Designing the future of Build to Rent

The Furniture Practice shares the key design methodologies shaping tomorrow’s Build to Rent developments.

Amenities at Folk at Sunday Mills, DTZ Investors & Halycon Development Partners. Photography: Luke Hayes | The Furniture Practice | BTR News
Amenities at Folk at Sunday Mills, DTZ Investors & Halycon Development Partners. Photography: Luke Hayes.

In a space as fast moving as the Build to Bent sector, priorities can change every year. Developers and designers alike aspire towards creating meaningful, long-lasting shared living schemes, but in a space marked by rapid change, which design approaches will endure over time?

By The Furniture Practice

Since establishing its Build to Rent & Shared Living team in 2018, The Furniture Practice has kept pace with the UK’s Build to Rent sector every step of the way, constantly adapting to offer insights into how considered design can foster wellbeing, build community, and enable new patterns of living while adding value for investors. As the Build to Rent space continues to grow in popularity, there has never been a greater need to create desirable options for an increasingly diverse range of renters. 

The Furniture Practice’s Rosie Anna Callanan attended this year’s UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF) in Leeds, taking stock of the key forces and ideas shaping the future of the field. Below, Rosie shares three insights about how thoughtful design can create shared living schemes that are not only relevant today but will continue to be so well into the future.

Finding your tribe

As the Build to Rent sector has matured and grown in confidence, renters have more choice available to them than ever before. Customers may not be seeking out shared living developments on Rightmove just yet, but widespread familiarity with the sector is not far away. Developers who adapt to this change today will be better prepared to face tomorrow.

With greater familiarity comes higher levels of expectation. Renters will soon be able to tailor their searches towards developments that align with their values and priorities. Developers can stay ahead of this curve by employing design strategies that resonate with these evolving preferences and expectations.

Apartments at The Robinson, Quintain Living. Photography: Billy Bolton | The Furniture Practice | BTR News
Apartments at The Robinson, Quintain Living. Photography: Billy Bolton.
Amenities at Repton Gardens, Quintain Living. Photography: Chris Winter | BTR News
Amenities at Repton Gardens, Quintain Living. Photography: Chris Winter.

Quintain Living’s redevelopment of Wembley Park exemplifies this shift by offering multiple atmospheres across different buildings within the same development: while Repton Gardens plays with biophilic design to create a sense of calm and serenity, The Robinson building embraces vibrant maximalism, catering to a different demographic .The two work together because they embrace their differences and know their individual audiences.

In this context, design is paramount. When The Furniture Practice partnered with Quintain across the development, every detail of each space had to be carefully considered to bring Quintain’s distinctive design vision to life. This ranged from bespoke furniture in the apartments, to the thoughtfully curated amenity spaces. Renters want to see themselves reflected in the developments available to them: design is what makes a space feel personal.

Community first

A successful Build to Rent development fosters community, offering spaces where renters can organically connect and activate their buildings in new ways. Here, developers can learn from the successes and failures of existing spaces, helping to shape the sector’s future.

A key lesson is the danger of dead spaces – amenities that fail to resonate with residents or do not address the specific needs and identities of the communities they serve. One design solution could be the creation of more hybrid, multi-use spaces that adapt to changing needs: for example, a co-working space that transforms into a venue for private dining or events. Flexibility can be achieved by clear design decisions, such as fewer fixed partitions, adaptable furniture settings, and flexible layouts to promote community and organic connections.

Folk Living’s Sunday Mills development in Earlsfield, designed by Atypical Practice and Assael Architecture for DTZ Investors and Halcyon Development Partners, provides one such success story. The project saw The Furniture Practice collaborate with the design team to create a co-living development whose attached co-working space, managed by Arc Club, puts community first.

Sunday Mills invites the local community into its amenities, offering easily accessible subscriptions and day passes to welcome non-residents into its co-working space, emphasising inclusivity. The furniture selection across the amenities, meanwhile, prioritises comfort and flexibility, with low-back sofas, generous lounge seating, and easily moveable stools and chairs, creating an environment conducive to social interaction and adaptability. A space that flexes to meet residents’ evolving needs is one that endures, attracting new members over time.

Amenities at Folk at Sunday Mills, DTZ Investors & Halycon Development Partners. Photography: Luke Hayes | BTR News
Amenities at Folk at Sunday Mills, DTZ Investors & Halycon Development Partners. Photography: Luke Hayes.

Future-proofing

Design is a pivotal consideration for prospective residents when choosing a new home. Furniture choices are not only integral to the impact of the aesthetic, but also significantly affect the sustainability performance and longevity of a development, with a direct link to its ability to maintain a high standard of design and living over time.

All design elements should be capable of being repaired and revitalised as a development ages, to the benefit of the environment and residents alike and thereby supporting a better long-term investment. Designing with the future in mind is not only environmentally friendly, but also consumer-focused and cost-effective. This approach need not be expensive, but it must be considered from the beginning.

As a certified B-Corp, The Furniture Practice provides expertise and tailored support to ensure that future-proofing and the ability to responsibly refresh a space are integral to any scheme. Building in longevity and refreshability through high-quality, considered design is a core focus, providing a great experience for residents throughout the lifespan of a development.

Legal & General’s Solasta Riverside development in Glasgow saw the team work in partnership with Lister+Lister to specify furniture with key sustainability features, such as recyclable and recycled materials, as well as ease of repairability, and all product sourced from within the UK and EU. As residents come to expect more from the Build to Rent sector in terms of quality experiences and long-term sustainability, designing for longevity and sustainability becomes a smart investment in every sense.

Apartments at Solasta Riverside, Legal & General. Photography: Billy Bolton | BTR News
Apartments at Solasta Riverside, Legal & General. Photography: Billy Bolton.
Apartments at Solasta Riverside, Legal & General. Photography: Billy Bolton | The Furniture Practice | BTR News
Apartments at Solasta Riverside, Legal & General. Photography: Billy Bolton.

To find out how The Furniture Practice can help with your project, contact our dedicated Build to Rent & Shared Living team at sharedliving@thefurniturepractice.com.

Visit thefurniturepractice-btr.com to see our project portfolio and learn more about our approach.

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