10 design considerations when creating the perfect school boarding house


Boarding houses have to strike a number of balances. Most importantly they must be fit for purpose, providing all of the facilities that a boarding student would expect.


But simply having ample storage and a soft bed is no longer enough. In order to stand out in a competitive market, student accommodation needs to be comfortable, homely, and an inspiring space in which to reside. It must also sell itself to prospective parents during that all-important school tour, so instant impact is crucial. According to Schools House magazine, decisions regarding school places can be swayed by the feel of boarding houses alone.

So are you doing enough? Does your boarding community have a space that not only looks good but functions effectively, adding value to the entire boarding experience? We explore some of the key factors involved in designing the best boarding houses.

Instant wow factor

First impressions count. You only get one chance to make this initial impact, so aim to deliver a powerful visual punch. Research suggests that the most commanding first impressions create a ‘halo’ effect, so an impressive boarding environment can be used to elevate the perception of other elements within your school.

A chance to reinforce school culture and brand values

Each aspect of your design should be brought back to the core values of your school. If you thrive on consistently high academic achievement, your decor should gently hint at this. If sporting prowess features highly in the makeup of your school, then this can be incorporated into the furniture, fixtures and fittings. Prospective students should be able to identify the core culture of the school just by stepping inside, and boarding spaces should be no different. Whether it’s through carefully chosen colours, inspirational wall murals, or cleverly designed pieces of furniture, an affinity with the school culture reflected in the boarding environment should offer comfort and inspiration to those who spend their time there.

Make it memorable

Stepping into your boarding facilities should be a memorable experience, so consider ways to make it unique. Don’t let a walk through the boarding house become just another stop on the school tour. Find ways to make it a talking point, and ensure that the conversations surrounding a visit live on long after the experience. This might be done through an innovative layout, vibrant design, or an impressive array of facilities.

The space must be suitable for purpose

A spectacular boarding house is superficial if it is not fit for purpose. And there will be no disguising inefficiencies once it comes into operation. Poor design is evident in a messy, unproductive environment, and this can lead to an atmosphere of discontent. Whilst the design should work hard to impress visually, in some respects the necessity to impress on a functional level is even more important. And this is where the consultation of experts is crucial. By employing the services of design experts , you can create a bespoke solution that only looks great, but excels at the job for which it was intended.

Safe place for all

Much emphasis is placed on the facilities and functionality of a boarding house. But often neglected is the consideration of wellbeing and safety. Boarding environments by their very nature encourage sociability, comradeship, and collaboration; the boarding school model is built on such values. But as well as providing an environment that enhances these qualities, it’s important to allow for safe periods of solitude and privacy. Consider installing ‘snug’ type areas where students can safely enjoy some alone time or small seating areas where friends can have private conversations and experience moments of reflection.


Much of Envoplan’s ethos centres on the importance of flexibility. An adaptable space brings numerous benefits, allowing for multiple uses and enhancing the whole school experience. Having furniture that can be transformed in an instant allows boarding houses to take on many different roles and purposes, all of which enhance the experiences of the boarders themselves.

Make it feel like home

In our quest for flexibility, innovation, and high impact, it is important not to forget that boarding spaces act as a term-time home for many children. The boarding house must be a place that these students want to spend time. After a long day at school, they should seek comfort in returning to the boarding house, finding a space to properly recharge after a busy day. Make use of tactile fabrics and welcoming soft furnishings to create a cosy homely feel.

Consider the wellbeing of all boarders

Wellbeing has always been important, but it has never felt more essential to ensure we are looking after the mental health of all of our pupils. And boarders living away from home might be even more vulnerable to issues concerning wellbeing. Promoting a positive attitude towards wellness could be as simple as providing communal spaces to encourage conversation. Or it might involve making sure every student has the equipment that they need to relax and unwind in the evening. Don’t assume all students will instantly gravitate towards the pool table. To do this best, create a culture of community, listen to the student’s needs, and don’t discount their ideas and suggestions. This is their space. So their voice should carry great weight.

Future proof your tech

A well-planned boarding house should be a long term investment. If properly designed, starting with the infrastructure, it will far outlive any technical progression over the coming years. With this in mind, tech should be seamlessly integrated, but remain flexible. When something new comes along, you can install the new technology without having to literally rip out the old.

Focus on sustainability

This should matter to all of us, but to the next generation, a sustainable environment is their number one priority. Consider how you can adopt sustainable approaches into your boarding house. It might be in the choice of natural materials. Or you might choose to go further by harnessing renewable energy sources with the installation of solar panels and wind turbines. Whatever route you choose, make sure your approaches towards sustainability are visible.

At Envoplan we consider all of these factors, and more, in the bespoke design of our boarding facilities. We go to great lengths to understand your exact requirements to ensure that any refit or boarding build project is tailored to the individual needs of students and staff. To find out more about our innovative school builds get in touch with one of our design team.

At Envoplan, we have it covered.  From concept to creation on any budget.  We would love to help!

Contact us on +44 (0) 20 8997 9656

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