Wembley by Ark

February 22, 2024

Introducing the boat in the sky, the latest addition to the co-living sector in London, Wembley by Ark. Interior Architects Holloway Li took on the challenge of creating a new kind of community living space, using inspiration from London’s homes such as canal boats to classic terraced houses.

Award winning interior architects Holloway Li unveiled its ambitious nautical design for co-living brand Ark in Wembley in September 2023. The London studio transformed the former hotel, while still taking cues from the hospitality setting, and created a rejuvenating retreat around community-centric values.

When imagining an enhanced approach to community-focused living Hollaway Li said it drew inspiration from the hospitality environments. “The client was aware of our work with Locke Hotels and wanted to bring that lifestyle driven hospitality approach to the project,” says the studio’s Managing Director, Na Li. After 18 months the project was complete with a design that works for the flexible lifestyles that have come in the aftermath of the pandemic but, in a way that makes working from home both comfortable and enjoyable.

Li further expressed that configuring the former hotel space into the client’s brief and accounting for the various co-living spaces was one of biggest challenges the designers faced. The project encompasses 300 residential spaces with ample shared facilities such as a resident’s lounge, co-working space, a gym, multimedia room, meeting rooms, and a rooftop pavilion and terrace. The latter was added as a brand-new architectural feature, a new challenge for the Holloway Li designers, with full panoramic views of Central London. The terrace’s design acts almost as a ship’s hull where people can relax and picture themselves soaring through the sky as if mid-voyage. 

Li describes the project as “drawing influence from spatial design of nautical living, from London canal boats to luxury cruise vessels, while paying homage to classic terraced housing, on a grand scale” – while also making a playful nod to the building’s name, Ark. Each resident’s studio takes inspiration from canal boat design; utilising joinery elements like textured and translucent screens, as well as partitioned seating areas, the rooms achieve a harmonious blend of flexibility, modularity, and spatial efficiency. The studios are distinguished from one another through three subtle colour palettes – sage, sand, and taro – maintaining a neutral back drop that allows residents to infuse their own character and personal touch to a space so it can feel feel like home.

Li says: “We researched the traditional design vernacular of canal boats in depth, borrowing spatial elements to create studios that felt spacious with pockets of intimacy.” The selection of decorative lighting played a crucial role in enhancing this spatial quality. The inclusion of Moooi’s Random Light II and &Traditions’ Formakami lights, were pivotal features in elevating the overall airy ambience and domestic charm of the space. Opting for various paper shade lights, these emit a soft, gentle glow that disperse a warmth in all directions, enveloping the surroundings and creating a cosy, inviting atmosphere within one’s personal space.

The main entrance lounge and co-working area are situated on the ground floor, the space takes cues from the spatial planning of London terraced houses on a grand scale, while finishes are reminiscent of a hotel lobby or luxury sailing vessel. Furnished with four, 16-seater co-working tables, booth seating, a grab-and-go breakfast island, and private meeting booths, the space allows for casual gatherings and quiet zones for concentration – meeting the varying needs of post-pandemic lifestyles.

The shared areas are also adorned with furnishings such as floor and table lamps, richly patterned cushions, large oversized pendant lamps, and rattan chairs, the design immediately sets the tone and evokes the sense of ‘home’. The use of lighting through the design not only functioned to embellish the space but kept cohesion between the design narrative and the brief’s expectations.

“We used soft, warm lighting throughout to ensure the space felt inviting and comfortable while maximising the natural light available where possible” says Li. “In the co-working space for example, it was crucial the lighting nurtured productivity and comfort in equal measure, with options for adjustable lighting to cater to residents’ live-work needs. We strategically placed the pendant lights at eye level – serving as focal points within the space, while the floor lamps act as natural partitions within the expansive open-plan layout, effectively defining distinct zones to create a more intimate and inviting ambiance,” says Li.

Ark’s rental concept is on a mission to change the way people stay and experience London through its flexible community-centric rental concept. Holloway Li has a similar mission in its own work, as Li puts it, “we enjoyed the challenge of working on a new typology – we’re interested in reshaping modes of living and this project did exactly that.” Holloway Li successfully layed out the blueprint for the interior of this new generation of residential life, using ample amounts of creativity and flair without sacrificing the practicality and certainly not comfort. “We were really proud of the project – the co-living sector is ever-evolving, and we hope with what we have created with Ark will offer a new and nourishing mode of living for those who reside within” concludes Li.