Renovations to Consider for Micro or Small Apartments

Ben Jacobsen/Northeast Collaborative Architects

Ben Jacobsen/Northeast Collaborative Architects

Often times, apartments in metro areas may be a little more compact than suburban options. Location, location, location right? Just because your units may be small in square footage doesn’t mean that they can’t have mass appeal. With a little creativity, you can optimize the space so your residents can still have everything they desire. Here are some suggestions for renovations you can make to maximize the space available and help keep your property at max capacity.

Multi-Purpose Uses

When you’re living in a small space, often rooms take on multiple purposes. Something you can do to maximize the space is offer flexible design elements like a rolling kitchen island or dining table or a murphy bed. By utilizing these options, tenants can turn the kitchen island into a work area when the bed is put away or use it for other uses. The key is to create a space that is flexible and easy to adjust based on your tenant’s needs at the time.

Smart Storage Options

Storage options can be really tricky when you’re upgrading a small space. This is often a major concern for people when it comes to a small space. When thinking about upgrades that will appeal to tenants, consider smart storage options like built-in shelving and cabinets. By showing them the options that have been built-in, you will be able to help them visualize where they could keep all of their belongings.

Another option to consider for your property is offering communal options like a storage room or bike room. These are other features that will immediately relieve any stress over not having enough room for belongings.

Compact Appliances

Compact appliances can be a great way to maximize the kitchen space available. By cutting down on full size refrigerators or ovens, you may also be able to upgrade the spaces to include modern amenities like dishwashers that are more standard in suburban rentals. Another great option is designing a kitchen space with a built-in microwave. In small kitchens, finding space for a microwave can be tricky since countertop space is often small and you also don’t want to block off one of the few cabinets.

Smart Privacy Options

Another way to maximize space for smaller units is by integrating features like pocket doors into rooms. This can help provide privacy options in between rooms without taking up precious space or worrying about a door blocking part of the room.

More than anything, the thing to keep in mind when it comes to upgrading small rental units is to do so thoughtfully. By creating a space that serves the needs of your tenants plus provides upgraded amenities not only will you have better luck filling vacancies at your property but your tenants will also be more likely to continue to rent with you. If you need help remodeling or making the most out of your units contact us today!

3 Improvements To Help With Renter Retention

Whether you’re at full capacity at your multifamily property or not, the age old question is always how do you keep your residents happy so they continually renew their lease? This isn’t something to start thinking about right before the renewal process either. This should be an ongoing process that starts with the initial lease signing and should be on the forefront of the management staff’s mind. Here are three improvements you can focus on to help with renter retention:

Tailor Amenities to Renters’ Needs

Each property in your portfolio is different and most likely requires different amenities to cater to your residents’ needs. A lot of this will depend on your property’s location, resident demographics, and culture but adding niche amenities could be key to not only attracting new residents but maintaining renter retention. When the amenities satisfy your tenant’s needs, then they are less likely to look elsewhere when their leases end. Some examples of niche amenities you might want to consider include:

Modern Gem Design :: 3 Improvements to Help With Renter Retention
  • Pet washing and grooming stations
  • Community garden
  • Bike share or bike room
  • Rooftop lounge
  • Yoga space

Build a Community

Your community is just that… a community. Helping to build that community for your residents will make their apartments feel more like homes instead of just a temporary rental. When residents feel at home and like they belong in your community, they will tend to stay much longer. You can provide this sense of community both in-person and online for your residents.

A great way to do this is by utilizing your social media accounts. By doing so, you can share property information, provide customer service for residents, and give your current and potential tenants a sense of what is happening around the community in real time. It also provides the opportunity for residents to share their own photos, stories, and experiences which helps them connect with other residents and provides valuable feedback for you and future residents.

Hosting monthly events for your residents is also a great idea to help cultivate community in-person as well. You can host holiday gatherings, bring a food truck or another activity to your property to show your appreciation, and invite your residents to bring their friends and family members along to these activities. This not only welcomes your residents to the community and shows your appreciation but it also gives them an opportunity to meet others in the community.

Maintain Your Property

This may seem like a no brainer but your residents want to live in a community that is well cared for all year. This helps provide them with a beautiful, enjoyable environment to live in, which improves their overall quality of life.

If your property is located somewhere with different seasons, make sure the walkways, streets and parking areas are free of ice and snow during the winter months. In the summer, maintain the lawn and other landscaping. This will allow residents to enjoy the shared outdoor spaces as well as their own private patios and balconies if your property has them.

