University accommodation tends to look pretty bland, but adding your own stamp with a few key accessories can make all the difference.
“I always used to get homesick whenever I was away from home, but I didn’t feel homesick while I was at uni and I honestly think it’s because I made my room my own,” says graduate Beth Mahoney, who’s about to start her Masters in September.
Of course painting the walls or drilling nails to hang photos goes against most rental agreements, whether you’re in university halls or have a private landlord, so you’re going to need to work with what you’ve got.
With that in mind, we asked interior designers and bloggers for their top tips for sprucing up small spaces on a student budget, then picked some affordable products to help you along your way.
1. Don’t be afraid of patterns and colour.
Adding pops of colour will transform a dull university room, according to blogger Emily Lavinia, of ace + boogie. “Soft furnishings are a great way to do this, opt for bright, tonal bed linens, plush cushions, rugs and cosy throws in all your favourite shades,” she says.
Patterned cushion cover, £8.99, H&M
Green and white patterned throw, £29.99, TKMaxx
Elysian scatter cushion, £21.99, WayFair.
Chenille tassel throw, £20.00, Matalan.
2. Experiment with lighting.
Ideally a room should have two/three types of light for different times of the day: a ceiling light, a desk light and some “mood lighting”, says to Aurore Martial, founder of interior design company domus-venus.com.
“Fairy lights are a great way to add a softer cosier look in a room, they are cheap, you can find them in any shape and colour and the result is brilliant,” she adds.
Brass micro battery festoon lights, £8.99, lights4fun.co.uk.
Aquamarine desk lamp, £19.99, TKMaxx.
Copper geometric fairy lights, £19.95, Notonthehightsreet.com.
3. Get arty.
Prop prints on surfaces or use peel away hanging tabs to decorate your room with artwork, nail-free. “Opt for a selection of prints of varying sizes and stick to a theme or palette that makes you feel positive, calm or and inspired when you look at it,” says Emily.
Rose gold foil print, £4.50, Etsy.
Set of three banana leaf print, £12.02, Etsy.
Set of three geometric prints, £14, Notonthehighstreet.com.
4. Make storage part of the fun.
A tidy bedroom will help you feel chilled out during busy periods, so invest in some decent storage and of course, a laundry basket.
“Decorative boxes of different sizes are a great idea to stock your socks, underwear, books and little treasures. If you want to go the extra mile to make it fit your colour scheme, you could buy plain ones and paint them with sample pots, or cover them with wallpaper that you could stick on it,” says Aurore.
Mini wooden drawers, £10, ASDA
Braided storage basket, £12.99, H&M
Fabric storage box, £12.00, Matalan.
5. Bring the outdoors in.
A cheap way to pick up some plants is to head to your local supermarket, but you can also order real or artificial greenery online if you prefer. “Invest in a few small, low maintenance plants like succulents and cacti to start with and experiment with unique pots and planters to suit your look,” says Emily.
Succulents, from £3 (without pot), Patch.
Artificial succulents, £4 for a pack of three (including pots), IKEA.
6. Upcycle to save some money.
Upcycling items you already have will not only make your new pad feel homely, but save you some crucial pennies, says interior designer Natalie Lockwood, of blog Little Mill House.
“Clean iconic baked bean tins when you’ve been cooking to make a cool succulent planter,” she says. “Instead of buying art prints and frames, simply frame old music records, they look interesting and can be picked up really cheaply in second hand shops.
“Create a side table with personality by painting a stack of old books in the same colour and gluing them together. A little side table is so handy for a lamp or to extend your desk space.”