Designing a dorm room does not fit into the typical role of Australian interior designers. In fact, dorm accommodation has not traditionally been high on the agenda of many in the national industry.
This may, however, be soon changing.
With an increasing number of students studying in regional universities, the need for on-campus living development is on the rise.
This new demand is being readily met by the Australian industry, with major universities including Monash and La Trobe both completely recently on campus residential living developments.
While the architecture and construction sectors are optimising the opportunities that this growing sector has to offer, these opportunities may be going unchecked by their interior design industry counterparts.
The most modern student residences are fitted out with considered interior design features, but many are severely lacking, taking on the institutional atmosphere that is so often apparent in older buildings. Not only is this aesthetically displeasing, but according to a research paper published in the Journal of Urban Health of the New York Academy of Medicine, it could have drastically negative results on mental health.
“The built environment has direct and indirect effects on mental health,” says the paper’s author, Gary W. Evans. “Poor-quality housing appears to increase psychological distress.”
Dorm room design, however, comes with a number of challenges.
According to the Wall Street Journal, dorm rooms average roughly 180 square feet in size and are not expected to grow any larger. This stands as the greatest challenge for designers. Another challenge in designing dorm rooms is the highly flexible, transitional state that these rooms need to feature. Finally, the space needs to allow for individuality, offering incentive to students comfortable living at home.
Lack of Space
While this is a challenge for designers – space-optimising design is a growing reality in population-dense cities worldwide. Examples of this kind of design have been seen across the world, in dense urban areas from Hong Kong to France. Designers have made a point of maximising the tiniest spaces through considered flexible design, with multi-functional furniture and zoning standing as prime requirements.
The space-short nature of dorm rooms makes it integral that they be multi-functional. Standing as the student’s studying, sleeping, entertaining and often even cooking spaces, dorm rooms need to be designed in order to cater to all of these elements. While that is a hefty task, a focus on lighting, zoning and maximising storage solutions can make this a possibility.
‘Personal Space: Interior design approaches to bedrooms in mental health developments’, a research study undertaken by the Architecture and Design Scotland (A+DS) Health Programme, found that promoting individuality stands as one of the keys to improving quality of life in a multi-residential unit, especially if these unity follow a standard design format.
Student lifestyles can often be high-stress and pressure-packed, especially during exam periods, and considered design is vital in improving the students’ quality of life, reducing stress and allowing for personal growth by enabling creative freedom over their space.
With student living continuing to become more prevalent, it would be prudent for the interior design industry to make the most of the economic and design opportunities it will offer. This will promise both economic expansion and an overall increase of the living standards of students Australia-wide.