Integral to the co-living experience are the beautiful spaces our members share at The Collective Old Oak. To learn more about the design process behind them, we spoke with The Collective’s Senior Interior Architect, Alexandra Malouta. Here’s what she had to say:
In a nutshell, what is your role at The Collective?
As the Senior Interior Architect of The Collective’s in house design team, I am responsible for the interiors of different projects that myself and the rest of our team of Architects and Interior Architects are working on.
What was your path into interior design?
I originally studied architecture, and was working as an architect before joining The Collective. I was always interested in designing things that people have daily relationships or associations with — that is one of the main reasons I decided to start my path into interior design. My architectural background helps me balance the art and science of designing an interior space by taking into account all elements of the build.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
At the very early stage of each project I always try to do some research, and get some background on the area that the spaces are located in. The building itself can be an inspiration as well as the surrounding area. Apart from these site specific sources, I find inspiration in people, cities, books, exhibitions — pretty much everywhere! I think it is very important to take some time and just go and explore places and ideas. For me it is very important that each project is different and original, too. London is so diverse that around every corner you turn something new and exciting is revealed.
Communal spaces are the hallmark of co-living in somewhere like The Collective Old Oak. How do you go about designing spaces for the co-living experience in particular?
One of the most important elements for me in designing community spaces is understanding what these communities are, and what the spatial requirements that can facilitate their action are. Since Old Oak opened last year, walking around, speaking to people and observing how everything is getting used is a great source of information. We are currently trying to get residents’ feedback about every new project that we design to see how they feel about it based on their experience with Old Oak.
Which is your favourite space in Old Oak?
The Exchange! The reclaimed door feature wall was something that I wanted to do since I have started working for the Collective.
Did you encounter any challenges when working on something as large-scale as Old Oak?
One of the biggest challenges for me has been the effort to create the feel of “home” in a building with such a big scale.
Old Oak consists of lots of small ‘worlds’ with their own styles and themes, but would you say there is an overall style that ties the building together?
I think that there are few characteristics and elements that we try and maintain throughout the spaces that we have designed at Old Oak. One of our main messages that we try to convey is our effort to design spaces that will be memorable to people. It is important that all our spaces have a story to tell! This makes the design process very fascinating for us, as we can play around with different themes and styles for each of them.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on the interiors of various future co-living schemes. A big focus for us at the moment are the interiors of The Collective Canary Wharf. Opening in 2019, this 21 storey building will be our new flagship co-living building opening, and will contain 706 co-living studios. The ground floor, first floor and basement will provide various amenity spaces, including a large feature lobby, cafe, gym, games room and cinema room. Floor 20 will also be an amenity space for the residents, comprising a restaurant, bar and swimming pool.
Are there any items/colours/styles/room types you particularly like working with?
I love contrasts and combinations of different feels of materials, mixing quite raw materials and contrasting that by adding a more luxurious feel. I like combining elements of different time periods together such as an antique next to something much more contemporary. Something I am very keen about exploring in Canary Wharf is integrating more art, installations, and bigger scale objects in our spaces!
What does The Collective brand signify to you?
The Collective brand for me signifies a constant exploration, personal challenge, and lots of new opportunities for the future.
What are some of you favourite spaces in the world?
I get very inspired by the composition of the materials and the effect of light in Peter Zumthor’s spaces. It is fascinating how atmospheric the spaces that he designs are. When I am looking for inspiration in London, one of my favourite buildings and spaces that I love visiting is the Barbican.