Uniformity in Condo Design Is There Value in Variation?

Here in the Garden State, the uniformity of condo exteriors is mind-numbing, with the vast majority seemingly identical. Typically, they feature tedious, monochromatic curb appeal, void of color or creative material elements. Within these buildings stand matching, cookie-cutter individual units and living spaces.  As condo prices increase, stylized variations slowly emerge, with features like expressive grays and bronze, custom-designed elements in the landscaping, and striking illumination. 

Frequently, association rules require uniformity. Maintenance and modernization may influence color tones, but uniformity is predictable, even among luxury properties. Although far from optically stimulating, this is not poor practice according to developers and designers. After all, few residents want to wake up one morning and discover a neighboring unit painted purple…especially given how property value is hugely influenced by color and design conformity. For instance, purple is difficult to sell. Beige is safe and timeless. Brick is solid. 

According to experts, color is much more than just a decorative tool. The importance of the psycho-physiological effects of color, and the relationship between visual ergonomics (design and color placement that provides the best sight conditions for locating specifics) and using the environment comfortably and color, are part of how an environment influences the well-being of residents.  

“Exterior color has been making a huge difference in multi- and single-family housing for some time,” says James Martin, president of The Color People, an architectural color consultation firm. “Color is becoming key to property values for condos and HOAs. In some condo communities, people want to feel comfortable and conservative, and in others, residents don’t want to feel that way. I’ll ask the clients how they want to feel and go from there. A building can look a little more fresh and up-to-date, and you can do that with color. You also keep your property value higher by looking up-to-date.” 

Dr. Jasmine Martirossian, Ph.D, the author of “Decision Making in Communities: Why Groups of Smart People Sometimes Make Bad Decisions,” says most trouble comes from homeowners who buy in, then want changes. Dr. Martirossian has interviewed thousands of subjects during her career and studies, and works in condominium governance and group dynamics, as well. 

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