The Downs Malvern refurbish Common Room

Common room furniture

Witley Jones recently helped The Downs Malvern to transform two Common Rooms into inviting spaces that their students now love using through bespoke Common Room Furniture.

The Downs Malvern is a vibrant day, weekly and full boarding co-educational prep school, part of The Malvern College Family of Schools situated on the edge of the Malvern Hills.

After joining the school, Housemaster John Warlow decided a change would be welcome and wanted to involve the students in the process of creating common room spaces, in which they could really enjoy their down time – to relax and socialise during their evenings and weekends.

Witley Jones provided a first class service from start to finish in providing us with two very special common rooms. The spaces we had were great – two large rooms with lots of windows – but we were keen to modernise the look and develop the functionality of the spaces.

John Warlow, Housemaster, The Downs Malvern

The first common room included a games and TV area and the second required areas for reading, IT, board games and crafts, which also incorporated a kitchenette and dining area. 

Common Room Ideas

We began this project by visiting to measure and discussed the concept for the two spaces. Following a conversation with Housemaster John and his colleagues, it was clear to see that the involvement of students was going to be a key feature throughout the design process, which we embraced.

As well as introducing a vibrant new look and atmosphere, making the rooms an inviting and enjoyable space for students – and uniquely tailored by them – was a key consideration from the beginning.

Common room furniture

Whilst we had unique requirements for each room, the furniture needed to align in style and the injection of colour was integral to the project, from the choice of door colour to the fabric selected for stools and seating.

“We needed to provide quite a broad spectrum of furniture for the project – bookcases, board game storage, lockers, a lockable tuck fridge unit, soft seating, a TV unit, IT benching, corridor shoe storage and a mobile phone charging unit! This made the whole process really enjoyable and allowed us to demonstrate our manufacturing flexibility” – a comment from Dave Manser, our Business Development Manager.

It was also clear that we needed to provide adequate space within each common room.

With it being feasible for all students to be within both rooms at the same time during evenings and weekends, the furniture needed to be highly functional whilst maximising space and storage.

We also needed to ensure that the students’ regular pool, table football and table tennis games could continue, so plans were made with these important recreational activities in mind.

Design and Manufacture of Furniture

When measuring the rooms ahead of design and manufacture, we discussed with Housemaster John his idea for injecting some life and colour into the rooms through the furniture, seating and blinds.

It was decided that a white gloss finish to all the furniture carcases would be a good first step and then we could look to inject colour through things such as the locker doors, soft seating materials, dining stools and chairs.

To provide continuity across the two spaces, the colours selected needed to marry up with one another and the final colours chosen were green, yellow, blue with the neutral white gloss and one or two greys to help tie things together.

Due to the measurements and dimensions of the room, it also highlighted the need for some particularly bespoke items.

Firstly, the bookcases and lockers needed to be a certain height and scribed around the existing perimeter heating pipes.

We also needed to cater for specificly-sized shoe storage units, located throughout the house along various corridors; one of which included a low-level seat pad where students could sit to put on and take off their shoes.

The furniture we created also included a mobile phone charging unit. Due to the large number of students that could use the space at any one time, the unit needed to cater for a minimum of 30 mobile phones being left to charge.

We designed each pigeonhole with a USB charging port and ensured it was vented to prevent overheating and damage to the devices. The unit itself was then all wired together at our manufacturing base, vented and made lockable, providing the students with peace of mind that they could leave their devices to charge and they would be secure.

The school’s electrician then hardwired the unit on our arrival, to ensure adequate power supply for effective charging.

Mobile phone charging unit

Installation of Common Room Furniture

Involving the students continued throughout all stages of this project, from gathering their thoughts and approval of samples even through to the installation stage.

The students were able to see visible progress each evening on their return from lessons as more and more pieces were installed, keeping them included in the overall process.

“This was a fun and unique project which we are delighted to have been a part of. Seeing the final result and the students enjoying something they have been a part of was particularly satisfying” commented Dave Manser, our Business Development Manager on the completion of the project.

The boarders were very keen to suggest areas they wanted to keep from the existing spaces, such as L-shaped sofas which create cosy areas to watch TV and films, tables and chairs for snacks, craft and extra prep. But they also wanted to develop the kitchen area which was too small, the IT benches which were cramped in the corner, and the daily frustration of finding a socket to charge their phone having found it flat in the cupboard. There was also a strong feeling of wanting it to feel more modern and bright. Some pupils helped with bits of masking tape on the floor working out different layouts; others looked at endless colour samples as we were planning a full redevelopment of both rooms – flooring, paint, blinds and all of the furniture provided by Witley Jones.

We could not be happier with the result. The painting, flooring, blinds and electrical work was all carried out over the holidays, with the furniture being installed during the first week of the Christmas term. This meant that the boarders could see the evolution of the project first-hand as they visited the rooms each evening – their faces and reactions said it all!

I cannot recommend Dave and his team highly enough. From design and quick solutions to problems (such as the lockable phone charging cabinet) to fitting and snagging, communication was excellent and they stuck to timescales with quick solutions to problems. And having lived with the common rooms for a year, the quality is also excellent, with everything looking as good as it did when it was installed.

John Warlow, Housemaster, The Downs Malvern

We are delighted with the final outcome and hope the students at The Downs Malvern will enjoy both spaces for years to come.

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