The SR/A team is keen on keeping an eye on various publications to analyze the undercurrents and anticipate trends for the foreseeable future. As 2018 is underway, we see some interesting tendencies, not all favorable to the design industry, but interesting nonetheless.

 

Office Buildings Are Coming Alive

It has been several years that the vacancy rate in the office buildings is higher than commercial developers would like, with no predictable change in the short term. So, we are now seeing the old blank, impersonal and empty buildings being reinvented. Landlords are using the successful program of the multifamily industry to revamp typically dreary office buildings. Core amenities are being added to serve the entire building (gyms, pools, roof tops or terraces, courtyards, refreshment centers, coffee bars, game rooms, etc). Or the amenities are added on the remaining empty floors, while the available square footage around is being divided to accommodate smaller enterprises and startups. For years, quality of life amenities have been utilized in living environments as a sales tool to attract millennials. Having been a part of this successful approach, SR/A is excited to see that commercial office developers and owners are waking up and integrating these same types of amenities into the work environment.

 

Urban Self-Storage Units Are Cash Cows

Another direction landlords are finding attractive is to reinvent their older, class B and C office buildings, is to transform them into self-storage units. Minimal investment, minimal headache, maximum return. In fact, storage net generating income is up to above 12% in some case. Not to mention that with the new urban living units being designed smaller and smaller, the self-storage annex is recession proof, in other words, a steady investment. Some of those older office buildings are also being converted to hotels and multifamily projects. Conversions are not new to SR/A, as we have been part of revamping many projects, and we look forward to sharing our know-how with landlords.

 

Industrial Development To Become Appealing Investment

Multifamily projects have long been considered the best real estate investment in the DMV but this year we are seeing the industrial development competing for the 1st place in term of ROI. It makes sense when you consider how many multifamily units have been delivered in the last few years, and how difficult and expensive it is to find urban land on which to build a 200-unit project. A less obvious point is that technology-based industries such as e-commerce and distribution centers are generating a lot more demand for large industrial buildings. Warehousing is changing with the height increase of the automated handling of the packages. Cold and safe storage and data centers are on the rise and demand is only starting. We can expect it to grow exponentially before the trend shifts, making those industrial buildings a steady and safe investment.

 

Opportunity Zones Program

Born from the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this provision allows for the raising of capital in communities said to be distressed and therefore qualify as “opportunity zones”. It is designed to compensate for the expected rise of the interest rate, which will make investing in areas of poor economy much harder, and give tax incentives to developers investing in these “opportunity zones.” Governors are now designating these areas within their state. Mostly likely these zones will be located at the corner of rural and suburban, with limited urban. Investors will be able to raise capital through the special opportunity fund and receive as much as 15% tax break on the capital gains. This will include commercial real estate, manufacturing, infrastructure and businesses. However, this is a new program in its early stages and we’ll have to wait and see how it develops and grows.

 

Sabine Roy is the President and CEO of SR/A Interior Architecture and Design. Sabine and her husband, Sean Saidi, Principal at SR/A, reside in Maryland with their reclusive cat Phisy and their gregarious dog Margot.

If your office is anything like ours, the 2018 Winter Olympics are a hot topic around the metaphorical office water cooler. Seeing each country walk into the opening ceremony, proudly waving their often brightly colored and highly patterned flags reminded us of the beautiful patchwork of color, texture and design that makes up all the cultures of our world. This inspired the SR/A team to look further into each of our own heritages. Each team member was tasked with selecting a finish material or design item that reminded them of their personal country of heritage. The results? We give our team a 10 out of 10 for creativity, but check out the selections below and you be the judge!

 

Guinea

Brendan Horman, Certified Interior Designer

This striped fabric from Maharam reminds me of colorful textiles found throughout West Africa. The combination of several bright colors all together in one pattern, plus the silky texture make this fabric something very similar to what you would see used in traditional Guinea dress.

Germany

Lyle Ganz, Associate

When I think of Germany the first thing that comes to mind is lederhosen. Though today we consider lederhosen festival attire, it was actually once traditional workwear in Germany. These two fabrics from Maharam with their rich earth colors are very reminiscent of what you would see used for this traditional German garb.

