Today I thought about discussing a topic that might seem unthinkable at first, but it turns out it does happen and this specific question does arise! I am talking about what to do when there is money left from the budget of a Student Accommodation Design and giving a few suggestions on how to spend it.
It is important to keep in mind that usually any leftover money for the design is accounted for at the end of the design process, so I looked at ways to use it without affecting or changing what has already been established and approved.
So, let’s have a look at 13 measures (in no specific order) that can help improve the overall design or efficiency of a Student Accommodation Interior.
1. Outdoor Furniture
Outdoor areas, whether it is a courtyard or small balconies outside of the bedrooms, are sometimes partially overlooked. Deciding to spend some more money on these spaces can really add value, and give more options and use cases for the students to spend time or organise activities.
Loose furniture can complement existing fixed pieces or widen the range of other pieces already ordered. A while back we put together a guide proposing different options to improve a garden patio area and make it more homely. While initially thought for residential spaces, many of these suggestions can definitely work for commercial and shared schemes.
Or, if you are after a more fixed style, have a look at the selection below!
*Pieces by Boxap Street Furniture
2. Dressing Accessories
These are small items that embellish and give a more refined look to your space. Several brands give a huge importance to them. And you can really go wild with it.
Anything, ranging from throws to cushions, magazines, books, prints, and frames, can literally transform an interior. And this makes it also a key part of the interior designer’s work, starting from the marketing phase.
3. Indoor plants and moss walls
Part of the dressing, which nowadays is more important than ever, is the addition of plants and greenery.
We discussed their benefits several times. The connection with nature expressed by the concept of Biophilia has been proven to improve residents concentration, professional performance, and relaxation. The air quality will also benefit.
Moss walls and selected plants, or even indoor Trees can transform also an interior conveying a much more positive atmosphere and forward-looking aesthetic, as nearly every new and the innovation-driven company is increasingly integrating biophilic design in its interiors.
Practical tip: go for low-maintenance plants or preserved moss (which doesn’t need any light or water).
Spares are a useful variable to consider. Especially when it comes to bedrooms that need to deliver a consistent experience to all the residents. Having enough materials and furniture pieces to substitute damaged or non-functioning ones should always be one of the top priorities for big PBSA schemes.
5. Feature wall upgrades
If you happen to have a large wall that is simply painted in white, or with a monochromatic solution along with the other walls and is not given relevance in the overall look of an interior an upgrade making it a feature wall can significantly improve the accommodation look.
There are several solutions to obtain such an effect, depending on the surrounding environment and the type of message a subject wants to communicate.
These can vary from specific wall paint, like the one we used in our Zernike Project to recall the local architecture and art movement, to unique wallpapers, moss walls, and graffiti. And the good news is that those are simple tricks that can be efficiently implemented even close to handover or retrofitted.
6. Graffiti murals
The previous point brings me to the next one. Graffiti and various expressions of street art are ever more popular among students and can be integrated in many ways apart from defining a single feature wall.
They can define an overall theme within a building or help characterising areas with a specific purpose or use case. And most importantly, a partnership with local artists can help to tell a story about the surrounding area and connect.
7. Neon Signs
Neon signs are another way to enrich the look of a communal space, granted it is still possible to bring power to a specific point by altering the electrical wiring. They fall into the Accent Lighting category that we analysed in our 2-part guide to light layers (PART 1 and PART 2). So, while not carrying out any specific function (if we don’t consider bringing a smile to people’s faces as a function!), they can be used to add some personality to a room, enrich a feature wall too.
Today it is also possible to get these signs made in neon-looking LED which is much more energy-efficient, helping the overall sustainability of the building.
Rugs in large areas can get quite expensive, but especially if a place looks bare they can add colour, and make it feel more welcoming.
Communal areas in PBSAs are often very wide and fitted with loose furniture that is important to give the freedom to rearrange a space whenever needed. After the pandemic with the need for social distancing, these places can feel even emptier. Adding some texture and a nice warm colour is a good way to offset these potential shortcomings and define cosy areas.
9. Vending machines
What I mean here is not (or not just) the regular vending machine we are all used to for snacks and beverages, but a new kind that is becoming more popular these days and that perfectly fits the innovation models brought by the sharing economy within the Generation Z.
A brand that I bumped into a few times now is Tulu. They provide a range of everyday appliances that someone with limited funds like a student might not be able to afford but still need from time to time. So, being able to rent a hoover from time to time without having to buy it, solves important problems at once. Affordability and lack of storage space.
10. AV equipment
This too is a need that has become more prominent after the pandemic. Digital equipment like television, projectors, sound systems, and smart speakers are more important than ever. They can facilitate the organisation of a range of group activities and virtual conferences.
New technologies, students' and managers’ fantasies are the only limits, so boosting the AV equipment is always a good idea.
11. Window dressing
Window dressing is often overlooked in Student Accommodations communal areas. But an interior can improve a lot if complemented with the right blinds, curtains (to give a homely and more refined feel), or vinyls. They should not be necessarily considered only for bedrooms.
12. Extra gym equipment or yoga
Spare money for the design can also be spent very well to improve gym equipment. This can vary depending on the kind of gym and physical activities one expects to host. Yoga equipment is another option if the managers plan on organising group sessions for instance, and this can be useful to involve more students or to host virtual classes.
13. Cool litter bins
This might seem unusual or trivial, but even litter bins need some attention and are objects that oftentimes just sit there in communal areas looking a bit out of place. So a bit of attention to detail for something like litter bins will not represent a huge expense but can nonetheless help the interior looks.
*Bins by Brabantia and Dambis
14. Upgrading kitchen equipment
Last but not least, upgrades in the kitchen equipment can help developers save space and energy making it more sustainable as well in the process.
Some useful options to this end are energy-efficient equipment such as washing machines with eco-programs or combined appliances like oven and microwave together in a single machine.
I think this list is a good place to start if one happens to have some funds left to spend on an interior design. Spending a bit more money here and there can bring a nice return improving a brand’s reputation among the students.