A dilapidated former care home has been transformed into award-winning supported living flats by social care provider Precious Homes. Interior Designer Penny Green worked with Altro to select a range of flooring options to deliver flexible solutions in different application areas throughout the scheme.
Located in the former Nethercest Residential Home in Dudley, the previously empty buildings have been redeveloped to a very high specification, resulting in modern flats and communal space for up to 25 people. The new supported-living flats provide bespoke, accessible accommodation for people with autism, learning disabilities and physical disabilities, with an on-site cafe that is open to the community.
Michelle Cox-Coley, Director of Business Development at Precious Homes, explains, “The new flats within – Osprey Mews, Goldcrest Court and Turaco View – have been developed in partnership with Golden Lane Housing, a leading social housing landlord for people with a learning disability, in response to demand for this type of bespoke accommodation alongside specialist support in the local area. We’ve worked hard to create bright and modern homes which are fully equipped to be accessible to all and can be tailored to meet the individual needs of the people we support. The new flats and the team we have in place provide support which is outcome-focussed and person-centred, encouraging individuals to become as independent as possible in their own homes.”
The Foundry Café is a key element to the project’s success. Run as a social enterprise, it offers opportunities for people to learn transferable workplace skills, and it provides a social hub for residents and the wider community. Interior designer Penny Green drew design inspiration for the café from Dudley’s industrial heritage. “I looked to the industrial revolution, the turn of the century – so important in the development of Dudley,” she explains. “The ‘foundry’ style is big, open and robust, so it was so important we chose products that delivered on looks but also worked to soften the feel.”
Penny chose Altro Ensemble™ modular flooring system – luxury vinyl tiles, in four modular sizes that can be mixed and matched to create unique designs from colour blocking to geometric patterns. It also brings the benefits of 15dB sound reduction and added comfort underfoot. “It was quite a dark space at the start, so we took all the walls down to open it up, and chose a light tone of flooring – Greige Rustic Oak.”
Although Penny and Precious Homes have used Altro products for years, this was their first project using Altro Ensemble. The flexible LVT modular flooring has delivered on many levels. “The feedback has been phenomenal,” says Penny. “People simply cannot believe it is vinyl and not wood, they are so complimentary about it. But even more importantly it delivers so many benefits over real wood in this space. It wears better, it feels softer, and its acoustic properties help soften the Foundry environment, which is so important for the individuals who will be accessing the café.”
Penny worked closely with Altro consultant Joe Hurst to find the right solutions. “We have some big spaces here and needed to avoid looking too institutional,” she says. “Altro Ensemble was ideal for that as we explored different patterns and layouts to define different areas. Using the same flooring but laid differently – basketweave in one area, plank to plank or herringbone in another. The results are incredibly effective.”
In areas with higher risk of slip, Penny selected Altro Wood™ safety flooring, choosing Vintage Cherry for the café as the red tones sit well alongside the foundry brick, and the cooler, greyer tones of Ranch Oak for the innovative, accessible and inclusive communal kitchen areas of Goldcrest Court.
Altro Wood is homely and stylish – a great biophilic safety option. The general purpose 2mm wood-effect vinyl safety flooring is available in a range of designs with different plank sizes and shades. It is designed to cope with medium to heavy traffic and, like all Altro safety floors, has sustained slip resistance for the lifetime of the floor.
The flats within this location offer different levels of support for individuals with learning disabilities, autism and physical disabilities. Support provided within people’s own homes is tailored to each person’s needs and also supports individuals who are stepping down from secure units and hospitals including those who may have experienced previous placement breakdowns. They provide tiered support and a range of accommodation options from self-contained flats to rooms with communal areas. The accommodation is flexible, with furniture that can be moved and rooms that can be configured to suit.
“The partnership with Golden Lane Housing means we work collaboratively to create a home for people – a calm haven, a safe space. We use a palette that allows people to add their own personality, and I spend a lot of time searching for safe, good value accessories – rattan, knitted – ones that don’t matter if they break,” Penny explains. “At the other end of the scale we can spend a lot on items such as magnetic curtain poles that might be pulled down repeatedly but can be quickly and easily reattached. We have to think through all angles of the environment so that it doesn’t become challenging.
“The Precious Homes ethos is that everyone goes on their personal growth journey – whatever journey is right for them. A lot of people help with that – occupational therapists, psychologists, therapists, carers and many more. For many people living in their own flats it is critically important that their home environment enables them to have a home that is safe and supportive of their goals and aspirations.
“The domestic, homely feel was so important, but we also needed products that are robust and above all safe,” explains Penny. Safety is paramount, which is evident in many elements of the interior, including the flooring, chosen due to a variety of properties to fit with the design themes throughout. Altro Ensemble with its acoustic and comfort properties, then in areas where sustained slip resistance was key there is Altro Wood safety flooring in corridors, entrances and reception areas, Altro Pisces™ specialist safety flooring in the bathroom areas, Altro Stronghold™ in the café kitchens and Altro Reliance™ in back of house and delivery areas – each product meeting a different need.
Tina Hanson-Jones is Project Manager across the Dudley schemes and she is full of praise for the environment that’s been created: “WOW is the best way of describing the interior of the flats. It is fresh, appealing but homely, very good taste. It is well thought out and not what supported living places are usually like. Everyone that visits wants to live here.”
Partnership was key to the success of the project. “Altro are amazing to work with from a specification point of view,” says Penny. “They understand what designers need and are constantly developing products to meet those needs. As a designer you are confident to use their products as you know they have been developed for all the right reasons and to provide solutions. We hugely appreciate the effort they go to for designers, and all that Altro products bring to our projects.”