Ireland

Jennie Crouch, Certified Interior Designer & Brand Coordinator

Though I’ve never been, Ireland in my mind is a country with beautiful green fields and rolling hills. This shag rug from Jaipur invokes that lush landscape. I also think of the famous song “When the Irish Eyes are Shining.” When my Irish grandmother turned 100 several years ago, we played this song at her birthday celebration. The metallic effect of these tiles from Brilliant Surfaces could just as easily be a twinkle in a Irish eye.

United Kingdom

Abigail Youngstrom, Staff Designer

This Persian Cowhide Rug is designed, made and assembled by a vendor in the United Kingdom. I chose this piece because I love the way that the classical themes and formal subject matters are used in unexpected ways to create a sense of wonder.

Scotland

Jessica Whitehurst, Design Intern

I selected two tartan-inspired textiles in dark blue – the color of the Scottish flag. The blue, yellow and black plaid from Stroheim feels more traditional, while the navy and gold metallic from Lebatex resembles a plaid in a more modern variation.

Wales

Jessica Watts, Associate

I chose material selections inspired by the national flag. If you look closely, the black and white wallpaper from Flavor Paper has a modern dragon motif and the other materials, including green and white wallpaper from Bradley, rich red fabrics from Architex and Kvadrat and patterned tile from Fireclay, reflect the colors and spirit of the vibrant flag.

Wales

Maddy Owens, Marketing Intern

The country of Wales is said to contain more castles per square mile than any other country in the world, which is why I selected this tile from Pantheon. It reminds me of the plethora of stone work you’ll see across the country. This green velvet from Maxwell reminds me of the mountains that also make up Wales’ landscape. The texture of the fabric also brings to mind the elegance of the noble families who resided in Wales’ castles.

Iran

Sean Saidi, Principal

I am inspired by the bold strokes and rich history of Islamic and Persian architecture which can be found throughout Iran. This scallop tile from Fireclay reminds me of those graceful shapes and forms. The bold green and red fabrics from Maharam represent the Iranian flag. I also had to mention this antique copper food warmer which we have on display at La Collection. It brings to mind memories of traditional family feasts.

France

Sabine Roy, President & CEO

The colors of my birth country’s flag are represented as vibrant hues in these felt wall panels from Turf Designs. We discovered this vintage Marianne medallion at an antique show and I fell in love. The hints of gold, all but worn off, give an air of glamour to this beautiful representation of France’s national symbol.

 


 

 

 

 

I have always been fascinated by sea containers and the flexibility of function they offer. But it is not until 5 or 6 years ago that I started to see containers used in temporary structures. The first container conversion project I came across  was in Les Halles in Paris. There was a monumental project to excavate the heart of Paris and rebuild it to Les Halles Construction Site Photo Credit: Untapped Cities by Michelle Younghost underground malls, parking, new metro lines, etc. In an area as congested and expensive as Les Halles, there was no place to set-up the infamous construction trailers that always line up on a construction site. The architects abandoned the traditional trailers and instead bet on sea containers. Stacked up high to house all the trades working on the gigantic project, 10 containers wide and 5 containers high, the construction “village” was impressive. The containers were installed at various angles to create balconies and overhangs, stairs were attached on both ends and men in hard hats were running up and down, as comfortable as they would have been in a concrete building.

The next time I saw a container “village” was at the site of the new Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. It is typical to use one’s own citizens to build an embassy, but the problem is always housing this work force. At the Chinese embassy the problem was solved by stacking up sea containers 20 long by 6 high. A mezzanine ran along the front elevation at each level and, again, stairs were mounted on both ends. Very easy, quick and affordable. The whole complex was built in 3 days and later taken apart and moved out in 2 days.

So we know how to build with containers. It is effective, inexpensive, rapidly erected and the resource is nearly limitless. In a high traffic port like Baltimore, Md. one can easily find a used 40ft container for under $2,000. It has a complete structure, is generally water-proof or easily made water-proof, and the electric power, drainage, Koby Cottage by Garrison Architectswindows, etc. are all fairly easy to install. At the same level of finishing, a brick and mortar house of the same size could reach $60K to $80K in construction costs – the savings become quite considerable, quite fast.

So the question I wonder always is why are containers not used more for temporary housing (after floors, fires, earthquakes, war zones, etc)? In a time when the government is withdrawing funds from affordable housing, why are architects not looking at containers for the base structure of affordable housing? How about homeless shelters? Student housings? Retail stores? And more, so much more…

Containers can be made visually appealing with paints and/or classing and turned into an attractive house or office. At such a savings, it is hard to understand why people are not flocking to containers to build just about anything. Europeans are not shy about it, and have been very create with the finishes and architecture of containers. How much longer will it take for the American and Canadian designers and architects to see the potential?

