Co-living: Raising the bar through design.

OPEN series by Monika Studio

For the latest in their Insight series on co-living, Monika Studio, Tony Swindells & Chiara Vascotto - aka Hologram - are joined in conversation by Russ Beresford, co-founder of Halcyon Development Partners and former Head of Development at the Collective.

Halcyon’s latest project is The Palm House in Harrow, for Folk Co-living.

Both equally dedicated to changing the conversation around co-living, Russ and Hologram discuss the importance of design, quality and aesthetics in the sector.

So, how can design raise the bar in co-living?

"In our Co-living For Good method ™, we talk about an environment that needs to look, feel and do good. Design is crucial to deliver this", comments Tony Swindells of Hologram.

Coliving For Good method by Hologram seeks a balanced approach to design of living spaces

Coliving For Good method by Hologram seeks a balanced approach to design of living spaces

"We believe in user-centric design. Our take on quality goes beyond aesthetics and materials, focussing especially on meeting the needs of the end-user. Our multi-disciplined collaboration stems from a desire to put the resident at the heart of the built environment, factoring in their ever-shifting lifestyles and aspirations.

"We team up with Chiara Vascotto, our anthropologist-in-residence, and human insight specialist. Chiara’s input feeds into our structural vision. The result offers balance, adaptability and contemporary aesthetics."

What you need is more spaces, not more space - Tony Swindells

Sounds intriguing, what do you mean by balance?

Tony: "Balance, for example, of private and public spaces. Nobody wants to live in a matchbox, for the promise of endless amenities."

Russ: "Absolutely - this is reflected in the new private: public ratio at Folk, with rooms that are larger and better configured than The Collective at Old Oak."

Tony: "And not all people are the same. Think extroverts vs introverts, but not only: the yin and the yang within each of us, as the moods shift and evolve."

Russ: "It is a misconception that co-living is just for extroverts. [at Folk] We take the need for peace and quiet very seriously, from soundproofing to the provision of smaller cosier shared spaces for quieter moments."

Chiara: "In addition to the need to be alone, or together, there is the need to be alone, together. Grown-ups do not fully lose the childhood ‘parallel play mode’ and are often at their happiest doing their own thing, in the comfort of familiar strangers. At Hologram we believe it is essential for co-living spaces to capture this modality."

What about adaptability?

Tony: "We have observed and reflected on the growing ‘flex’ that we require from our homes. At the height of lockdown, anyone will have had to repurpose their spaces into a myriad of ‘slashes’: living room / home office/ gym/ playground and so on. The result is a set of spaces that can be transformed, zoned and personalised."

OPEN coliving concept developed by Hologram and Monika Studio, visual by Dominik Szyndlarewicz

OPEN coliving concept developed by Hologram and Monika Studio, visual by Dominik Szyndlarewicz

OPEN series by Monika Studio

OPEN series by Monika Studio

Russ: "We too have responded swiftly to the shifting post-pandemic residential needs: a generous portion of the shared spaces is currently dedicated to co-working, and even within that space we have a granularity of zones and functionalities."

If done well, co-living can be a valuable part of the housing mix, and a true contribution to society - Russ Beresford

Does adaptability also include personalisation?

Tony: "Absolutely! The ability to make the private space your own is fundamental. Not only is it a differentiator vs other rental options, although several BTR operators are beginning to address this, but it fosters a deeper respect for the place, leading to longer tenancies, and lower maintenance.

Chiara: The benefits run deep. Co-living can offer tenants a sense of ownership that has historically been elusive for renters."

OPEN series by Monika Studio

OPEN series by Monika Studio

Folks development in Harrowgate by Halcyon, photo by [@lukehayesphotography](

Folks development in Harrowgate by Halcyon, photo by @lukehayesphotography

What about the contemporary aesthetics?

Russ: "We have gone for a style that is unpretentious yet aspirational. The colour schemes are neutral enough to achieve broad appeal and allow for personalisation, but original enough not to feel clinical and run-of the mill. It seems that Halcyon and Hologram are united in their war on magnolia…"

Tony: "We are very keen on biophilic design: spaces filled with greenery, natural daylight and balanced tactility. Even more importantly, lockdown has demonstrated the importance of outdoor space, and we feel this is now a must for all next-gen co-living establishments."

Russ: "We have invested extensively in our external spaces, including a very generous south facing rooftop terrace. I predict this will be the go-to spot at The Palm House…"

Tony: "Us Hologrammers have seen the space for ourselves and could not agree more."

Stay tuned for Hologram's upcoming articles on co-living that feels and does good.