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NoChintz reference River Irwell to create a fluid, community-driven space for Affinity Living

Tasked with creating an amenities space that fostered community, NoChintz referenced Riverside’s location to create a space with moments designed for natural connections.

19/01/2021 4 min read

Project Team

  • Client

    Affinity Living

  • Interior Designer

    NoChintz

  • Architect

    Denton Corker Marshall

  • Furniture

    NoChintz, Moroso, Hay, Santa & Cole, Woud, Muuto, Fritz Hansen

  • Flooring

    Moduleo (IVC Commercial)

  • Surfaces

    Corian

  • Acoustics

    Autex

You’ve read it once, you’ve read it a million times: in a post-pandemic world we will see a shift in the way we work, play and live. It’s certainly a challenging time for the residential property sector, however, the many qualities of private residential offerings have emerged as advantageous over the last year, as we have adapted to a new way of living.

Last year we reported that, by 2028, Manchester will have 70,000 private-rented households (predicted by CBRE). Of course, a lot has changed since then – but Manchester is still set to expand on all sides, with new commercial and residential neighbourhoods emerging across the city despite the current pandemic.

One of these new offerings, Affinity Living Riverside, welcomed its first residents in January 2020 (Yep, January. In 2020. Just a couple of months before a global pandemic reached the UK, as Affinity notes).

NoChintz has designed the 450 sq m communal space on the ground floor of the private residential scheme for Affinity Living – Select Property Group’s premium purpose-built residential brand.

Briefed to create a space that evoked a sense of community, the Manchester-based practice devised a scheme that took inspiration from the building’s location on the River Irwell, to create fluidity to the space, with a variety of elements designed with a natural connection.

A sense of neighbourhood lies at the heart of the concept. ‘We used the reference to the river, and the lifeblood it brought to cities in the past, to create a pragmatic, yet effortless flow across the communal space, which created moments of pause, calm, interaction, activity and nourishment,’ explains Katie Lea, Head of Design at NoChintz. ‘A strong sense of community helps with the wellbeing of our urban communities and these spaces within residential developments are key to encouraging collaboration between tenants. The design must feel organic, inviting and familiar in order to be adopted by the residents – this is why we turned to nature (the river) for inspiration in how to form the space.’

The communal space is long and thin, with no thoroughfare from the entrance through to the apartments, and so the greatest challenge for the team was to create an environment the residents felt drawn to.

Community walls, large lounge sets, inviting reception desk, communal tables and an island refreshment station with a soft scheme of muted blue and green tones deliver an inviting and relaxed community space.

This calming palette is carried over to the furniture, which naturally played an important role within the scheme. ‘We were inspired very early on by the Moroso Redondo armchair and its wave-like padded upholstery. This was a key piece for us as it really resonated with the scheme we were looking to deliver,’ says Katie. ‘We wanted the furniture to be aspirational pieces, yet comfortable and relaxed, not unlike what you would expect in a hotel lobby – so residents felt this was a special space, just for them.’

‘In all of our properties, we look at the materiality and palette of what we use in the interiors,’ Kayleigh Millington, Group Head of Interiors, tells us. ‘Our scheme on Embankment is on the site of a former railway, so we integrated timber, steel and brick, whereas Riverside looks at the more organic ebb and flow of the water and colours.

‘We’re also taking a bit of a bold move (which came from focus groups) and the secure line isn’t the front door, but at the lift lobby – so we open the whole ground floor amenity to the wider community. We want them to come in and use the coworking spaces and lounges, and work with the residents to shape the life of the space.’

Every corner of the space has been considered, with pieces developed specifically for the narrow space. A bespoke 16 metre hand-knotted rug brings the various spatial elements together, created in partnership with Studio Knot and manufacturers in India, taking inspiration from the flow of the river on which the building sits. ‘It was really interesting working on the rugs and seeing how they were made with a sustainable manufacturing process, handmade in India – they really are one of a kind,’ Katie adds.

The river theme appears again in the wave acoustic panels, and timber waves that sit above the reception area.

‘The design gives the tenants an extension to their home, which has become increasingly important during the last year,’ says Katie. ‘This is a relaxed space, where they can step out of their apartment to work, meet, socialise and relax – or even enjoy the live music and workshops Affinity Living organise.’

It is undoubtedly this focus on communal spaces and engagement with the wider local community that make BTR and PRS schemes such an attractive proposition – and have made sure that they have remained resilient throughout the toughest of years for the industry. And, here in Manchester, we might just have found the perfect example.

Photography by Jak Spedding

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