Re-Imagining Residence Halls

New Campus Spaces Provide Students with the Comforts of Home

As professionals in the education market know, the academic landscape is changing rapidly – and furniture solutions need to follow suit.

Students often need to pull away from the hectic pace of campus life and seek out places for quiet focus work. The trend has been to break away from the traditional dorm look and feel, and head towards a homier, more inviting atmosphere.

Goodbye Dormitories, Hello Residence Halls

Associations such as ACHUO-i, a leading organization for campus housing and residence life professionals, and subsequently furniture manufacturers have moved away from the label or use of dated terms like “dorm” or “dormitories” and embraced terms such as “housing” and “residence halls”. This is because these campus areas provide institutions with the opportunity to offer a customizable, functional solution, bridging academic performance and residence life.

More Than Just a Name Change

In the past, dormitories typically provided the basic necessities with little to no amenities. Most dorms were built in the traditional style: double-loaded corridors, shared bathrooms, strict rules of conduct, and few student support programs.

Today’s residence halls are constructed with apartment-style suites, providing a variety of luxury amenities as well as increased privacy. Though many people still use the outdated term “dorms” to refer to this housing, the new names for places where college students live aren’t just catchy marketing phrases. There has been a significant shift in the way colleges and universities think about housing their students – providing spaces where students really live, not just a place to sleep.

We’re seeing a trend toward residence halls that now offer suites equipped with comfortable furnishings, warm paint colors, carpets, air conditioning, and kitchenettes with micro-fridges and dishwashers. Private bathrooms are becoming more common and include upscale finishes like quality tile floors, fixtures, and separate changing and vanity areas for increased privacy.

With respect to community spaces, a common design trend we’re seeing is lounges that are designed more like living rooms with comfortable sofas, flat screen TVs, and even fireplaces. Courtyards offer plus landscaping, patios, and benches. State-of-the-art fitness centers and pools are also becoming increasingly popular.

Attracting and Retaining Students

Residence halls are an extremely important factor in a prospective student’s decision making. Not only that, but once they choose to attend, the challenge is keeping them on campus beyond their freshman year.

Providing upscale accommodations and amenities and enhancing the student experience is an important consideration that affects many areas in an institution – including the procurement department. There are a number of associations out there who can assist today’s procurement professionals in the process, including APPA, ACHUO-i, NACUBO, and NAEP. It’s important that we all work together in this shared goal of providing spaces that ensure today’s students are happy, productive, and ultimately successful during their time on campus.

Portrait of Tina Smith, Business Development Executive, Interiors at E&I Cooperative Services

About the Author

Tina Smith is the Business Development Executive, Facilities & Interiors at E&I Cooperative Services. She has worked with furniture specification, procurement, installment, and sales for nearly three decades, and has extensive experience with E&I’s interiors contracts portfolio. Contact her at


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