Most importantly, make sure you respond to any maintenance requests in a timely fashion. This is one of the best ways to keep your residents happy with your property. If something breaks or isn’t working properly in a unit, the last thing a resident wants is to wait for it to be fixed. Your residents will be appreciative of a timely response and help set you apart from other properties.

These improvements are fairly easy to start implementing in your community if you haven’t already but the biggest thing to remember is to ask for and listen to any feedback you receive from residents. If there is a continued trend in feedback it might be time to really consider some changes to keep residents happy.

If you need help implementing these changes or renovating your property, contact us today!

4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Design Renovation Firm

Renovating or rebranding can be a major undertaking but hiring a design renovation firm can make the process much easier. They can help by taking the lead on the project, managing the logistics and coming to you only when they need feedback or final decisions on the design and other details. Not only will they handle creating the design for you, but they’ll also help with the coordination of contractors and vendors and keeping the project on time and on budget. Everything you need to make sure your renovation runs smoothly! But not all design renovation firms are created equal.

Here are a few things you’ll want to consider when it comes to choose the design renovation firm you hire:

Their Design Style

Every designer has a different design style so you want to make sure you find a firm that either matches your style or matches the vision you have for your property. Their portfolio will highlight the past work they’ve done so you can see what their style is and if it fits with your overall vision for your property.

The next step you’d take is having a conversation with potential firms. This is your opportunity to share what you are looking for and then you’ll be able to see if they’re a good fit. Do you mesh well with their team? Do they understand your vision? This conversation will give you a really good idea if they’re the right fit for your property.

Their Capabilities/Role

So you know their design style matches what you’re looking for, but do they offer the services you need? When it comes to renovations for a multifamily property, there are a multitude of projects that can be done. Some properties just need a fresh coat of exterior paint while some need staging for a model unit and others need a full renovation of the rental units. Most firms will offer all of these but make sure they actually have experience with each facet of your renovation.

Connections with Contractors and Vendors

One of the biggest benefits of hiring a design renovation firm is their connections. Design renovation firms often have a list of trusted contractors and vendors they work with on a regular basis. We suggest asking about the contractors and vendors they work with in your area. This way you can start to get a better idea of how this process will work and you can do a little research into these connections prior to hiring a firm. This way you can ensure that your property is in the best hands possible throughout the entire renovation process.


Always ask for references. Their portfolio should not be enough in selling you on any given firm. Their work may be beautiful but it may be very difficult to work with him or they may have gone over the timeline, etc. Digging into references can help offset any of these concerns. You can ask for references from past properties and/or contractors or vendors to get a well-rounded idea of what it would be like to work with that firm.

And there you have it! Four things to consider in your search for a renovation design firm for your multifamily property. Taking your time to vet prospective firms and building a trusting relationship will help ensure a successful renovation process for your property.

Looking for some assistance with your renovations? Contact us today to learn more.

How Your Finishes Can Help Elevate Your Property

When renovating your multifamily property, no detail is too small including your finishes! Upgrading sink fixtures, drawer or cabinet pulls, and backsplash tiles can help elevate your property further during your renovation. Today we’re exploring trends and finish upgrade options that you can incorporate into your design to elevate your property that will allow you to charge a premium price.

When making renovations, the kitchen and bathroom are two places renters look for updated features and where they see the value in the unit. Here are some features you may want to consider updating:

  • Countertops
  • Flooring
  • Backsplash
  • Hardware Finishes
  • Plumbing Fixtures
  • Lighting Fixtures


While having granite or quartz countertops can attract renters willing to pay a high premium for your units, an inexpensive way to get the “wow” factor without replacing your countertops is by resurfacing them. You can opt for a smooth single color glossy finish, pick from several predesigned or design your own tri or quad colored speckled finish in gloss or matte.

Looking for a countertop specialist? In the DFW area, we use “The Option Company” based in Carrolton, TX. They have the best quality products with the best warranties on their products at competitive pricing. They are super easy to work with and we can’t recommend them enough! Contact David Pimenta at (972) 466-4116.


Consider installing a hard floor option for the wet areas and the living/dining room areas and only installing carpet for the bedrooms. This helps open up the space when you do this. However, in apartments, this can be loud for downstairs neighbors in older buildings so in those cases, you may want to only do hard floors for the first floor apartments only.

If you opt for hard floors, you may want to consider one of these trendy options:

  • Wood laminate plank: This is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product that is specifically designed to give the appearance of real wood at a fraction of a cost.
  • Luxury vinyl: This is a new category of flooring that combines the high-end look of hardwood with the durability of vinyl while still looking like real wood.


