Buckingham Interiors, part of FRC Group, have been designing social housing living spaces for over 25 years. Here, Neina Cave offers some tips on planning the perfect room.

Creating the best environment for your residents can be daunting. But as a landlord, you want to make a positive first impression so tenants and their visitors feel at home. A carefully planned design can create an attractive and comfortable home and help residents to easily find their way around.

How will each room be used?

Look at the current function of a room. Is that how it will be used in the future? Shrewd forward planning can help to create a ‘home from home’ and future-proof a scheme to attract residents in years to come.

With a lounge area, do residents use it to sit and relax, to enjoy activities such as craft clubs or coffee mornings? A refurbishment or a refit is the ideal time to think about whether you want to change the use. The right furniture, laid out in the right way, can help to transform a room’s function, not just how it looks. Consider new styles, layouts and materials. As you reach out to younger residents, they often expect a more refreshing and uplifting environment.

Is your dining area used for formal dining or light snacks? Do you hold any events and how many people does the room need to accommodate? Don’t forget occasions like Christmas where there may be visitors as well as residents. Could you hire furniture for these events or, if you have enough storage, could you buy and stow extra stackable chairs? A room filled with too much furniture or mismatched items can look unwelcoming and overcrowded.

Creating a logical layout

When a room is carefully planned, not only does it help to create the right ambiance for social interaction, it also means residents are less likely to move furniture around.

Think about the space required to open sideboards and when you are deciding where to place a television, consider how natural light could impair screen visibility, and also where the aerial socket is.

Here are a few easy tips to help you arrange furniture:

  • Leave 15 – 18 inches between coffee tables and seating
  • Make sure there is easy access to the whole room, residents don’t want to feel as though they have to walk a full lap of the room to get in or out
  • Placing furniture at an angle will take up more room
  • Think about a symmetrical layout as this can work very well in lounges
  • Smaller rooms look better with smaller pieces of furniture to prevent them looking too full

Considering disabled residents

If you have wheelchair users or those using walking aids, there must be enough space between the furniture for them to manoeuvre.

The right lighting and décor can also make a real difference to people with visual impairments, helping them to distinguish between floors and ceilings, walls and doors and furniture and fittings. Using a colour theme for each floor with associated artwork and signage can help residents to establish where they are. Different floor finishes, textured floor surfaces and handrails can also help.

Contrast is vital – whether it’s achieved with colour or trims – to differentiate between coving, skirting boards, architrave, dado and handrails, door handles, finger and kick plates. Contrasting vertical door edges against the wall and the remainder of the door is also crucial.

There are a myriad of factors to consider when you are creating or refurbishing living space for older residents. Buckingham Interiors can take you through the entire process, from thinking about how you want the room to be used to creating the best layout and selecting the right furniture.

Visit www.buckinghaminteriors.co.uk to download a range of interior planning ‘Buyers Guides’, look at case studies or view completed schemes for inspiration.

Or, for further information on the PfH Furniture & Flooring framework which FRC are ranked number one supplier, click here.