The self storage industry’s rapid expansion across the nation has gone hand-in-hand with its increased appreciation of architecture. This has resulted in construction trends ranging from multi-level buildings with modern architectural elements to imitation of older styles, and some rather unusual motifs have also been added into the mix.

Building materials are now being used in exciting ways and architectural techniques that break up flat expenses of wall can create interest. In addition, landscaping always adds a welcoming element. While the utilitarian aspect of the industry will always remain, designers of storage facilities have moved beyond pure functionality, and customers surely prefer visiting an attractive building. We look at ten recent architectural trends in the self storage construction industry. Some demonstrate modern touches, others are more retro or unusual, and then there are those designed to cleverly comply with local regulations.

1. Facilities are now often multi-story and on non-standard sites

West Coast Self Storage 12399 Northup Way Bellevue WAWith the increased levels of self storage construction in recent years, the industry has moved on from only building low-rise facilities on flat ground. As new vacant lots are sought out for new customer bases in new areas, multi-story buildings are now built more frequently, often with elevators and fancy lobbies. This facility at 12399 Northup Way in Bellevue, WA, was designed by Jackson | Main Architecture and was built into hillside with three levels plus a two-story basement.

2. A mix of design elements attracts customers

Randall Way Storage 3442 NW Randall Way Silverdale WAStorage facilities have come a long way from the utilitarian rows of garages tucked out of sight and are increasingly featuring modern architectural elements and a variety of quality materials — not just the galvanized iron of old. This interesting building at 3442 NW Randall Way in Silverdale, WA, was designed by architect Stephen Bourne and includes ‘eyebrow’ canopies, both vertical and horizontal siding and roof parapets, plus landscaping and an attractive color scheme.

3. Glass always welcomes and impresses

Citadel Self Storage 1403 Browns Lane Louisville KYFew self storage developers would want the responsibility of covering all their buildings with glass, but use of it, particularly where it is most visible, gives a structure a professional and welcoming ambiance. Many storage facilities therefore feature transparent elements where clients enter the building. This one at 1403 Browns Lane in Louisville, KY, designed by local company Potter & Associates Architects PLLC, goes one better with a large, eye-catching circular portal, fully glazed.

4. A homey entrance with greenery invites clients in

Public Storage 2550 Thousand Oaks Drive San Antonio TXGlass may not always be the ideal solution to making costumers feel welcome, especially when the storage facility is out of town and features no impressive multi-story buildings. A rural theme may be more in keeping and some developers like to design the office building at the entrance in a cottage style, perhaps with a garden. This facility at 2550 Thousand Oaks Drive in San Antonio, TX, features tiled roofing and gables, arched windows, plus some well-manicured hedges.

5. Architecture can respect local traditions

Moove In Self Storage 140 Morgan Lane York PAStorage facility designs are developed with local building regulations firmly in mind, but they might also be used to project a brand image — an even more astute idea if this demonstrates respect for local traditions. Such assimilation could mean Spanish Colonial Architecture in some regions or designs resembling farmhouses in rural areas. This facility at 140 Morgan Lane in York, PA, inspired by mid-Atlantic vernacular architecture, is one of several designed by locally-based SAAarchitects.

6. Tall features get a storage facility seen

Clock Tower Self Storage 9100 Highway 92 Lake Stevens WAMany people still choose a storage facility after seeing it from their cars — the advice is usually to build new premises near busy roads. For the same reason of visibility, storage operators often like to have a vertical architectural feature on which they can put their name and maybe a phone number. Clock towers are popular as they also give an impression of professionalism and dependability, as this facility at 9100 Highway 92 in Lake Stevens, WA, testifies.

7. A light on top of a tower attracts attention

StorQuest Self Storage 1220 Isabell Street Golden COWhere do self storage architects go from clocktowers? The answer may be to lighthouses, as there seem to be a number of storage facilities with these features — and not necessarily anywhere near the sea! Designhaus of Auburn Hills, MI, designed a typical lighthouse facility in 28600 Grand River Avenue in Farmington Hills, MI, with the idea that it should create curiosity and look inviting to the public. Going a stage further, this facility at 1220 Isabell Street in Golden, CO, has an eye-catching tower in the form of a candle.

8. Some storage facilities need to blend in

Whittier Spaceman Storage 12212 Bailey Street Whittier CAWhile a developer can build something eye-catching when local planning regulations permit it, sometimes aesthetic restrictions are imposed to maintain a neighborhood’s good looks. For this storage facility at 12212 Bailey Street in Whittier, CA, the local authorities apparently asked the designer to make it look more like an apartment building, so it blended in. To achieve this, the building features shutters on the windows and balconies where potted plants can be displayed.

9. Classy, niche facilities add to the local ambiance

LifeStorage 39700 Garand Lane Palm Desert CAIn some areas, self storage is positioned as a high-end service with architecture to match. Boat storage is available where that hobby is popular, and grape-growing states like California have wine connoisseurs who want somewhere to keep vintage bottles in optimum conditions. This facility at 39700 Garand Lane in Palm Desert, CA, with wine storage uses the name ‘Country Club’ and has a tasteful color scheme in harmony with the local Mission Revival architectural style.

10. Repurposed buildings make sense and look good

Belmar Self Storage 711 13th Avenue Belmar NJOf course, not all storage facilities are built as new, and conversions have been an increasingly good option for developers. Repurposing a vacant retail outlet in a strip mall is often a win-win — although it may not be the most architecturally interesting project! Other types of buildings have been given a new life, including factories and churches, and anywhere with lots of old-fashioned brickwork probably used to be something else. This conversion was completed in 2004 at 711 13th Avenue in Belmar, NJ.

Storage operators have been increasing the attention they pay to the design of their facilities, both for the sake of their businesses and to blend in with the local surroundings. A tall tower can not only grab attention but also looks good. Closer up, a mix of modern architectural elements — perhaps imitating features of residential properties — can make a self storage facility a very attractive addition to a neighborhood. And repurposing properties that once had a different function can keep an attractive building in use. Clients welcome the experience of visiting attractive premises where they can get all their storage needs fulfilled.


Francis Chantree is a writer and editor for Yardi, focusing on real estate and lifestyle content. He is a former programmer and researcher who exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he can be found gardening and reading.

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