The British co-living developer, The Collective, recently unveiled its newest venture – Old Oak. Is this a completely different way of living, that enables possession-free millenials to embrace the creative and social potential of a peer-based community? Or is it just a student dorm in trendy clothing? GDR Innovation Researcher Lamorna Byford went to find out more….
Currently the biggest co-living community in the world, Old Oak in West London operates on a slightly different model to US-based companies WeLive and Roam. Aimed at people who wholeheartedly buy into the idea of creating a community, Old Oak’s core values are collaboration, flexibility and convenience. The inclusive community organises social events and networking opportunities via an app, encouraging all residents to be active and outgoing within the group.
This is quite ambitious considering the size of the community. The expansive development comprises 546 rather small bedrooms, but aims to compensate for their size with an array of social spaces. These include co-working rooms, a restaurant, a bar, a library, a games room, themed dinner party spaces, a gym, communal kitchens, a spa, a secret garden, a rooftop terrace and an outdoor BBQ and drinks area.
So, how is this different from co-living examples we’ve seen before? Firstly, it’s bigger and the minimum lease is longer, at nine months. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also cheaper. For £1,080 ($1,400) per month, generation rent can move itself into this collaborative community; that’s $300 cheaper than WeLive’s most affordable option (priced per person) and almost $1,300 less than its cheapest studios.
Old Oak also claims to deliver additional value for residents through a number of carefully chosen partnerships, including discounts and perks from startups, such as Urban Massage, Zipcar, Quiqup and Sofar Sounds.
Aesthetically, Oak Oak is slick and trendy, taking inspiration from hotels like The Hoxton and Ace Hotel. It’s almost enough to make you forget that you’re in a decidedly untrendy part of London, though of course The Collective will hint that joining and enhancing the local community is much trendier than heading to the predictable city hotspots.
If you are still confused as to what co-living is really about, you aren’t alone. While showing me around, Stephanie Cornell, Head of Communications for The Collective, told me that one of the most challenging aspects of the launch had actually been explaining the concept of co-living to people. To many potential renters, it is reminiscent of scummy student dorms and cheap youth hostels – neither of which are images The Collective wishes to evoke.
In fact, the development has chosen not to permit students to live there at all, drawing a line between the undergraduate lifestyle and that of its professionally minded residents. Couples are similarly discouraged in the pursuit of full engagement with the community.
The likelihood, however, is that this community will be fairly self-selecting anyway. Co-living isn’t going to be for everyone, but – for a certain type of person at the right time in his or her life – this could be a fantastic place. Creative, young, entrepreneurial people could benefit massively from being part of this space. And the development is almost at full capacity, showing there is a hunger for this way of living.
So, what should hospitality brands take from the success of co-living schemes like Old Oak? We’ve already seen the lines between work and life blurring, as co-working spaces have exploded across the globe. Office supplies retailer Staples is introducing a work space into selected stores this month, while New York startup Spacious is making evening-only restaurants available as daytime co-working spaces (you can read our interview with Spacious’ founder here).
Co-living isn’t just about lifestyle. It’s leading to hybrid environments that function as both a home and a workspace, with high expectations in both self-service and hospitality. Old Oak, for example, embraces this split personality: residents are encouraged to feel at home but if they want to, they can rely on staff to cook their food, wash their sheets and clean their rooms.
As consumers cease to neatly compartmentalise their lives into work, play, home and hospitality, brands must evolve to reflect these merging concepts and rising expectations. The success of London’s Green Rooms hotel, for example, suggests that creating a community that starts to break down those barriers could be the best way for hoteliers to tap into the co-living trend.