Crafting Shared Spaces

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Richard Eagleton, Managing Director Contract Sales was interview by Property Week on creating shared spaces for student.

"Creating a student common room isn’t rocket science, right? All you need to do is drop in a sofa or two (because nothing says ‘home’ more than a sofa covered in dark-brown industrial-grade vinyl); add a cloth-covered notice board (because nothing beats a photocopied poster pinned up with drawing pins in a social media age); and install a vending machine the size of a small European Space Agency satellite to dispense sugar. Finally, fix a TV high enough on the wall to ensure that no one in the room misses the final call at gate five; add some curtains with more than just a hint of being someone’s unique personal choice; and install some ‘flexible’ seating that can be cleared away when Strictly comes to town and the space is needed for dancing".

"Given all of this, it seems perfectly sensible to call in a furniture company to take you through its catalogue and install some furniture. After all that’s what furniture companies do, right? Wrong! The good furniture companies focus on a big idea first and then turn to the furniture. The really good ones start by closing their eyes to visualise and imagine how it will feel to students – not how it will look".

"So when we were recently asked to convert a staff room with painted breeze-block walls into a badly needed student common room, my thoughts turned to trees and shrubs, not furniture. The site was for 250 students and was built in different times when communal rest areas were frowned upon. But now the theme is social working and social resting – and meeting residents’ needs is top of the agenda".

"Across the land, student accommodation providers are now searching every corner of every building to turf out cleaners, wardens and reserve mattresses to eke out a space or two that residents can call home, or home from home, or at very least a place to call their (collective) own!".

"We should never lose sight of our responsibility to make students feel good about their home-from-home experience. As the inspiring Maya Angelou memorably once said: “People will forget what you said, they’ll forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” And that’s why furnishing shouldn’t start with the furniture. Instead, it must start with understanding that the purpose is to enhance students’ experience by creating a centre of gravity for the creation of community and life-long friendships and as a social lubricant to facilitate learning and success".

"So the recommendations of this humble furniture company for the breeze-block staff room may surprise you: it starts with planting trees and shrubs in a plant-less courtyard to create an outdoor room and provide a view through the large windows that will surely make any student feel far better and more uplifted and inspired than any sofa or pin board can ever do. It takes vision and imagination to see beyond the breeze blocks and turn current reality into something so much better – a warm, inviting and sociable winter garden cum summerhouse with all-year-round appeal. That’s why a Sorbus tree might just be more important that a sofa".

To find out more about how we can enhance your student space or any other products or services, please contact student@davidphillips.com or call 0161 817 2500