Explore the latest projects from the UK’s commercial interiors industry, featuring the best of workspace, hospitality, residential and public sectors.

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Jolie Studio create a multi-sensory experience at Deansgate Square

In an age of real-world social disconnect, where screens demand our attention and fast-moving trends drive the physical world we inhabit, Manchester-based Jolie Studio focuses on the power of real, emotionally driven experiences that can be influenced by environment and interior space.

11/11/2020 4 min read

Deansgate Square is the highest profile residential-led development Manchester has seen to date, extending the city centre and continuing the impressive property and population growth the city has seen over the past few years. With growth comes competition, and Jolie Studio’s design for the amenities at the development is like nothing else in the city centre.

‘The amenities on offer to the residents is a key USP for this development, and it was vital that the residents felt they were part of a high quality, luxury experience,’ says Franky Rousell, founder and CEO of Jolie Studio. ‘We aimed to create a premium, luxury experience but with a real sense of sanctuary and wellbeing – away from the hustle and bustle of the city; whilst celebrating the exciting nature of living in an urban metropolis.’

Tucked away on the top floor of the residential development, sitting alongside a vast rooftop garden, is a haven of comfort and relaxation: the residents’ lounge – or Tearoom – as Jolie has aptly named the space. Not only does the lounge play host to private dinner parties in the evening and daytime home workers, it also takes residents and visitors on a multi-sensory experience, telling the story of the history of tea.

‘Our brief from the founder of Renaker was to create a ‘nice place for a brew’,’ says Franky. ‘We explored tea as a spectrum of colour, taste, sound and smell, from the dark depths of black assam, the mid-tones of Japanese green tea, right through to the comforting milky tones of English breakfast tea.’

Researching the cultural origins of tea, and its uses globally – not just as a source of refreshment, but for its spiritual and healing benefits – Jolie has created a calming and comforting place to relax and focus. The team regularly works with neuroscientists to understand the human experience and create spaces that support all types of neurodiversity. ‘As a touch experience, neuroscience research shows that the warmth and comfort we associate with tea encourages open, meaningful conversations,’ Franky adds.

‘We’ve had some incredible feedback from the residents – one parent who contacted us to say how her autistic son relaxed immediately in the residents’ lounge (Tearoom) despite experiencing anxiety in open spaces normally. Hearing that first-hand experience of calming colours, lighting and textures, making a person feel at ease, is what this was about for us.’

Whilst there was a key target customer (young professionals, aged between 25-35, working in the city centre), it was important that Jolie’s scheme also has longevity and is socially sustainable.

The team achieves this through a focus on meaning in the design – most notably colour psychology, touch and texture, acoustics and even fragrance. Lighting, colours and textures vary throughout to affect mood and behaviours: all of the spaces Jolie designed within Deansgate Square are geared up to emotionally support no matter what the activity – energised in the gym, calm and safe in the pool and spa, and relaxed in the Club’s Tea Room.

‘For us, the furniture and finishes are an essential part of the overall design – just as important as the colours and the spatial planning. Touch and texture can make us feel and behave differently – we understand the emotional connection with texture and touch, and curate material choices to influence behaviours.

‘The skin is a very social organ; so whether a meaningful conversation in a soft textured armchair over a warm drink, or an innate emotional connection with the feeling of leather and its likeness to human skin, our skin sends signals to the brain that can make an environment feel like home.’

Elsewhere, Jolie designed the development’s gym, spa and sports hall. ‘The sports hall was a real challenge as we went for a very unconventional design,’ Franky tells us. ‘We had to use certain materials for the flooring/walls and chose colours and lighting to immerse people in a space that feels energising, competitive, but also fun and fresh.’

The studio picked a deep red–- a powerful and competitive colour, invoking energy and strength. Contrasting this with bright pink encourages playful behaviour, but also gives a sense of comfort, whilst keeping the space fresh.

These two dominant colours are carefully balanced with natural hues so as not encourage a fear reaction (associated with red), including a bold black ceiling and soft beige used in the acoustic panelling.

‘It was an exciting challenge to get Darren Whittaker (Founder/CEO of Renaker) and the team to buy into this at concept stage – a bit of ‘what the hell is going on here?!’’ adds Franky.

Diversity is always at the forefront of Renaker’s developments, and the client was willing to push the boundaries of what was being done elsewhere in Manchester. The studio was able to deliver most of the design without many changes or amends, but some of the wilder ideas were challenging at first to sell, we’re told. ‘The black pool ceiling, the pink and red basketball court and all the pampas in the tearoom were all very brave design choices to get over the line!’

‘This was the first mixed use residential development of this size and scope for Jolie, so to apply our sensory design ethos on such a large scale and see these concepts realised was amazing.’

Photography: Billy Bolton

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