An innovative property company approached us a while ago on the possibility of creating a shared home for entrepreneurs, who also happen to be mums (or moms if you are American).
Co-living is nothing new. It is commonly a rite of passage for young people as they leave their parents home and sometimes a choice (or not) for those much older. Here in the UK, when you have more than one household living in a single residence, it is considered to be an HMO (House in Multiple Occupancy). We've designed our fair share of HMOs in the past, but this one was a bit different.
A home for entrepreneurial mums is not something one hears about very often. But why? Does the presence of children create a stigma of sorts? A friend of ours once told us, "In India, the arrival of children are considered to bring their own luck with them." Being a dad myself, I understood the paradox in that statement. Becoming a parent is a shock to the system. When that little child looks into your eyes, you know you want to do whatever it takes to protect and provide for them. And it is stressful. But sometimes it is that very stress which actually ends up being a virtue. The kick-up-the-pants we need to take action and start going somewhere.
Being a mum is exhausting work. But what if that work could be shared and leveraged? Imagine what could be achieved if responsibilities were spread out in a cooperative manner?
Our project takes place in a Conservation Area in the Royal London Borough of Greenwich. The existing building was historically part of a road of handsome artisan's houses. It seemed fitting that the past life of the building was already familiar with hybrid live-work arrangements.
An entrance 'passage' leads through the building to a glass conservatory and rear garden beyond. From this ground floor passage - upon entering the core of the 'building', a central staircase brings you up or down. The existing kitchen and dining are currently in the basement whilst other rooms are upstairs.
The existing plans:
Our design proposal starts by unearthing the entire rear garden down to the existing basement level. And in so doing, open things up above to light and air so that it no longer feels like a 'basement'. This would allow us to take up the full length of the site to become a big shared space where all the great stuff happens. And we're not just talking about the cool looking design features, but encouraging the really important things - like interaction, support and socialising. A combined kitchen-diner is brought closer to the rear in a larger more social space which is better connected to the outside. Underneath the rear garden would be a multi-function space which could act as a nursery for the kids or for conferences or even a cinema room. The multi function space would be visible from the kitchen diner but still maintains separation if needed along with a separate entrance from the garden above.
On the ground floor, the entrance passage continues to provide through-building egress to the rear garden, but this now extends into a more 3-dimensional multi-level loop with the basement. From the front door: entrance passage -> workstation pavilion -> rear garden -> external steps -> sunken patio -> multi-function space -> kitchen diner -> internal staircase -> entrance passage. And vice versa. From any of these spaces, there are two ways out (in case any of them need to be reserved or to protect privacy).
The existing conservatory is made into a 'workstation pavilion' for collaborative work. This space also has a commanding position which overlooks the kitchen-diner and multi-function space below - so parents can keep an eye on their kids.
Within the existing 'building' the former reception rooms on either side of the staircase are able to be made into bedrooms (bedrooms 1 and 2) - potentially for older children who do not need to share a room with mum anymore.
Up above on the first floor, start the bedrooms for mums (bedrooms 3 - 6). Each of these bedrooms are big enough to fit a baby cot, along with the more standard double bed, storage units, and desk. They each have their own dedicated bathroom.
On the top floor, more bedrooms for mums. As is often the case with HMOs, it is ideal if the bedrooms are of a similar size where possible. You'll notice we also stacked all the bathrooms above each other to keep the plumbing tidy.
There is that age old proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." Although it may be hackneyed, it is no less true.
But what about the mums in this picture? Could we add a subtext to that? "It takes a village to allow mums to reach their potential?"