 

Sean Saidi is a Principal at SR/A Interior Design. Sean has enjoyed a 40+ year career in architecture and design, with projects spanning the United States, Europe and the Middle East. 

Our Throwback Thursday videos are all about introducing you to the extraordinary antique and vintage items in our gallery. Each piece has a fascinating history and we hope you enjoy learning about it as much as we do!

 

You hear it again and again – Join a professional organization! Attend a networking event! In your head you’re thinking, but I’m not looking for a new job, why should I spend my precious free time networking and exchanging business cards?

News Flash – there are TONS of reasons professional organizations are worthwhile! But in the essence of time, here are my top four…

4. Exploring Your City

Typically, professional organizations will hold their events in a variety of locations to try to appeal to members located in different neighborhoods or areas of the city. If you are a person who loves to try out new restaurants, breweries, hotel bars, or whatever the venue this is great news for you! At each event you get to check out a new hot spot in town without having to make any reservations or plans on your own.

3. Keeping in Touch

You’re thinking, isn’t this networking? The answer is no. I’m not talking about making new connections here, I’m talking about keeping old ones. It’s no secret the design industry in DC is a small one. You really don’t know how many people you already know in the industry until you attend an event. I’m constantly running into past co-workers, former professors and industry acquaintances. Professional organization events are a great way to keep up with these people on the fringes of your social circle. If you are nervous about not knowing anyone at a professional networking event, don’t be. Odds are you’ll know someone else there before you walk in the door.

2. Committing to Your Industry (and company!)

“Hi, I’m so and so and I work at so and so company.” Making the effort to stay involved in a professional organization isn’t just a benefit to you but also your company. Every name tag with your company name on it or contact list with your company email is free advertising for your company. An employer appreciates seeing that you are not only committing to being deeper involved in your industry, but that your effort is reflecting positively on the company as well and who knows where that might lead?

1. Growing Your Professional (and Life) Skills

Professional organizations are completely volunteer run. Do you think those awesome events, wacky fundraisers and packed trade shows plan themselves? Let me tell you, they don’t. Joining a committee is an easy way to kill two birds with one stone – 1) you automatically meet people in the organization and 2) you get to brush up on those rusty event planning, fundraising or other life skills you haven’t used in awhile. Professional organizations need help putting together outreach campaigns, connecting with students, planning events, and lots more. Each organization is always looking for volunteers! Contributing a couple hours a month to a committee is completely worth the benefit and who knows what skill (be it professional, life or leadership) you’ll develop?

 

Jennie Carman is a Certified Interior Designer & Brand Coordinator at SR/A. She served as Director of Programming for the NEWH DC Chapter in 2016, and has been an active member of the organization since 2014.

 

40% of Americans made New Year’s resolutions this year, according to a recent article in The Washington Post, and I’d bet a lot of those resolutions involved going to the gym. Have you ever considered how the design of your gym influences your experience there? Is it warm and invited? DO you feel motivated walking into the space, or does it feel cold and sterile? In multifamily buildings, in particular, the fitness center can often be overlooked in the building’s design, but it’s also one of the most heavily used amenities within the building. SR/A prides itself on making sure this often-forgotten space is one that encourages, invites and, perhaps most important, sells to prospective residents.

Here’s a round up of some of our favorite fitness center designs from past multifamily projects…

 

The Apartments at Cobblestone Square – Fredericksburg, Virginia

For this conversion project, our design capitalized on the existing architecture. The bold silhouette graphic draws the eye upward, emphasizing the impressive height of the space. This fitness center feels both homey and inviting.

 

 

Bainbridge Apartments at Shady Grove Metro – Gaithersburg, Maryland

The random floor tile pattern adds an unexpected design feature into this suburban building’s fitness center. It is a good example of how a small (and cost effective) design element can have a big impact within a space.

 

 

Avalon Potomac Yard (Formerly The Alric) – Alexandria, Virginia

A photographic mural ties together the two levels of this two-story fitness center. Including a loft space allows for greater separation between fitness activities – machines are all located on the lower level enabling the upper level to be reserved for yoga, Pilates or more restorative fitness activities.

