The Difference Between Designing for Student Living & Multi-Family Housing

Understanding the differences

Student Housing Vs. Multifamily

Although multi-family housing and student living properties share many things in common, there are vast differences in how to approach both the interior architecture and design for each. The way these properties are designed will ultimately dictate whether or not prospective residents will be sold on signing a lease/decide to call your site home.

It takes a knowledgeable design team to nail down the nuances that distinguish these properties from one another. By taking the time to truly assess the needs of your future residents, a thoughtful interior design team will be able to help you attract new leases with greater success!

Student Living vs. Multi-Family Housing Design

What’s the Same?

Before we dive into what makes designing these properties different, it’s important to point out the things they share in common. Both student living and multi-family housing residents have certain expectations for their living experiences, including:

  • Areas to gather as a community
  • Luxury amenities
  • Quality fixtures and materials
  • High-tech features and fast internet
  • Beautiful yet functional design

What separates the way in which these properties are designed more than anything is how each of these needs are met for the specific residents they are meant to serve.

What’s Different?

It’s important to consider who your resident will ultimately be before getting started with the interior design. The following illustrates how each of the aforementioned considerations change depending on what property type you’re designing:

Design Consideration Student Living Multi-Family Housing

Community Areas

Computer rooms and semi-private study spaces
Student dining and event areas
Gaming and media centers
Project collaboration areas
Reservable lounges for family events
Business centers and coworking areas
Communal kitchens
Family care spaces (i.e. daycare areas)
On-site dining options

Luxury Amenities

Resort-style pools
Rooftop community gardens
Indoor-outdoor living spaces
On-site or in-unit laundry facilities
Full-service fitness centers
Indoor bike storage
Large mail rooms and package storage space
“Maker spaces” featuring work benches, floor drains, or extra HVAC ventilation
Dog parks
Indoor bike storage
Resort-style pools and private cabanas
Ground-level community gardens
Large mail rooms and package storage space

Fixtures & Materials

Walk-in closets
Private bathrooms and kitchens
Quality countertops
High-end kitchen appliances
Master suites
Quality countertops
High-end kitchen appliances
Indoor air quality and water purification systems


Fast internet speeds and Wi-Fi connectivity
Smart elevators
Access to high-speed internet providers
Smart elevators
Virtual doorman systems
Automated doors
As for the interior design of your property, you’ll need to take much more into consideration when creating spaces for your ideal resident. Additionally, you’ll need to compare your property to similar properties in your market to see how you can fill voids that your competition is currently lacking. For instance, if you’re a multi-family housing property on the coast of Florida and your competition doesn’t offer private cabanas by the pool, this could be a great way to attract new residents.

Why Does It Matter?

Understanding how to cater your interior architecture and design to your residents is what separates successful properties from the rest. By taking the time to create a truly unique living experience that tends to the specific needs of your residents, you’ll be able to attract the right people to your community.

Interior Design Solutions for Any Living Situation

Creating spaces that speak to the residents they’re meant to serve is exactly what the SouthPark Interiors team does best. Our interior designers specialize in crafting carefully-curated living spaces for virtually every commercial living situation, including student housing, multi-family living, apartment complexes, and senior and active living communities. Contact our team to schedule a student housing or multi-family living design consultation today!