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How to style your student home on a budget

2nd August 2020 Print

Living in a student house doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy stylish surroundings. And while you can’t always guarantee that your housemates will do their fair share of the cleaning, you can create a relaxing and beautiful home for very little cash.

Take a look at our tips for making your university digs a lot more stylish, but remember to check with your landlord before buying any paint or picture hooks.

1. Add some practicality

Small additions can make a big difference, like cheap coffee tables and small bookshelves in communal areas. Having somewhere the remote controls can live, as well as textbooks that need to be remembered the next day, is invaluable, and it’s a surprise how much more put together a room can feel with something as simple as a coffee table in the centre of it.

2. Upgrade the existing furnishings

Most student houses come fully furnished now, which means that you won’t be able to do much with the main pieces of furniture, but you can accessorise them. Cushions are a cheap and easy way to put your stamp on a rented home that lacks a certain amount of colour or fun.

3. Go green

Not the wall paint, but with house plants. Keep things easy by choosing varieties that need little maintenance, such as cacti and succulents, then pop them wherever you see a boring or empty space. Add even more flair by choosing colourful pots or decorating them yourself. That’s what chilled Sundays are for.

4. Cut some rug

It’s a safe bet that you wouldn’t have chosen the carpet in your student home, so while you’re living with it, why not cover up as much as you can with a rug that you do like? In your own bedroom, you can have whatever you please, but in communal spaces, remember that everyone needs to agree. Plus, if you all chip in and buy it, you’ll have to work out who keeps it at the end of your course.

5. Add a little sparkle

They might sound a little clichéd now, but fairy lights and student houses go hand-in-hand. Why not try mixing things up by placing yours somewhere more unusual, like in the bathroom, for a starlight pamper session? If your house comes with a garden, you could add some out there, too, so you can all enjoy evenings outdoors.

6. Get arty

Pictures and posters are the go-to for cheering up student homes but keep things stylish and deposit-savvy by using a gallery technique. Instead of taping or hanging anything on the walls, frame and lean your art against your walls, on the floor. It looks great and causes no damage.

7. Throw on a throw

If the cushions alone haven’t done enough to conceal a sofa that nobody is really that keen on, go the whole hog and grab a couple of neutral throws. You can either tuck them neatly as a second sofa cover or place them in a more bohemian and casual way, which when combined with cushions, can look really chic.

8. The nose knows

Let’s be totally honest for a moment – student houses often smell less than wonderful. A heady combination of lazy cleaning, gym trainers, leftovers and a shared bathroom can all add up to fairly unpleasant whiffs, but you can combat this so simply. Buy a reed diffuser for your communal spaces and you’ll soon notice the pongs disappearing. It’s also a really good idea to buy a chef’s candle for the kitchen. When lit, while you’re cooking, they prevent strong food odours from lingering and getting trapped in your soft furnishings. Perfect for when you can’t resist a pungent stir-fry, but nobody else wants to have to smell it.

9. Protect the investment

When you stop living at home, the first thing you love is all that freedom and the lack of rules, but soon enough you’ll start to understand why your parents were always yelling about coasters. Water marks leave damage, which means deposit deductions, so be a grown-up and invest in coasters and place mats. You don’t have to be dull about it, as you can order personalised ones online.

10. Rack them up

One thing you’ll never regret buying for your student home is a cheap shoe rack. A plain wooden one won’t break the bank, but it will stop your hallway or living room from looking like a bomb site. Get a multi-tiered version and everyone can have their own shelf, making it easier to get out of the door in the morning without any arguments about borrowed footwear.

11. Functional fun

Traffic cones and road signs were once the height of fashion for student homes, but these days, it’s OK to want to come back to nice, warm, clean and attractive shared accommodation. You still want a little fun, though, so why not have door signs made for your bedrooms and some kind of warning system for the bathroom? Occupied signs are an easy, cheap and silly way to keep things light-hearted without going overboard.

12. Keep it cute

If you like your bedroom to be cute and you aren’t a stranger to a little vintage styling, bunting is an easy and cheap way to create a stylish haven of personal calm. Hung on your bed, mantle or across the top of a wardrobe, it looks sweet, can be homemade and is an easy thing to take with you when you leave. It also won’t leave any damage, as you can use masking tape to fix it in place. Bunting isn’t recommended for communal areas unless everybody else also like it. This is one of those small additions that could really grate on some nerves, so check with your housemates first!

13. Buy the good toilet roll

This might sound really strange, but if you all chip in as a household to buy a toilet roll subscription you’ll enjoy multiple benefits. Firstly, you’ll never run out. Second, nobody has to lug it all home with their shopping, and third, it is usually supplied in really pretty paper packaging. Seriously, these companies know that people buy as much for the eco-friendly and pretty packaging as the convenience, with Instagram accounts showing artistic displays of toilet rolls in bathrooms around the world. That’s probably the cheapest way to jazz up a shared bathroom ever.

14. Start cleaning

Lastly, it doesn’t matter how much hard work you all put into making your student home stylish, if you don’t all muck in and keep it clean. A rota is the best way to ensure that everybody takes their turn, but some common-sense behaviour won’t go amiss either. Put your clothes in your laundry basket, pop shoes on the rack and wipe the coffee table if you spill a drink. Prevention is better than cure.

Student homes don’t need to look like a set from The Young Ones anymore, so if you like the idea of coming home to comfortable furniture, pretty textiles and a bathroom that sparkles, follow these tips and make it happen.