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Symons House: 74 designs student living at its finest

London and Scottish Student Housing enlisted award-winning interiors and architecture practice 74 to create a hospitality-inspired student living experience in the heart of Leeds.

15/07/2020 6 min read
Social kitchen space

Project Team

  • Client

    London and Scottish Student Housing

  • Architect

    Cunniff Design

  • Interior Designer


  • Furniture Provider

    Telegraph Contract Furniture

  • Furniture Suppliers

    Medlock, Gemini

  • Flooring Suppliers

    Amtico, Newhay

  • Surfaces Supplier


  • Lighting Suppliers

    Enigma Lighting, Mullan, Orac, Muuto

  • Other Suppliers

    Safety Letterbox Company, Indigo Art

74 has completed the stand-out student amenities project within the new-build Symons House student accommodation block in Leeds. This is 74’s second scheme for LSSH, following an earlier project, Crown House in Sheffield.

Symons House, designed by Leeds-based architectural practice, Cunniff Design, takes the form of a reverse L-shape building, with seven storeys located on its lower horizontal plane and twenty-one on the vertical upright section. Both the building’s ground and lower ground storeys, where the amenities spaces are located, stand out by being indented from the main building above and also by featuring glazed walls. ‘74 worked closely with Cunniff Design on the scheme and had a really positive working relationship with them, as they were also implementing architects on another student scheme, Knight House, where 74 created both the architectural design and the full interior design,’ says David Holt, 74’s founder.

Central social table

The interior design treatment for the amenity spaces took initial inspiration from the building’s architecture, where the materials palette references a recognisable local residential vernacular, with a broadly 1930s feel, including brushed brick with a pale-yellow tone and bronzed anodised aluminium window frames. The latter detail directly inspired, for example, the use of bronzed metal framework within the interior.

‘The building’s unusual angled glazed box base was also important in that we made sure to make the most of views in and through the amenity in our designs,’ explains David. ‘At one end of the building, the ground floor only can be seen, whilst, as the street slopes down, passers-by can also see into the lower ground floor gym space at the far end.’


The full suite of amenity spaces includes a reception lobby, back of house space, study lounge, meeting rooms, library, communal kitchen, toilets, cinema room, gaming lounge and gym, as well as an 8th floor private dining room. The design of the amenity spaces represents a step change away from the bright and cheerful approach that is so prevalent in the sector, where spaces are often saturated with primary colours.

The brief for this scheme for London and Scottish Student Housing was to create a sophisticated and high-spec design with grown-up colours, great detailing and a pronounced hotel/hospitality influence.

‘Our client, Darren Simmons at LSSH, really wanted to push what was possible in this sector,’ comments David. ‘Darren is very design aware and focused, right down to the very smallest details and was looking for a much more sophisticated product than is the norm in this sector, where the look is often more in line with ‘budget traveller’ chic, featuring lots of graphics and bright, primary colours. Here, the aspiration was to be much more sophisticated, pulling influences from the hospitality sector, with a high-end residential feel too in those areas, where a domestic vernacular was more appropriate.

‘Responding to the brief to create a sophisticated and grown-up scheme, our material treatment included bronze finish, Crittal-style doors and glazing, referring directly to the external metalwork, plus a double dado rail treatment that further ties into the door and window levels,’ says David. Large, rectangular lighting rafts in bronze-painted timber continue the metallic allusions. The colour palette features neutral colours throughout, with subtle, darker highlight areas in browns, greys, deep blues and olive greens. Flooring throughout is in Amtico herringbone timber, with highlight areas in black and white chequerboard tiling or elegant carpet insets by Newhay. Planting is also incorporated throughout, though in an unregimented way to ensure the space has a relaxing and non-corporate feel.

‘The quality of the finishes was particularly important on this scheme in order to hit the client’s sophisticated aspirations. Given the floorto-ceiling glazing, lighting design was particularly important too, both in the decorative lighting we chose or designed to highlight individual spaces, punctuate the journey and draw the external eye in, but also through variety of lighting levels, which create more intimate zones for relaxation and study.’

