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Episode 4: STUDENT HALLS • Interior Design Masters, BBC & Netflix

Versatility in a live/work space in a micro set up

Week four: We headed back to University to give bland student digs a makeover. The space was not only small, it was an incredibly awkward shape.

Micro living is a big trend. But also one of the hardest to pull off. Compact spaces need to be adaptable. Space saving, flexible furniture is key.

The design not only needed to be unisex – it also needed to look good. Cool. Fresh. Appealing. But this task wasn’t just about how it looks, but how the student uses the space.

We had just one week for design prep, two days for transformation and a budget of £1500.

Head Judge Michelle Ogundehin said; "Nicki is hugely talented. Everyone has been OMG she has done so much. Nicki has a gazillion ideas. Nicki has a million ideas a minute."

AFTER – The final room



What do students want? That was what I had to puzzle out. We’d already each been assigned identical rooms to design in a halls of residence. But at the last minute, I was also allocated a communal kitchen to make over with Jerome and Kyle at the same time. This was going to be tough. With time so tight, we would have to share our time, our trades and their time to work on the kitchen if it was going to be a success.

Instead of appointing a project leader, we agreed to work as a team on the kitchen. My job? The kitchen area and lighting. Kyle would be in charge of the design and build of the high table – and Jerome the lounge area. We are based in different parts of the country, which made communicating ideas tricky and hard work. We had to get the ideas nailed early in order to be able to purchase all the items and materials required in time for the transformation. Harder than it sounds!



The rooms should feel young, fresh and stylish, but must be a design that isn’t going to date too quickly. Due to the rooms regularly changing occupants they should not lean too heavily to a specific gender.

The completed room will need to have a bed, large desk, wardrobe and shelves / storage and seating.


For the individual student who rents one of these en-suite studios, their individual space is used for a number of purposes. The students will study, entertain, relax and sleep in this space. Truly multi-functional, these small spaces must fulfil a number of purposes. Traditionally designed to be a neutral and functional space the owners see this as an opportunity to bring something new and distinctive to the world of student studio design.




Hard wearing



Gender neutral



Budget £1,500



I like a challenge and really wanted to rethink the space and make it as flexible as possible within a very tight budget. Not just a bedroom with a desk.

Having lived in student accommodation myself back in the day, I know that I would want to use the space differently at different times.

Key needs are:

  • Study

  • Sleep

  • Relaxing

  • Entertaining

  • Having visitors and family stay from home

Students also like to be individual. I wanted there to be elements of the room that the student could tailor to their needs.

Another challenge? Time. We were limited in the materials we could use to meet fire and safety regulations. We were often quoted high prices and long wait times for materials pre-treated to appropriate safety and wear standards. With no time in our schedule this made designing and creating bespoke furniture very difficult. Obviously in the real world, this time would be built into my design schedule. After all, why choose to paint plywood when a manufacturer can do it more efficiently?



I wanted to open up the space as much as possible for maximum flexibility in a small space.

I moved the wardrobe next to the bed. This freed up the window wall to have a much larger desk space.

Flexible desk area. I used a freestanding desk. This could be moved if the student wished. I created an extension of the desk area in the form of a long drop-leaf table under the window. This would be perfect for periods when lots of reading materials and technology such as printers etc are required. When entertaining or hosting visitors, this could be folded down to free up floor space.

Drop-leaf table up for extended desk space when needed.

The bed

I designed the bed to create a sense of a snug cosy retreat, or more open space. Depending on their mood, the student could use either end of the bed for sleeping or reading. I even included adjustable lighting for reading at both ends. The wardrobe served as a room divider. Colour blocking with paint also helped zone the room.

A raised built-in-bed allows more storage underneath. The design had hidden storage for large items such as suitcases and sports equipment.

Hidden storage for large items that would not be needed everyday such as suitcases.

Modular storage. I designed boxes that slotted into each other in front of the hidden storage. More boxes could sit within this design. The boxes could be taken out and used as bookshelves, stacked or for displaying items in other parts of the room – for example on the opposite wall under the light box or next to the desk. Or they could be neatly stowed away under the bed as shelving if preferred to free up floor space to maximum capacity. The larger container boxes could also be sat next to each other in an L shape and used as a window seat when the drop leaf table is down.

Versatile set up. The window seat option. This is how I dressed the room when judging. These boxes could also tuck under the bed out of the way to maximise the floor space.

I have a passion for designing bespoke spaces and thinking about how the client would use it. My own home is full of bespoke storage – essential with three lively, toy-collecting children. I work closely with carpenters to ensure every aspect of the design works. In real life, if something doesn’t quite work or fit, you simply change it. On a reality TV show there’s no time for tweaks.


One ceiling light is never enough – even in the smallest of spaces.

I included:

  • Directional spotlights in the ceiling to highlight the different zones

  • Pendant feature light over the study area

  • Extendable wall lighting

  • A reading light in the nook area of the bed


  1. The dirty carpet was replaced with an easy-to-clean laminate.

  2. I used a fresh unisex colour palette and a striking graphic design to zone the study area.

  3. I added additional furniture with a beans bag. If visitors came into the room there was somewhere else to lounge other than the office chair and bed – but which could be easily moved out of the way.

  4. I made a giant light box so students could spell out their feelings!


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