Multi Family Design Trends

by | Last updated Jul 13, 2020 | Multifamily Residential, Property Development

Multi Family Residential Buildings have changed in character and design. People are demanding higher quality and lots of technology. There are many Multi Family Design Trends that can be incorporated into a new multi family building.


  1. Sustainable Multi Family Housing
  2. Passive House Design 
  3. Alternative Materials
  4. Object Buildings
  5. Setbacks and Terraces
  6. Roof decks
  7. High Ceilings
  8. Smart Home Devices
  9. Make Everything Automatic
  10. Simple Layouts
  11. Open Kitchens
  12. Modern Bathrooms
  13. Modern Details
  14. Texture
  15. Color
  16. Faux Materials 
  17. Porcelain 
  18. Storage Lockers
  19. Athletic Facilities 
  20. Build Well


20 Multi Family Design Ideas.


Sustainable Housing Design

Multi Family Buildings should be sustainable in every way possible. Passive house is a good start for sustainability but there are so many other issues for Building a Sustainable Building. Here are some features to consider for sustainability:

  • Energy Efficient appliances and lighting
    • Everything Should be LED and Energy Star
  • Recycled materials
  • Renewable Energy
  • Insulation & Air Sealing
  • Efficient Heating and Cooling

Sustainability will cover a broad range of issues. We strongly advise all of our clients to take sustainable design seriously and to incorporate it into their multi family developments as much as possible.


Passive House

Passive house is a design standard for sustainable design. It can be applied to any building type not just houses. All modern buildings should consider Passive House Design concepts. This is a standard for energy efficient design that is centered around 5 key points:

  • Continuous Insulation / High Quality Insulation
  • Air Tight Construction
  • High Performance Windows
  • Energy Recovery
  • Solar Heat and Solar Shading

Passive house design will reduce your energy costs and your impact on the environment. Passive house is a win win. Modern Housing should not only be modern in aesthetics but also be technologically modern, and sustainable.


Alternative Materials

In case you didn’t know people are bored of brick buildings. New York has so many buildings made of the same red brick that one of my friends (who is also an architect) refers to that type of brick as “Shitty New York Red Brick.” People are desperate for new materials. That is not to say you can’t use brick but if you do maybe consider doing something different with it there are many types of styles, patterns, colors, textures, and sizes available. The one place people do like brick is on the interiors.

Building materials are a key factor for modern building design. We recommend considering some alternative building materials for multi family housing design. Here are a few materials you can look into:

  • Fiberglass
  • Fiber Cement Panels
  • Concrete
  • GFRC
  • Corten Steel
  • Shipping Containers
  • Metal Insulated Panels

Modern apartment building design does not only mean a building that looks modern but can also be one with modern construction technology.

You may want to check out another post we wrote on Concrete Facades. Concrete is becoming much more popular for many reasons. It is readily available, durable, long lasting, structural, and modern in aesthetics.

Concrete For Multi Family Design

Concrete For Multi Family Design


Fabric Building or Object Building

When designing a multi family building I would start with one simple question do you want the building to fit in with the area or do you want it to stand out. Architects, like me, like to use the term fabric building and object building.

A fabric buildingg is a building that is designed to fit in.

An object building is a building that is designed to stand out.

So ask yourself are you going to design a fabric building or an object building?

The current multi family design trend is to make object buildings.


Setbacks and Terraces

Setbacks become popularized in New York due to zoning regulations enacted in the early 20th century. As it turned out people like setbacks. Building Setbacks also create a great opportunity to make terraces.  always take advantage of roof surfaces for outdoor space.

Multi family Building Design

Multi family Apartment Building Design with setbacks and terraces.


Roof decks and Green Roofs

Do not miss any opportunity when designing a new apartment building. Roofs can do more than just be a roof. You can have a roof deck or green roof that can be enjoyed by all the people in the building. These spaces really make a building more valuable and attractive. We highly recommend you consider this.


High Ceilings

One of the biggest no brainers is high ceilings. If your building zoning allows for a taller building go for high ceilings because it truly transforms a space. Spaces with high ceilings seem much larger and open. This is an easy way to have a higher quality multi family building. One pro tip is to minimize the dead space in the ceilings. Drop ceilings accommodate structure, ventilation ducts, and utilities but these are often built much more generous than needed. Minimize those spaces and build higher ceilings.


Smart Home Devices

You can’t really discuss 21st century multi family design trends without discussing smart home technology. Homes for millennials will be filled with smart devices. But you do not have to be a millennial to enjoy a smart home. There are so many smart home devices  you can use in your new house here are a few examples:

  • Nest Learning Thermostat
  • Philips Hue Light Bulbs
  • Amazon Echo
  • Google Home
  • Smart Locks
  • Smart Beds

There are thermostats that reprogram themselves based on your patterns. Home hubs like Amazon Echo or Google Home that allow you to talk to your house. Who doesn’t want a talking house? Bellow is a picture of a Nest Thermostat.

