DMA applies hospitality experience to create ‘home from home’ amenity spaces at Grainger plc’s latest residential development in Southampton

Dexter Moren Associates (DMA) has announced the completion of its latest residential project for Grainger plc at Gatehouse Apartments, a 132-home development on East Street in Southampton. This is the leading hospitality design practice’s fourth project for Grainger plc, the UK’s largest listed residential landlord, following its commission to help design the amenity spaces in a number of its rental schemes.

“The build-to-rent sector is driven by people wanting to live in quality schemes from established landlords, and provides a real opportunity to offer renters security, well-designed living and amenity space, but most importantly, a home. Our hospitality experience is perfectly suited to the demands of the sector and gives us a deep understanding of how to create flexible communal spaces in which people want to spend time,” explains Lindsey Bean-Pearce, Head of Interior Design at DMA.

‘’When we design hotels, we always take care to instil a more residential setting for our hotel lobbies giving a ‘home away from home’ feel, blending hospitality elements with a residential mood. Within Gatehouse Apartments we have been able to use our design experience to create amenity spaces that act as an extension to residents’ apartments; welcoming and adaptable, as well as easy and comfortable to use.”

Southampton is one of the south coast’s most economically vibrant cities and with its bid for City of Culture 2025 under consideration, it is seen as a key destination for those looking to rent as a lifestyle choice. To attract a range of residents from across the city and beyond it was imperative to deliver a development with high-quality finishes and expertly designed living and community space.

Gatehouse Apartments consists of 46 one-bedroom and 86 two-bedroom apartments, with the larger two-bedroom homes showcasing views of the cruise terminal and River Itchen. Residents benefit from a 24-hour gym, co-working space, residents’ lounge and private dining area, as well as an outdoor terrace.

DMA’s design for the amenity spaces at Gatehouse Apartments has been inspired by the industry, trade and transit that have always been at the heart of Southampton and its ever-thriving community. By introducing design elements subtly influenced by the city’s story, DMA connected the interior spaces with the locale and its history, from a thriving Roman port to the point of departure for the Mayflower and the Titanic, and currently the busiest cruise terminal and second-largest container port in the UK.

“Our philosophy is to create original and unique designs specific to the requirements of each individual project,” explains Lindsey. “We don’t believe in following trends, instead we draw our design inspiration from a building’s context and local neighbourhood to create spaces with longevity that are authentic and, above all, have character. The concept narrative has been skilfully communicated through finishes, FF&E and accessories selection to ensure the scheme is embedded in the Southampton community and creates a real sense of place for residents.”

At Gatehouse Apartments, residents are welcomed by feature hanging pendants and illuminated signage with a bold coloured plaster backdrop. A vivid, geometric wallcovering leads up the ramp to the lounge and co-working area, with the dining room and gym beyond. Artwork reminiscent of Southampton’s docks and gantries has been introduced, along with books and objets d’art that relate to aspects of local history.

Spaces have been partitioned into raised-area seating, nooks of banquette working booths and high tables, using both hard industrial elements such as metal mesh, and softer acoustic sheer panels. The latter also echoes Southampton’s historic wool and cloth trade, which can be seen again in the bespoke fabric artworks. Fun recycled materials give layers of interest to the scheme and bespoke feature joinery throughout makes the spaces feel connected, flexible and well-considered.

The bookable private dining room gives residents a space to entertain and adds a social element that will be well used for Grainger-led resident events as restrictions around Covid-19 ease. The 24-hour gym is a bold space with a clean palette and an eye-catching lighting feature to the ceiling. DMA’s design provides outdoor space with a fifth-floor rooftop terrace, protected by lush and hardy perimeter planting. Composite decking, checkerboard tiling and artificial turf create zones for lounging, dining or playing, and even a trellis that can act as a screen for alfresco film nights.

Rachael Reid, Interior Designer at DMA, said: “The amenity spaces in a residential development are incredibly important and the desire to promote natural interactions between people is an important driver in our design. Research shows that residents are far more likely to stay for longer if they know who their neighbours are. This sort of interaction can’t be forced. It requires a subtle approach embedded across the public spaces.

“Drawing on our experience designing welcoming hospitality spaces, we have created areas at Gatehouse Apartments where residents have the opportunity to connect and socialise in a relaxed setting. Our space planning optimises open-plan layouts that worked within Covid-19 guidelines, whilst also creating a social hub within the building once things start to head towards the ‘new’ normal. Having said this, it is also important that people retain their privacy if they don’t want interaction and the spaces we have designed offer elements to suit the needs of each resident, whether they want to work in a group or alone, for example.”

Gatehouse Apartments launched its first homes for rent in April 2021 and was fully leased within 4 months, 8 months ahead of plan, demonstrating a positive local response to the design and concept . Its completion follows DMA’s successful delivery of the design for the amenity spaces at three other recent Grainger developments: Millet Place in East London, Solstice Apartments in Milton Keynes and Brook Place in Sheffield – the latter a Living Interiors Project of the Year finalist in the Mixology Awards 2020.