MCA-Return On Environment: Why It Matters In Every Project We Do-1

Pretty is pretty good when it comes to residential interior design. But it’s not good enough in commercial interior design, where our projects range from multifamily developments, community spaces and model homes for every demographic to offices, restaurants and hotels. How pretty a condo, lobby or hospitality space looks won’t matter if it’s poorly lit, awkward and doesn’t meet its target market’s needs.

This is where the true meaning of interior design’s purpose comes in, which isn’t about making spaces pretty. If renters and buyers have a difficult time imagining themselves in a development after seeing its model home, the fallout can translate to fewer leases or sales, plus additional costs to redesign work already done. This same rule applies to restaurants, where the setting must be visually appealing, but that’s just part of the equation. There must be comfortable seating, good lighting and sufficient space between tables to offer diners privacy yet allow wait staff room enough space to work effectively.

Commercial interior design is about making a space effective and enticing to its users. At MCA, we do that by maximizing and enhancing the utility, efficiency and aesthetics of everything we work on to increase usage and what we call its Return On Environment (R.O.E.). This is a term we coined and defined, as explained in our Huffington Post piece on the concept. It refers to the net benefits a person, organization or business gains by designing and completing interiors that achieve these benchmarks. Once met, these spaces allow people to feel, be and do their best.

Why Return On Environment Counts
It is not just about making a space pretty and meeting a budget, but creating a setting that inspires people to work more productively and feel better or happier while there. In short, they want to linger, stay, renew. The feeling may be contagious, with friends and family deciding to lease or buy in the same place, or make a certain restaurant with appeal their regular family meeting spot.

Because pictures best tell the story best, here are three case studies that go beyond anecdotal evidence of how MCA has designed spaces that have achieved high Return on Environment.

1. Creating Double-Duty Spaces: At the Trump International Hotel & Tower, we encountered a gentleman touring a model home apartment that stopped us, asked if we were the designer and said, “It’s almost as though this unit was designed for a young single professional male.” It was music to our ears since that was the intent. The gentleman added another kudo: “It definitely influenced me. I bought one for each of my sons.” The unit had originally presented a sales challenge because of its master bedroom, which was larger than the living room. MCA scaled back oversized his-and-her closets and converted the leftover space into a home office, effectively turning the one-bedroom unit into a one-bedroom-plus-den. The changes helped buyers change their perception, and the units started selling immediately.

2. From Unapproachable to Beguiling: At the prestigious Aqua Tower designed by starchitect Jeanne Gang, rentals were at a standstill. No surprise since a model home apartment for a studio that was designed by a marquee residential interior design firm was sumptuous yet sedate thanks to its expensive furnishings. At first impression, its message was look but don’t touch. No unit had leased in three months. MCA’s redesign embraced livelier, more colorful furnishings that offered mutability (such as a daybed for ease of use instead of a sofa bed). These new trappings exuded livability. Once transformed, the model leased the day it was finished, followed by 13 more in three weeks.

3. From Unappealing to Magnetic. We are often called upon to design hospitality spaces for clubs, park districts and developments. And for good reason: After a game of golf or paddle, we know how members want to unwind. The Glenview Prairie Club was designed and built when the Glenview Park District first introduced paddle to the community. It was meant to attract members to stay and linger after golf or paddle. Our goal was to make it versatile and casual chic. The handsome but practical leather bar stools, deep cushy upholstered club chairs, plush carpeting and a focal-point fireplace we employed made the interior that kind of magnet. Memberships skyrocketed from a projected 150 the first year to 284 in the first six months of its debut. Thanks to this surge, it was necessary to revamp the menu and feature a more discerning line-up of craft beers, spirits and gourmet sandwiches. Food and beverage revenues quickly rose by 25 percent, and members booked the facility five times more frequently for private events.

What It Takes To Earn High Return On Environment
Understanding key market demographics from the start of each project, and designing spaces to meet users wants and needs now and in the future, is the first part of the process we follow to ensure that the spaces we create have high Return On Environment. The rest takes the insight and acumen to assess whether a proposed design will indeed fulfill residents or occupants needs—skills we have learned not only by creating successful projects with high R.O.E., but by redesigning failed projects to turn them around.

Mary Cook

Written By

Mary Cook

Founder and President of Mary Cook Associates (MCA)