corridor appear more like a foyer than a passage, Ms. Moreira adds wallpaper and wall mirrors and changes the lights.

"With Covid, having a foyer is really a security measure," said Corey Kingston, the owner of Le Whit, a design studio with offices in New York and Seattle. When a couple recently bought two apartments in a building on the High Line, Ms. Kingston was accused of carving out a foyer.

She uses the common hallway that her customers bought to connect the units. "We're going to be tiling the floor and leaving the room free so it can take food or restaurant deliveries, a decision made largely because of Covid," Ms. Kingston said.

"Before the pandemic, no one imagined that they would leave their food untouched for hours and put on all of this protective material," she added. "Creating an area where anything that can happen has become very important."

It's a balancing act, said Mr. Miller, from Glacier Equities. "At the end of the day, even during Covid, this is still New York City and people have 700 to 800 square feet with mom and dad and two kids," he said. "You need to figure out how to create this transition zone without taking up space in the rest of the apartment."

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