Updating the backsplash in your units is a great way to quickly elevate your property’s unit. While subway tiles and other simple patterns are looked at as timeless designs, you might want to consider trying something different. You can do this by trying a unique pattern or by using a different material -- such as metal or wood. By trying something a little outside of the box, you will give your residents something to consider that is different than your competition. Some backsplash ideas you may want to consider include:

Plumbing & Hardware Fixtures

Changing the hardware on your cabinetry and plumbing fixtures can really add the finishing touch on your bathroom and kitchen renovations.

Consider skipping the usual nickel or brass and opt for something more on-trend like gold, copper or an updated finish. Hammered finishes are set to be popular for 2017 continuing the trend of modern industrial and could be a great touch for your design. Another desired feature renters find value in that you may want to consider for your cabinets and drawers are soft-close options.

Lighting Fixtures

Another feature you should take into consideration while making renovations is your lighting fixtures. Lighting is often a feature that can date a multifamily property so if you are renovating an older property this is one area that can help bring a modern touch. Residents are attracted to well-lit spaces so it’s important that your finishes and fixtures provide this whenever possible.

No matter how big or small the renovation you are planning for your property, attention to detail during your project can have lasting effects. If you are considering a project and would like to maximize your ROI in the New Year, contact us today!

The Importance of Model Unit Renovations

I’ve seen it many times throughout my career as an asset manager while touring new acquisitions, doing property due diligence and shopping comps. You walk into that unit that makes you want to immediately turn around and walk out. It’s filled with optical pollution and smells like a bowl of 20-year-old potpourri. There are frumpy dark patterned curtains with ruffles, a brown corduroy sofa that’s sunken in and shapeless, way too many doilies, knickknacks and faded faux foliage that has a layer of dust stuck to the leaves. That’s when you know it’s definitely time for a revamp!

Why Are Model Unit Renovations So Important?

Model units are a very important marketing tool that should be utilized to its finest. When you get traffic to your site and the interested renters are in the palm of your hand, it’s up to you to sell the property to them. As you do the grand tour, you take them on a nice clean path that showcases the exterior amenities such as the sparkling pool, fitness center, or bark park, which eventually leads you to the model unit. It is imperative to show the potential renter a clean, nice smelling apartment that allows them to envision themselves living there.

Based on the style preferences of your target demographic, the model unit should always showcase a sense of sophistication, a hint of some sort of renovation (new hardwood floors, new cabinets, updated lighting package or an accent wall for example). This shows the renter that the staff and management company take good care of their property, which shows value to the potential renter. If the property is undergoing an interior renovation (partial unit or full unit), the model unit is an excellent place to showcase what these newly renovated units will look like. It’s your place to “wow” them and show them what they could get with that premium charge.

The model unit also allows the renter to be able to picture how they may arrange their own furnishings into the apartment. They want a visual for inspiration on how they can make it their own cozy place they call home. When someone walks into that model unit (as well as the clubhouse or leasing center), all that they take in (sight, sound, smell) invokes some sort of feeling. You want your property and unit to invoke positive, inspiring, vibrant, sophisticated, cool, modern feelings.

So what can you do to refresh your model units? A fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest ways to add new life to a space that will give it a whole new look. I like to use a neutral main body paint (eggshell) with a bright white trim (semi-gloss) and add a couple of bold accent color walls, one in the living or dining room and the other in the bedroom. Another way you can sway a potential renter is to present the property and its lifestyle of living through the furnishings, art, and décor in the model unit. It gives the renter an immediate impression of the property so you want to make sure it is well put together. Style it in a way that is somewhat on trend but add some interesting eclectic pieces such as throw pillows, accessories and other décor that will make it unique and impressionable.

When is it Time to Bring in Professional Help?

Not sure where to start? Or do your model units needs more than a fresh coat of paint to attract new renters? Modern Gem Design is here to help! I’ve renovated several model units during my career and I absolutely love, love, love doing them! I have so much fun being able to analyze the space and envision a total transformation. There are several elements that need to be factored in to renovating a model unit including:

  • Picturing the unit without the existing pieces
  • Analyzing the floorplan and target demographic
  • Assessing the existing pieces which includes furniture, art, accessories, and décor to see if any can be used and repurposed to fit within the new design

You can also repurpose existing pieces from the clubhouse into the model unit and vice versa. Doing so could save you thousands of dollars. All the fine details are something we focus very closely on to not only provide you with a beautifully updated model unit but in a cost-effective way.

If you are interesting renovating or refreshing your model unit, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.