The boutique residential market in Brisbane is on the rise with market-savvy developers looking for ways to capitalise on the current trend for unique, liveable apartments that have a strong sense of character.

We spoke to Liam Proberts of bureau^proberts architects, responsible for award winning projects such as SILT apartments and M&A, about this market opportunity and how developers can take advantage of the new trend.

What is different about the boutique residential market in 2015?

The Brisbane market has matured in the last five years. People aren’t interested in bland, cookie cutter properties anymore. It’s no longer enough to just live in the city in a basic apartment with a gym in the basement and a café out the front. The market’s expectations of lifestyle and amenity are much more sophisticated than a few years ago and developers are starting to respond to these needs.

What do buyers want from their properties now?

Today’s buyers are looking for something extra. They are often owner-occupiers who want the best of both worlds — the individuality and comfort you’d expect in a single dwelling in the suburbs, within the urban environment of the inner city.  For example, we designed the Newstead Series apartments and townhomes to be as spacious and light-filled as possible. To create the feeling of a permanent home we used high-quality fittings and furnishings that give a sense of luxury and are designed to last, just as we would with any premium single residence.

What are the trends in landscaping and outdoor space?

We are seeing a clear trend toward more focus on the landscaping and outdoor aspects of boutique projects. Developers definitely understand the added value of quality landscape and outdoor areas to the market. The careful integration of architecture, interior design and landscape produces a higher quality outcome with more market appeal.

What other aspects of successful boutique developments are attracting the market?

Local identity and sense of community

The market is looking for clearly identifiable designs that say something about the local area. Residents want to feel like they are buying into a local lifestyle, and a community. At bureau^proberts, we achieve this by designing a strong visual identity that creates a sense of place that people can relate to.

The design needs to have a local element, and sit well within the rest of the surroundings and contribute to the area. Multi-use retail offerings on the ground level create opportunities for the population to interact with each other and build a community right where they live.

Designed for a variety of transport modes

Developers are also looking for sites close to or even in transport hubs. Some urban boutique developments are focusing on facilities for cyclists, such as storage and purpose-built access to local cycle paths rather than just providing car parks. We now recognise that a lot of urban dwellers are choosing a more sustainable everyday lifestyle and that this is reflected in their modes of transport.

A site that adds value to your lifestyle

There are many benefits to living in the city in Brisbane. The most successful boutique developments all have the same thing in common – a premier location. This could be prime riverfront land, or a key urban site in easy reach of popular city destinations, or an established community identity and lifestyle.

Sustainability as a core value

Today’s market is far more conscious of how the lifestyle choices they make impact on the environment. Combined with the Government’s more stringent environmental requirements, sustainable design practices are becoming an expected part of boutique developments. The market for developments with a strong ESD focus is growing.

How do you see the market developing in the next five years?

The boutique residential market will remain strong, as more developers build projects that resonate with the market’s needs. We will see a greater focus on providing developments that mirror the characteristics of permanent residential homes rather than just bland investment properties. I think we will also see the balancing out of the importance of location with the importance of lifestyle in the design of these developments — the market wants both.

Multi-use elements of projects (such as integrated retail, dining, entertainment and transport facilities) will become more sophisticated as urban communities develop and demand better services and amenity. So too, green space and landscaping designs will become more innovative and will be integrated seamlessly with projects, not just on the ground plane but throughout the buildings.