Smart Home Devices for multi family design

Smart Home Devices for multi family design


Make Everything Automatic Automated Building Components

This is going to be one of my personal favorite Kinetic Architecture and Automated Systems. Kinetic architecture literally means moving parts in buildings. The parts can move manually or mechanically. Having parts of the building or units that are mechanically operated can really make a space modern, high tech, and down right futuristic. buildings have lots of moving parts these can be made mechanically operated by the touch of a button, motion sensor, or programmable. Here are a list of just a few items that can be manually kinetic or mechanically automated.

  • Automatic Doors
    • Push Button or Motion Sensor
  • Motorized Blinds and Shades
  • Movable Partition Walls, Operable Walls
    • These can be motorized or manual
  • Motorized appliances, TVs, Millwork Components etc…
  • Sliding Exterior Wall Panels to a terrace
    • Having Many Sliding Exterior Doors can create the same effect

This is a Retractable Kitchen Range Hood in an NYC apartment we did.

Motorized Blinds in a Contemporary Manhattan Apartment we designed.


Simple Layouts

People like simple clean open plan layouts. Minimize unnecessary walls. Make open spaces and keep it simple. this is really the trend for apartment layouts in multi family building design.

Multi Family Design Layouts

Multi Family Design Layouts


Open Kitchens for Residential Design

The most obvious and clear winner of the most popular multi family residential trends is the open kitchen design. People used to hide the kitchen making it a small room in the apartment like something to be ashamed of. Today we make larger beautiful kitchens. The open kitchen makes the space feel larger by having less walls and the kitchen becomes a design feature by having nice counter tops, appliances, and cabinets.

Open Kitchen Multi Family design trends

Open Kitchen design is the most popular Multi Family Design Trend and for a good reason.


Modern Bathrooms

You need to really design you kitchens and baths. In modern architecture the kitchens and bathrooms are not utility spaces but features for the home. These are the rooms where you will spend the most money when building a multi family building.

Multi Family Bathroom design

Multi Family Bathroom design


Modern Residential Details for Multi Family Design

Modern Residential design and construction details will make or break your project. It is all in the architectural details. Every piece of hardware in the building should be thought out. All the materials need to be planned. Every product from windows and doors to tiles and cabinets need to work together in harmony.

We cannot review all the different details you need to consider but here is one good example from one of our projects. In the picture below you will see what is called a Countertop Waterfall. A waterfall is where the countertop material is installed on the side of the kitchen cabinet to be continuous with the countertop on top. In this case we did a miter cut edge and a book match. The miter cut means cutting the slab at 45 degree angles and putting them together. The book match means that the two pieces were cut from the same marble slab so they match up when we attach them later. They are put together with the matching corners so the marble looks continuous. This makes for a great detail and a beautiful sleek modern look.

Modern Kitchen Counter Detail

Modern Kitchen Counter Detail



People like a little texture. Wood, stone, concrete, and a variety of finishes can be used to add texture and life to a space. to many buildings have been built lacking in architectural character. Make sure to include some texture to add character to the design.


Color In Residential Spaces

This is going to be really dependent on personal taste but do not be scared to use a bit of color in your buildings. There was a trend to make spaces all white but these feel sterile and impersonal. Use red, yellow, green, purple, and blue. Why not put a little color in your residential units? Accent walls can be used to create a great affect too.

Of course a lack of color using only white, black, or grey is very modern as well. Either way you have to take color into consideration early on in the process of designing your apartments.

  1. Faux Materials 
  2. Porcelain 
  3. Storage Lockers
  4. Athletic Facilities
Modern Multi Family Design Colors

Modern Multi Family Design Colors


Faux Materials

Surprisingly Faux Materials are a very popular trend. Everything from Faux Concrete Finishes to Faux Wood made of Porcelain.



Porcelain is being used everywhere. Not just in bathrooms, but kitchens, and for the main floor in the apartments. Lobbies and hallways can be porcelain as well.



Storage has always been a big issue for multi family apartment building design. Adding some storage lockers in the cellar or basement are a great way to make revenue and solve a major problem for the people in the building. This is a win win. Bicycle storage is also a major trend. Some places have laws requiring bicycle storage.


Amenities and Athletic Facilities

A very in demand amenity would be athletic facilities. Obviously a gym and swimming pools are the most in demand but basketball courts, tennis, even bowling alleys can be added to make a building a more high end residential space offering the top amenities to its occupants.


Build Well and Build To Last

Do not cut corners when building your new multi family building. Do not hire the cheapest unqualified contractors. Use professionals that care and know what they are doing. Most importantly build your multi family building well and build to last.


Thank You for reading our Blog Post on the Multi Family Design Trends.

Please feel free to post questions or comments below. If you are interested in discussing a specific project please contact us directly to speak with an architect.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.