Jasper Sanders + Partners redefines Leeds' student accommodation with Forbo portfolio.

For The Refinery, a new build student accommodation complex in Leeds, Jasper Sanders + Partners looked to create a fresh and contemporary interior design scheme that underpinned the site’s historic significance.

With a variety of activity zones, Forbo Flooring Systems’ Tessera Cloudscape carpet tiles and Sarlon acoustic sheet vinyl were specified, helping to create a fully integrated and striking space that meets the demands of modern student living.

Built on a former industrial site near Leeds City Centre, The Refinery is a 397-room student accommodation complex providing high quality apartments, shared living spaces and a whole host of amenities. Developed by Gregory Property Group and operated by Fresh Student Living, the interior of The Refinery was designed by Jasper Sanders + Partners (JS+P), who worked alongside AHR Architects and GMI Construction to deliver this market leading student accommodation project for specialist investor client, Curlew Capital.

Jasper Sanders, Design Director at Jasper Sanders + Partners, said: “We took a holistic approach to the interior design and the end goal was to ensure that we were creating a single building experience. The Refinery takes its visual cues from the building’s rich industrial heritage. Once a factory for the manufacture of machinery for the spinning of flax, hemp, jute and similar fibres, this is subtly reflected in both the external and internal aspects of the building. We used graphics, finishes and textures that reference the process of weaving yarn into fabric, creating a bold visual identity for the building.

“In student accommodation design, there are essentially two components: the apartments, where we have the private bedrooms, kitchens and living areas – spaces that students are able to make more personal – and then the ground floor, where we have the shared amenities. Today’s students demand much more than just a place to sleep and at The Refinery, we have included a series of carefully planned activity zones such as a quiet study area, garden room, lounge and games, gym and cinema room. It is here on the ground floor, where we believe there is more room for design freedom.”

Taking influence from the colours and patterns on the external architecture through into the interior, JS+P created spaces to motivate and inspire. Tessera Cloudscape carpet tiles played a prominent role in the ground floor amenity spaces, where in the lounge and games area, the Stormy Weather, Cirrus Sky and Ocean Winds colourways were cut to size and fitted together in a weaving pattern, in line with the theme. This combination of colours worked well together and created a differentiated, fun yet functional area.

Jasper continued: “We wanted to create a flooring scheme that was strong and powerful, without being overbearing, and Cloudscape was perfect for this in a number of spaces as its unique visuals adds depth and interest to the floor – without being too intense. We took the three colourways from the games area and used them individually in the lobby, quiet study room, garden room and cinema room to generate a calmer and less distracting ambiance, to cater for the activities that would take place in those zones.

“As the building is open 24/7, a floor covering that could withstand the constant and heavy footfall was crucial. The carpet tiles are extremely durable, easy to maintain and they also have good soil hiding properties. As amenity spaces are shared, acoustics is also a really important factor and Cloudscape has a high acoustic value of 26 dB, ensuring minimal noise transmission. The practical solution provides a comfortable living environment where students can enjoy using the spaces, without needing to whisper for example.”

What’s more, making a good first impression is key, and this was significant for The Refinery, as JS+P looked to create a student accommodation building akin to a luxury hotel setting. Sarlon 19 dB acoustic sheet vinyl was chosen for the walkways and circulation areas, starting at the front door in the reception area, to create a luxurious and welcoming feel. The Medium Grey Cement colourway provided a charming but quiet floor to walk on, guaranteeing lasting performance and easy maintenance for the building’s staff. The Slate Cement colourway was further used to define different zones that came off the walkways, such as the snug.

Recognising the requirement for acoustic comfort in students living areas too, Sarlon 19 dB was also brought upstairs into the studios and apartments. Jasper continued: “In the apartments and studios, we aimed to keep the interior design as neutral as possible. These are the areas where students will be making into a ‘home’, so they will bring their own décor. We don’t apply colour, as people will turn up with colour, and providing them with a neutral canvas enables them to decorate their spaces how they want them to be. For us, knowing when to pare back in the design is what makes our schemes so successful.

“For this reason, the Natural Oak colourway from the Sarlon 19 dB collection was perfect for the bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms. The beautiful timber effect is super neutral but also looks very elegant; it creates a very warm and homely feel. Acoustic properties are also vital in these spaces as impact sound from one floor to the next needs to be minimised in order to improve occupant comfort and wellbeing. The 19 dB solution also offers optimum balance between acoustic performance and residual indentation.”

Delivering ‘best in class’ acoustic performance and ideal for environments subject to heavy loads and intense traffic, the Sarlon 19 dB collection is part of Forbo’s new Acoustic Collection. The range comprises a diverse portfolio of products available in adhesive free or traditionally adhered formats and in acoustic, compact and compact acoustic versions. Sarlon 19 dB was also used in the gym at The Refinery.

Jasper concluded: “We were trying to achieve a high-end luxury finish for The Refinery and it can often be difficult to find materials that are both high quality and aesthetically pleasing, whilst still being durable enough to withstand the thrashings of every day student living. However, with Forbo’s portfolio, which I have used for many, many years, I really don’t think anything else compares.

“The ‘zones’ within the building needed to tailor to individual activities and the flooring has played a huge role in helping us to achieve our goals. In the garden room, which leads out onto the terrace, we even used Forbo’s Coral Brush in Cannon Grey as an entrance matting barrier – which goes to show just how diverse their student accommodation portfolio is. We have designed a market leading student accommodation scheme that has been created for the end-users and both we, and the client, couldn’t be happier.”