Symons House Entrance 74

Entry into Symons House is up a series of ground level steps, into a spacious lobby area, with an underlit reception desk directly ahead. The reverse-U-shaped desk itself is a standalone bespoke design, with a marble laminate top, a concealed shelf for staff use and leather-look external binding, and studded vertical lines inspired by case goods and the golden era of travel. Wall panelling is in a stained dark brown and was created by the amenity’s fit-out contractor and joinery specialists, Medlock, who manufactured all the bespoke timber elements throughout the project.

In the centre of the reception area ceiling is a large rectangular lighting raft in bronze-painted timber with a concealed LED strip. The raft feature is repeated four times within the project and can also be seen in the study lounge and games lounge, as well as in the communal kitchen, where it features a unique, fabric panel wrapped design.


Turning right at reception takes users into the study lounge and the first two of a total of four study/meeting rooms. The study lounge features notably domestic references, including a brick slip fireplace with a real lit fire at its centre. The space offers two long study tables, which were designed by 74 and bespoke-made by Medlock.

As you continue through, there is a long, relaxed library area with loose furniture and bespoke bookshelf furniture, also designed by 74 and made by Medlock, featuring laminate inside shelves and solid timber ends, and angled ‘roof ’ sections, which once again underline a domestic feel in a playful way. The roof sections can also hold an open book.

Opposite the library space are two real standout facilities. First of all, a communal kitchen, bespoke-created for the scheme by kitchen specialists, Gemini, includes a breakfast bar with a marble laminate top and elegant Cheshire High Stools from Telegraph Furniture. A rectangular ceiling raft over the breakfast bar features inset-LED lighting, as well as four pendant lights in an elegant circular loop design. The second standout space is the scheme’s cinema room, which features the same, super-high-spec modular deep seating as used in Everyman Cinemas for a genuinely plush, relaxed feel.

‘It may sound a strange choice, but the washrooms are amazingly high-spec for a student scheme, so we really like how they’ve turned out, with black-tiled walls and statement mirrors. The kitchen’s pretty spectacular and wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end show home,’ says David, ‘whilst the cinema is really something too, featuring super-high-spec modular deep seating for a really plush, relaxed feel.’

The final space on the ground floor is also the largest single, continuous space – a gaming lounge with pool and table tennis tables. It is arranged around a central dry bar with fridges and a high-seating bench, plus a timber and glazing screen reaching from the bar to the ceiling raft above to punctuate the space at its mid-point, with feature lighting – in the shape of the Fossa chandelier by Mullan – to either side. Two sections of the inner wall of the games lounge feature banquette seating with blue velvet seat backs set against timber wall panelling, with interspersed Orac wall lights. Other seating areas opposite include two sets of high-bar seating along the glazed external wall, split by a central series of bespoke, conjoined lower-backed armchairs, designed for the project by 74, with continuous linking top sections and marblelaminate inset tables with angled-in legs.

Group dining area

‘We feel the high-end and sophisticated approach to the design is a real game-changer in this marketplace,’ says David. ‘The flexibility and smooth flow of spaces with very different potential usages was at the heart of the project, making provision for everything, from relaxation and entertainment to group social activity, as well as quiet solo reflection and single and group study. Student mental wellbeing and encouraging students out of their rooms to meet, mingle and collide was really important – especially, for example, in the games area, kitchen and cinema, as well as in the private dining room on the 8th floor.’

A final element of 74’s amenity space design is that aforementioned private dining room on the 8th floor, which looks out over a roof terrace, designed by landscape architects, re-form, who were also responsible for the ground floor external terrace space. The impressive space features a built-in kitchen and island by Gemini, as well an eight-person black laminate-topped table, with pendant lights overhead by Muuto. This certainly isn’t how we remember student dining – or student living, for that matter.

Photography: Gu Shi Yun

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