Something described as “student halls for grown-ups” might not strike everyone as an ideal living arrangement; less so when it transpires that a room in Node’s co-living space off Fitzwilliam Square can cost up to €1,875 a month.
Yet for the 50 or so residents of this expansive building – many of whom share one of the 23 two- or three- bedroom apartments, with access to several communal spaces – the price tag makes sound financial sense in a city where rents are rising.
Social worker Kelly Fischietto (29) moved to Dublin in June from Chicago with her currency trader husband, Peter (35). Coming from a major metropolitan city, they certainly didn't expect Dublin to be as expensive as it has been. In Node, the couple pay €2,700 for a two-bedroom apartment, and consider it a good investment.
"Honestly, if you price it compared to other apartments in the city, it's not that much more, and you get so much more for your money," she says. At Node, cleaning and utilities of the apartments, lounges, dining areas and rooftop terrace are included in the rent. "It's great that formal events are organised, but then someone can put up a message [on the Facebook group] like, 'I'm going to see Crazy Rich Asians, does anyone want to join?'"
“We said this is like a dorm for adults, and in a way that’s exactly what it is. It’s a built-in community that wouldn’t have materialised otherwise, and it’s made the transition [to Dublin] much easier.”
Node Living already has co-living buildings in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Seattle and London, and the company rolled out housing in Dublin's city centre in April for up to 51 people in a mix of apartment spaces. The apartments, located in Alexander Court, a renovated early 20th-century building, are as high-spec as you can get: think Smeg fridges, Sonos sound systems, hygge details, statement art deco fixtures, en-suite bedrooms and unlimited wifi.
In addition to cleaning and bills, the services of Node’s “curator” are also included in the monthly rent. As with every other Node property, the curator (who in Alexander Court is Irish marketing graduate, Ava Kilmartin), organises on-site gatherings and social events for residents, and is very much responsible for the building’s collegiate vibe. Brunches, games nights, barbecues and parties make up the schedule in the communal area, most of which is organised through a very lively Facebook group. Given the set-up, most residents enter into the “urban family” spirit in which Node is intended, meaning there’s little wriggle-room for regular flatshare spats.
Wicklow native Rowena Doyle (38), owner of retail design company Visual Sense, had already been working in one of Dublin's many co-working spaces when her private rental tenancy ended.
“I lived with three other people and I’d maybe seen them three times in two years,” she says. “If we cooked, we took the food to our rooms. Because I already loved the co-working arrangement I figured I’d love co-living, too. I’m very drawn to the concept in that everything is pretty much there for you. It’s like a lifestyle choice. Besides, I was already living in the area, and finding somewhere was becoming impossible.”
Not that getting into Node – described by some as a Friends-style space – is easy. Interest has been high since the project opened in April, and the selection process is thorough.
“It was a lengthy process to get in – you usually do an application to get into a rental, but this had to do with personality and so on,” explains Doyle. “They’re more sussing out your lifestyle to see if you’ll be a good fit with someone else. It’s not about being cool or anything. I met with other [residents] for coffee to see how we got on, and to see if I was a good fit with others. So now I live with one other girl, Siobhan, and we get on really well.
“It’s a security thing,” she adds. “There’s always someone in the building to have a glass of wine with. Some people prefer to take advantage of the communal aspect more than others, but it’s definitely there.
“I’ve had a few of my [Irish] friends around, and I don’t know if they thought it would be a funky hostel or something where we’d all be sharing our dinners around a huge table,” she adds. “They come and fall in love with the style of the apartment. It’s certainly not like anything we’ve had in the city before.”
The majority of Node's residents come from overseas, and find that a co-living arrangement helps them to mainline into a ready made social network. Among them is Stefano Gambarotta (23) from Turin, who works in Smurfit Kappa Group. He pays €1,400 a month for his room.
"When I started viewing different properties in Ranelagh or Rathmines, I realised that the value for money was pretty poor," he recalls. "I remember meeting with someone working for Node and he said, 'tell us about yourself, and we'll match you with someone'. I thought it was weird. I tried going through the normal apartment route, but this system is just easier and smoother. Things like access to Fitzwilliam Square are a nice add-on."
Node may be Dublin’s first notable co-living space, yet similar living arrangements have been a success across the world.
In San Francisco, Open Door is a co-living company that runs three homes (with 12, 16 and 10 residents respectively).
The Common co-living initiative has a project in Brooklyn that consists of four five-story buildings connected to create a 51-bedroom space.
Co-living brands such as WeLive in New York and The Collective in London offer membership which gets residents a private room, bathroom and kitchenette as well as access to shared facilities such as a large kitchen, laundry room, lounges and outside space.
In Thailand, The Hive mixes working and living space in one ultra-modern building which boasts a rooftop bar and spa. Roam Co-living, with spaces in Miami, Bali, Madrid and Buenos Aires, allows its denizens to sign one lease and live in any of their co-living spaces around the world for $500 (€434) a week.
As to whether co-living could gain further traction in Ireland, Fischietto observes: "I think so, especially for the demographic targeted. It's hard to make friends as an adult, and given the proliferation of social media, we're more isolated than ever. I think people really do crave the potential for friendship and genuine interactions."
Node Living will be hosting tours of Alexander Court, Pembroke St Upper, Dublin 2 during Open House weekend, October 12th-14th, openhousedublin.com, node-living.com