 

 

Cameron Court – Alexandria, Virginia

This yoga room was designed as a soothing and relaxing space, separate from the complex’s fitness center. Wooden screens and sheet draperies allow plenty of natural light to penetrate the space, while still creating an intimate lounge used pre- and post- workout.

 

 

Dock 79 – Washington, DC

A wall graphic featuring work from graffiti artist, Tristan Eaton, adds urban sophistication to the fitness center in this building located on the SE Riverfront. Stepping away from the usual typographical murals in fitness centers can be a breath of fresh air for prospective residents.

 

There are two things that I love most in life: Good design, and craft beer. Design is my profession, and beer is my hobby. However, as much passion as I hold for each, they often fall into both categories.

There are many times at my desk when I lose track of time because of how wrapped up I am in some of the architectural details I feel the need to perfect for our projects. I enjoy smoothing out design wrinkles wherever possible, and sometimes it doesn’t occur to me that I’m at work. As they say, “find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Similarly (or perhaps conversely) with craft beer, I take what should be a beverage made for relaxation and recreation, and nearly turn it into a job! I always strive to taste new beers rather than drink the same old thing. When I find a new one, I write a detailed review and compare it to other brews I’ve tried. I travel out-of-state to track down rare beers that aren’t distributed to Maryland, or aren’t distributed outside of their respective breweries at all! Alas, there are only so many hours in a day to enjoy one or the other, so I find myself frequently asking how I can combine these two passions. My past personal projects include a stylized chalk mural inspired by a seasonal beer that I display on my beer fridge, a collection of limited-release and hear-to-get bottles, and most recently some pendant lamps made from said bottles.

As SR/A has evolved over the years, and we explore avenues outside our usual multifamily residential niche, I don’t see why our next specialty couldn’t be brewpubs and breweries. The idea of designing a brewpub would be an exciting new challenge for us that I feel we are more than equipped to take on. to have a hand in the process of developing a space where people come together to support their local craft brewers would be an absolute dream come true for someone like me. I’m excitedly looking forward to making this possibility a reality, so if anyone out there knows a brewer who wants an awesome public space from their brewery, please send them our way!

Brendan Horman is an Interior Designer at SR/A, and is the latest staff member to earn his NCIDQ certification. He has too many favorite breweries to list here, but will never turn down an imperial stout. 

Nothing is ever all black or all white and 2017 was just that, a mix of good and not so good. My lasting impression of the 2017 is somewhat morose. On the business side, we saw concerning changes occurring in the market.  There was a decline in multi-family new construction projects compared to prior years, RFPs did not pop up in the same numbers and bids were fought fiercely. Many of our clients were under tremendous pressure from their investors and the marketplace, which in turn challenged us to continue delivering stunning designs while contending with lower budgets and more restrictions. On a personal level, there were too many sicknesses, hospitalizations and losses. In many ways it was a hard, heartbreaking year.

On the other hand, we do have a lot to be thankful for, and I am grateful for all the good that happened in 2017. The SR/A team had two wonderful weddings and two of our staff earned their NCIDQ certifications. I started painting which has been a long-time dream. We renovated half of our house, found new friends, reconnected with old friends. In the gallery, we met new artists, new clients, started the consignment program and the gallery took a fun direction towards local artists. I’m excited to share that La Collection is on path to be showing 100% original art in 2018. We now have a strong presence on social media via LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram and saw an increase in sales on our Etsy and Chairish stores. There has been a lot of forward movement this year and that is wonderful.

I am hopeful for 2018. If we do not go to war with North Korea, if the Stock Market does not crash and if the Middle East does not explode, it looks like it can be a good year. The gallery will continue to grow and show local artists as well as new concepts. The ID firm will look to expand its reach into new areas of design, such as hospitality and senior living, and new regional markets, along with our traditional DC-area multi-family new constructions and renovations. We will keep on giving back through our pro bono work and addressing the affordable housing crisis. So yes, in many ways I am glad to see 2017 behind us, but I am also excited and positive to move forward into 2018 and all the possibilities it brings.

Wishing all a cozy and happy holidays and a…

Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

 

Sabine Roy is the President and CEO of SR/A Interior Architecture and Design. Sabine and her husband, Sean Saidi, Principal at SR/A, reside in Maryland with their reclusive cat Phisy and their gregarious dog Margot.