How to create a student-friendly home from home

interior design for student wellbeing
Jennifer Morgan,-Interiors Editor

Student homes are more than just accommodation. Follow our tips to transform an anonymous space into your personal retreat to study, relax and play 

Student accommodation has come a long way since the days of shared rooms and disinterested landlords. Wellbeing and the impact of our surroundings are hot topics as universities try to tackle the mental health challenges faced by today’s students. And after a very uncertain year for our student population, the idea of creating a safe, comforting environment conducive to study has never been more important.

Philippa Charrier co-founded FAT Properties with her husband Tom seven years ago after spotting a gap in the market for high-quality student accommodation with a focus on wellbeing. She’s also the author of Designed For Wellbeing, available from 25 August (all profits will go to Student Minds, the student mental health charity).

‘Lots of students went back to their parents’ homes for lockdown and as a consequence are now desperate to get out and get back to their independence,’ says Philippa. ‘Plus there’s this year’s freshers, who are excited about starting uni. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of physical and mental wellbeing to everyone, and also the difference our homes can make. This generation of students at uni – perhaps more so than any other – is keen to look after their wellbeing and choose accommodation which prioritises it.’

Here are 5 ideas to help you create a home from home for your student.

student interior design

Focus on the bedroom

‘In shared accommodation, the bedroom might be the one place a student has that is solely theirs to retreat to,’ explains Philippa. ‘So it needs to be a place of comfort and rest.’ Furniture should be practical yet comfortable, while finishing touches are key. ‘Throws, cushions and rugs will help them to feel like the space is theirs to live in. For a property to truly feel like home, students need control over their immediate environment. Studies have shown that if we believe we have more control, then we feel more confident.’

Philippa believes personalisation will be more key than ever, so put up photos of family and friends, along with posters or favourite artwork. ‘Look for washi tape or masking tape, which shouldn’t damage walls. Or prop up a noticeboard or wire grid with clips. A decent lamp to provide atmospheric lighting is important, too,’ she says, ‘while fairylights, their special mug and a blanket can all help.’

‘We all know the importance of sleep,’ Philippa continues. ‘Make sure the mattress is comfortable and replace it if needed.’ Look at easy-delivery options, like the SIMBA Hybrid memory foam, which comes in a box. Mattress protectors are great for making the bed feel like new too. If light is an issue, Philippa recommends fitting blackout blinds or curtains.

student interior design

Provide easy storage

With student bedrooms acting as places for work and play, it’s important to include practical storage options. Try a clothes rail, which can double up as a space to dry washing, with boxes, baskets and trugs for easy storage and quick tidy-ups. ‘There’s a direct link between untidiness and stress,’ says Philippa. Make sure there’s a place to keep reading material and reference books near to the desk, with space to add more as the academic year continues. 


student interior design

Move things around

Changing furniture around can have a big impact. ‘Desks should be positioned in an area that benefits from lots of natural light, ideally with a view of greenery,’ says Philippa. ‘Research has shown that office workers who sit next to a window are more productive.’ Desk chairs need to be comfortable and supportive, too. 

If the carpet has seen better days – or the flooring is laminate or wood – then add a bright rug for an easy cheer-up styling trick. Philippa also suggests a few house plants, which will not only look good, but will have a positive impact too. 

student interior design

Create communal hubs

‘Students are looking for a home at a time when their friends are becoming their family, support network and bubble. So places that provide large, comfortable, high-quality communal spaces for small to medium groups will be popular,’ says Philippa.

‘A contemporary interior design scheme, comfortable furniture and a touch of personality are my top tips for communal spaces,’ she continues. ‘Blank, empty walls can feel imposing – a few photos or prints really bring a space to life.’ 

There should be enough space for everyone to sit comfortably on a sofa and around a dining table, with a few pieces of flexible furniture, such as stools and pouffes, on hand for guests. ‘I’d also pack a few board games,’ suggests Philippa. ‘They’re a great way to get to know new housemates.’


student interior design

And places to escape…

‘A good mix of indoor and outdoor space is important,’ says Philippa, with areas students can escape to other than their bedrooms being a bonus. Flexible seating – such as pouffes or beanbags – can turn an empty corner into a quiet haven. 

‘With a much bigger component of coursework being online, this year at least, strong internet conectivity is a must,’ says Philippa, which will allow our students the chance to work – and catch up with family life via Zoom – around their new home.


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