When you’re thinking about living in an apartment, you don’t have the same ability to change the space around to make it your own, as you might have in a house. This makes it especially important to know what really matters when you are apartment hunting. White Ink Architects specialise in apartment design and here are our Top Tips.
Look at where the windows are, their size and what views you will have. An apartment with windows on two or more walls enhances the interiors by boosting natural light and allowing sunshine inside for more of the day. Floor to ceiling windows really improve how light and airy an apartment will feel. If there are only windows facing one direction, then carefully consider the orientation of the individual rooms and how this will fit with your lifestyle. If it’s facing west you’ll get the best of the evening sun – great if you’re out working during the day and want to come home to a sunny room. South facing may sound ideal as it takes advantage of the midday sun, but some apartments with large windows can overheat if the glass has no solar control, even in N.Ireland. Look at the window cill height. Many of us view apartments whilst standing and don’t realise that you can’t see out when you sit down!
Don’t just look at the apartment – look at the whole building. More recent schemes are arranged around a central landscaped courtyard or have gardens and roof terraces providing valuable communal areas, and peaceful, tranquil spaces if they incorporate carefully selected plants and water features. Private balconies, no matter what size (although often the bigger the better), are great for relaxing and can feel like an extension to your living space. Do consider privacy – check if you might be overlooked by neighbours.
Buying an apartment means you’re sharing a building, and with that comes the increased risk of unwanted noise, even though apartments are designed to meet stringent acoustic standards. Consider what noise generating spaces are located above and below the apartment, such as service entrances, lifts, lobbies, carparks and traffic. Also give some thought to your interior finishes – soft materials, blinds, curtains and carpet all help to absorb sound. Remember – if you have hard finishes the risk of noise is increased for your neighbours below unless acoustic layers are installed below the hard finish.
We all want to live in attractive buildings. As most apartment exteriors are managed jointly by owners, it’s important to realise that materials used in the design will affect the maintenance of the overall scheme and your apartment. Stone and brickwork for example require less maintenance than a rendered external façade which will need repainted. Aluminium powder coated windows will last longer than painted softwood. If the building is existing, the condition of its common areas will tell you a lot about how the building is cared for by residents.
A community spirit helps residents to connect with each other and creates a sense of security too. Check out if the apartment scheme you’re considering has a social media community page, for resident access only, to communicate, organise events etc. As well as the design of your living space and how you use it, the social aspect of apartment living will impact on your enjoyment of your new home.
Owning an apartment means you’ll have to pay a management fee. These funds are used to upkeep the building (not your apartment!) and can include repainting, repairs to communal areas, lighting/electricity in communal areas, lift maintenance, window cleaning, landscapers etc. Find out how much the fees are, when they are paid and what exactly do they cover – Ask yourself if you can afford it! Be aware that the fee may change if the Management Company increases charges. Do some research on the Management Company – ask existing residents how well they perform.
We all want to feel safe and secure in our own home and to minimise the risk of burglary. Before you buy check with the Management Company what security measures are in place in the building – such as intercoms, access control systems, CCTV, manned security service, secure parking and bike storage. Take a look at the lighting in areas where you could possibly be alone ie bin storage areas, parking and stairwells etc. When you’re viewing the apartment check if the apartment has window locks, door locks, peepholes etc. Most importantly ensure that all security systems are working! Once you’ve moved in think about improving, or install your own, security measures in your apartment such as an alarm, extra door locks, lighting on timers etc.
When viewing the apartment check if you can fit blinds or curtains – if there are tilt or opening in windows this may prevent you from putting up a curtain rail. If you’re moving into a brand new apartment check what finishes and appliances are included – and if you have a choice of selection. There may be a show apartment or marketing suite you can visit to view these.
Whilst you’ll be advised to get a survey of the apartment before your sale is agreed, when you’re viewing the apartment make sure you thoroughly inspect each room for cracks, mould, damp etc. Check appliances including heating to ensure they are working. If you’re buying brand new – work with the contractor/developer to ensure any defects are fixed before you move in.
You’ll want your move in day to go as easy as possible. Before you move in consider the logistics of moving in your furniture. If your apartment is on the 5th floor – check if the sofa will fit in the lift. You may have to dismantle some furniture to get it up the stairs. Figure out parking arrangements for your removal van – check if you can park close to the building entrance and if you need permission to do so. Some logistical preparation will help the move go more smoothly.
Do your research, ask questions and visit at different times of the day. With adequate preparation and a critical eye, you can be confident that you’ll find a lovely home.
Brentford Lock West Phase 2, London | Photographer: Simon Kennedy | Architect: White Ink Architects (design development & delivery), MAE (design concept)
Barnsbury Square Apartments, London | Photographer: The Modern House | Architect: White Ink Architects (delivery architect), Robert Ian Barnes Architects and ArenaFour Architects (design development), Mark Dziewulski (design concept)
Ted Baker Apartments, Bournemouth | Photographer: Christopher Heaney | Architect: White Ink Architects (design development & delivery); Cube Architects (design concept)
Palace View, London | Photographer: Simon Kennedy | Architect: White Ink Architects (design development & delivery); BDP (design concept)
Westminster Quarter, London | Photographer: Simon Kennedy | Architect: White Ink Architects (design development & delivery); Darling Associates Architects (design concept)