Inside the new generation of co-living spaces

With high-spec design, spas and libraries – should we all move in?

The Spaces | 29 Août 2018 | E. Wright

There is no place like home. Particularly when you can count a disco-themed laundry room among your on-site amenities. Talk about a USP. Who needs a gym when you can have a glitter ball suspended over a row of tumble driers?

This sort of service, offered at the world’s biggest co-living scheme in northwest London, might be the only advert some people need to wholeheartedly embrace the co-living concept. For others, it is likely to confirm their worst fears of a halfway house trend hovering somewhere between university and real life where 20-somethings can wean themselves off communal living in a space no bigger than a hotel room.

The truth is, the college-style approach to co-living is becoming a thing of the past. As the housing crisis deepens in the UK and other major cities around the world, demand for innovative, affordable living space that appeals to those in their 30s, 40s and beyond is on the rise. Fresh research released by architecture practice Studio Weave and RIBA claims that co-living should be considered for people of all ages to address issues around affordability and loneliness.

So could a more mature, refined breed of co-living spaces elevate this trend from quirky student hangover to a bona fide housing solution?

Berlin leads the pack

With the right approach to design, there is a lot that can be done to make a private room in an otherwise communal living space feel like home rather than a frat house. European cities like Berlin are leading the way with spaces like Quarters – which is aimed at young professionals in their 20s and 30s – and Vonder. The latter is made up of a collection of modern, wood-floored apartments available to rent – bills inclusive and fully furnished – from €450 a month. There is also an option for a couple’s room with a large working desk for €650 and studios with private kitchens and bathrooms start from €850.

LifeX, another Berlin-based co-living space, also has an outpost in Copenhagen where rooms are a bit pricier starting at €1,070 a month – but this is pretty decent value compared to rental prices in the city. Another example of mature, modern design, each of the private spaces comes furnished with HAY Danish design while fast internet including Netflix and HBO are also factored into the price.

London spaces with all the trimmings

In the UK, where there has historically been more of an onus on homeownership over renting, the co-living trend has been slower to get off the mark. But it is gathering momentum – especially in London.

The city’s co-living trailblazer The Collective (of disco laundry fame) was set up by Reza Merchant in 2011 when he was just 23-years-old. With the slogan “a new way to rent in cities”, its Old Oak Common scheme is the biggest in the world and now the group is responding to wider demand. The minimum size of the private living spaces at its upcoming, 706-bedroom development near Canary Wharf will be 16 sqm – double the size of the smallest rooms at Old Oak. And a focus on communal spaces like spas and libraries is more in keeping with the wider age range it is looking to attract.

Upping the design spec

Medici Living Group, the world’s largest co-living provider and the company behind Quarters in Berlin is also looking at several buildings in the UK capital and Noiascape’s new Garden House scheme in Hammersmith, designed by Teatum+Teatum, is about as far away from student halls as you can get. Red resin and concrete flooring with birch joinery and pink and deep green surfaces have transformed this three-bedroom terrace mews house in west London into one of the city’s most aspirational co-living spaces. Hopefully a sign of things to come.

Speaking of which, projects such as Pollard Thomas Edwards’ New Ground Co-housing takes the co-living concept and elevates it even further to solve a problem in the retirement living sector. This women-only complex on the site of an old convent in High Barnet, north London, is the first example of this sort of co-living scheme in the UK. It adopts the same model as the more traditional co-living schemes – a series of private rooms with access to shared facilities.

While chances are the laundry room is glitter ball free in this case, it is a prime example of how co-living is rapidly transforming from millennial to mainstream.