‘The Living Room’ is a transformative community hub in Sway, Hampshire. Opening on October 12, it was originally planned as a safe space where people with dementia could relax and socialise.

However, the project, a collaborative effort initiated by arts and education charity SPUD, has evolved beyond its initial purpose to encompass a broader demographic, including young vulnerable people and those living with mental health issues in the community.

With a very small budget, SPUD knew it needed to rely on the goodwill of its project partners and long-time supporters. One of these is James Latham, which had previously worked with the organisation on its Handlebar Café project.

When the senior team was approached and heard about the social impact The Living Room would have, they immediately offered to be involved.

To fulfil the building’s exacting specifications and ensure uncompromising performance standards in the finished article, the selection of high-quality materials was critical.

Crucially, SPUD needed components that would enable a swift and hassle-free assembly and installation, yet result in a durable, visually appealing building. Situated on the circular footprint of a historic water tower, on SPUD’s campus, spudWORKS, was keen to maintain the same shape for The Living Room. This meant that any cladding material specified had to be able to achieve the required curvature for a rotund finish.

Working closely with James Latham, and after considering a variety of products, it was decided that a combination of plywood and Sterling OSB would be the most suitable materials, especially when considered in relation to The Living Room’s design. Plywood’s inherent flexibility and tensile strength meant that it could be formed to achieve the desired curvature without compromising on its structural integrity.

Meeting with the seal of approval from the project architects, James Latham donated 120mof sheet materials towards its construction.

Work on The Living Room commenced in June 2023, according to a strict schedule with the sheets used as a cladding material across the building’s roof, and external and interior walls.

The natural timber facing gives the space a pleasant, welcoming, and natural feel, evoking the majesty of The New Forest National Park in which The Living Room is located. This is further enhanced by the use of overlapping marine plywood titles on the external walls which achieve an attractive, rustic quality.

Importantly, there is a distinct synergy between material and design, embodying The Living Room’s intended sense of unity, equality, and community. Ultimately it achieves these attributes, and more, creating a new destination that simultaneously achieves sustainability, comfort, and artistic expression.

“The way the products have been used in The Living Room Dementia Project is incredibly creative and showcases the material’s versatility,” said Stuart Devoil from James Latham. “Seeing the project at completion and its potential to support and inspire individuals facing challenges is deeply gratifying and reflects our own ambition to be the most conscientious and socially responsible distributor on the market.”