The Report

Happy Together

For some, solitude is something of a dirty word. Meet the individuals surrendering to the allure of shared accommodation, well past the days of student living. Welcome to the collective Old Oak in London.

Old Oak Collective in northwest London is an 11-storey building beside the canal in Willesden Junction. Set up as a collective the building has 550 bedrooms and shared living spaces. In theory, you never have to leave the building. This modern interpretation of a collective is nothing like those of the seventies, with tired connotations of hippie culture. Rather, this is the yuppie version. The building contains a restaurant, outside venue and beer garden, a grocery store, a gym, cinema, sauna, library, a “secret garden” and shared kitchen and dining rooms. It has pretty much everything you need – except, perhaps, the incentive to leave at any point. Stephanie Cornell, head of communications at Old Oak, shows us around the impressively spacious, modern building. She explains that the idea with the collective is, at its most simple, interaction; a place for people to meet, network and share experiences. “We do have interviews with the applicants before they move in, and it occasionally we turn people down. You have to enjoy interacting with other people to like it here, that’s the foundation of Old Oak. But people who seek to live here are mostly people who love the idea of shared living.”

Francis, 25, moved to London a year ago to find a job and make a life for himself. The Collective at Old Oak seemed to be a good way to get to know people in his new home, and he was immediately attracted to the facilities in the building. “It has been a great way to get to know people in London, and you’re never alone here unless you want to be. The social aspect was probably the strongest motivation when I opted for Old Oak, but I use the facilities in the building more than I thought I would. I use the sauna every day, and I mostly sit here in the lobby and work in the afternoon.” Like Francis, the residents at the Old Oak are mostly in their twenties or early thirties, and cultural diversity is broad. Stephanie compares the building to a miniature London; the rent is no cheaper than central London, excluding quite a large economic group from living at the Old Oak. There’s no doubt people love it here though. The atmosphere is more reminiscent of some cheesy-but-charming high school movie from the eighties than an apartment building populated by successful young adults, and the beer garden is crowded at dinner time when we arrive on Sunday night. Ankit Love, 33, is a music producer, and also the head candidate for the mysterious yet successful political party One Love Party. He’s been living here for almost a year and couldn’t be happier with his home. “I use the sauna and the cinema a lot, and I hang out down here in the beer garden or in the lounge. You don’t have to be a super outgoing person to like it here; people can tell if you want to be left alone for a while, and that’s fine. I believe that this is the future. This is how people will live ten years from now.”

The New Collective

Three other shared housing options focused on alternative lifestyles.

Polestar yoga collective, Hawaii

For some, there is nothing more blissful than the thought of starting the day with some yoga and green juice with your neighbors. That’s what happens if you rent an apartment in Polestar Yoga collective. The residents share an organic garden where they grow their own vegetables.

EcoVillage, Ithaca

Upstate New York is the setting for this shared housing with a focus on sustainability. EcoVillage consists of three co-housing neighborhoods: Frog, Song and Tree. The residents all share community gardens, vegetable farms, bikes, playgrounds and all energy-efficient facilities.

Krash, Boston and New York

The Krash collective is the ultimate place to live for entrepreneurs and creative collaborators. The idea with Krash is that your neighbor will become your business partner. The living situation is so comfortable that you’ll never want to leave, and you can spend all your free time working on your brilliant innovation.

Text Sofie Zettergren

Photo Anna Schori

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