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Dexter Moren are inspired by neighbourhood stories at their latest BTR projects

DMA Interiors has brought its extensive hospitality experience to the residential sector, with two exciting completions for Grainger plc.

23/02/2021 4 min read

Residential landlord Grainger approached hospitality expert Dexter Moren Associates (DMA) to design the amenity spaces in six of its BTR schemes – recently completing Millet Place, Pontoon Dock in East London, and Solstice Apartments in Milton Keynes.

‘The build-to-rent sector is driven by people wanting to live in quality schemes from established landlords, and provides a real opportunity to offer renters security, well-designed living and amenity space and – most importantly – a home,’ Lindsey Bean-Pearce, Partner and Head of Interior Design at DMA explains. ‘There is a trend within many hotels to create a more residential setting for guests. When we design hotels, we always take care to instil a ‘home away from home’ feel, blending hospitality elements with a residential mood. Within these two schemes for Grainger, we were able to take these ideas further, using our design experience to create spaces that residents will find easy and comfortable to use.’

Given the residential context of these developments, DMA has adopted a more subtle approach than there would be in the vibrant public areas of a hotel scheme, creating a more subdued scheme that allows residents to relax. Whilst both Millet Place and Solstice Apartments showcase interior design flourishes, such as designer furniture and bespoke joinery, a ‘less fussy’ selection of FF&E has been specified – more in line with private residential design – in order to create a space with longevity. These amenity spaces reflect DMA’s design philosophy, taking inspiration from individual neighbourhood stories to ensure each property is authentic, timeless and unique.

Residents have chosen these central locations over the suburbs for a reason – not least to provide a space for community and chance meetings – and this desire to promote natural interactions between people is an important driver in DMA’s designs.

‘Research shows that residents are far more likely to stay for longer if they know who their neighbours are,’ explains Rachael Reid, Interior Designer at DMA. ‘This sort of interaction can’t be forced. It requires a subtle approach embedded across the public spaces – this even extends to the mail rooms, where we have created freestanding areas encouraging residents to linger while they collect and open their post.

‘Having said this, it is also important that people retain their privacy if they don’t want interaction,’ Rachel adds. ‘It is their home after all. The reception/concierge desk is a functional space rather than a social hangout, allowing residents to go directly to their apartment if they prefer not to socialise!’

Millet Place, a 236-home BTR project in East London, is located on the doorstep of Pontoon Dock DLR station, near to the Thames Barrier and Thames Barrier Park. A double-height atrium links the open ground floor entrance to the 1st floor resident amenity space, featuring rope artwork and an industrial staircase that encourages residents up to the amenity space that bridges the two apartment blocks.

Drawing inspiration from the local area’s colourful past and bustling present, the interior design reflects the transition from old to new, encompassing the natural agricultural history, creative atelier workshops and raw materials such as recycled glass, rope and natural timbers. Industrial elements for partitioning spaces are used throughout the scheme not only to pay homage to the past, but also to create intimate nooks to relax in, with focal points deliberately positioned to encourage interaction between residents.

Much like Millet Place, Solstice Apartments in Milton Keynes takes inspiration from the area’s neighbourhood story, and deep ties to ancient sun worship.

We like Milton Keynes, which is going through a transformation of late (just look at the new Santander Digital Hub). However, when we think of ancient sun worship, it’s not the first place that springs to mind. In the early 1970s, architects consulted the Greenwich Observatory to perfectly align the town’s Midsummer Boulevard with the rising sun on the summer solstice, celebrating afterwards with an all-night bonfire and some Pink Floyd. Groovy, sun-worshipping architects aside, DMA were inspired by the sun’s path and energy lines, with a colour palette referencing the solstice and changing hues of light that emanate from the sun throughout the day.

Residents are welcomed by a highly polished brass reception desk, feature lighting and bold signage. Geometric wall panelling connects the ground floor to the mezzanine, with space for coworking or lounging and feature joinery throughout, making the mezzanine feel connected, flexible and well-considered. Feature wall coverings, curated artwork, wall lights and cork-clad lifts create a warm atmosphere and spark curiosity – design elements that can be ‘discovered’ rather than revealed at first glance.

‘The key driver for our concepts is the site location and how we plug into the locality and his-tory,’ says Interior Designer, Jennie Walton. ‘It is important to us that the residents feel a link to their city through these shared spaces by using elements of the history and culture within the design of the schemes that are unique to the local community. We capture this through materiality, palette, local artists, detailing and carefully curated furniture.

‘When selecting finishes, we use our extensive knowledge of suppliers in the hospitality sector to ensure quality and durability is at the forefront of our choices. We also link through our concept in the textures, details and colour palettes in all of the materiality and forms we put together in a scheme. Throughout the projects we have used a number of sustainable suppliers, recycled and recyclable materials, which is important to us and our client and we will continue to push throughout our future works.’

The completion of Millet Place and Solstice Apartments for Grainger follows DMA’s successful delivery of the design for the amenity spaces at Grainger’s Brook Place scheme in Sheffield – a finalist in the Mixology Awards 2020.

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