How we transformed a small hotel and restaurant into a student accommodation

| Riccardo Del Bello | Serviced Accommodations

Hello everyone! Today, I would like to go back to a project we developed a while back in Germany which was not only one of my favourites to design for some features of the building itself but also for the unique challenges it presented.

I am referring to the Oak Studio Student Accommodation we developed for Nido Student, and I thought I’d go a little in-depth into a before and after to better explain the process and the thinking behind the design of a student accommodation building.


The old complex that we designed was an old hotel, with an ethnic restaurant on the ground floor. So, we had to renew these spaces using the ex-restaurant to create communal areas and turn the remaining part of the hotel, namely the rooms into bedrooms for students. While this might seem a pretty straightforward job since most of these were already bedrooms, the truth is that the slightly different use case affected a lot our planning.

bedroom old

The original bedrooms were, in fact, conceived for short stays. Instead, we had to include kitchenettes, additional storage as well as other features to make them suitable for long stays for university students. This was easier for large rooms that could be divided into smaller ones and reorganised completely. For smaller rooms though, the layout was already set and we didn’t have much space to play with, some were also in some odd and challenging shapes with massive windows. Architectural firm CSMM was in charge of the layouts, construction drawings and local compliance while we designed the interior of the rooms, including the electrical layouts and FF&E.

The whole Oak Studio project included 68 rooms of 35 different types, and with sizes varying from 15 to 42 square metres.

The old restaurant instead, covered a 165 sqm area that, according to our client requirements, had to include reception, back of house, tv lounge and games area, servery and study area.

old area

window old


For the renovation, in the communal areas we kept consistent with the Nido branding, featuring its reception desk at the entrance, and a light and playful colour palette. The overall concept took inspiration from the colourfulness of Berlin’s flea markets. We used the colour for two more specific purposes. One was the delimitation of different areas. We used coral pink for the lounge, tv and game area, while blue tones for the servery area and floor around it.

floor plan

In the study area instead, along with the coral, we added a teal colour to convey a connection with nature that could complement the beautiful window wall with a direct view of the back garden. So, we took advantage of this building’s distinctive feature, brought it inside the garden and obtained a greenhouse effect. Being the main study area, we wanted to implement the biophilic element that could contribute to the students' concentration and performance in a way that goes beyond the view from the window. 

adah servery

ude window new

As for the ex-hotel part and bedrooms, we kept it more neutral to leave to the students more freedom in expressing their own taste with decoration or addition to their own room’s styling. Using just three colours, dark grey and timber’s brown contrasting the walls white already gave the rooms some personality and a refined look overall.

As for the layout, we kept it minimal but always managed to create enough space to define a study area and a dining one along with the added kitchen.

bedroom new

We enriched the interiors with various other details. Each desk features a pinboard, that is not just a useful tool for reminders, but also a nice addition for students to easily start personalising their own room.

We are very proud of this space and the before & after images are quite impressive, as a demonstration that good design can massively improve even small spaces with a few clever ideas and cost-effective solutions!

Riccardo Del Bello

Written by: Riccardo Del Bello

Riccardo is the marketing manager and partner of A Designer at Heart. He is in charge of the development and brand definition of the company for its marketing activities.


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