How to get a first in home decor

Student digs don’t have to be hideous. You can make your new pad cheery and stylish, and still have money left to socialise.

Freshers’ week may be about drinking your body weight in tequila, copping off with the wrong sort and waking up with a tattoo, but it is also about setting up home for the first time. Yet when you speak to people about their student digs, the word stylish doesn’t spring to mind.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are amazing bargains to be bagged, so your new home can feel both inspired and inspiring. Even better, they are hard-wearing, practical, portable and able to withstand the ultimate endurance test — night after night of drinking games, along with the occasional study session.

When leaving home for the first time, you could take the easy route and buy everything from the redoubtable Ikea, but you must know what you want before you go in, or you’ll probably have spent double what you intended by the time you escape. And remember, there are other options.

Soft furnishings can give a room layers and texture, making it feel cosy and inviting. Cushions, rugs, throws, blankets, curtains and blinds help to create a sense of homeliness. They’re also a cheap way to bring colour and warmth to the magnolia walls and hard floors of a dull, rented flat.

One of the tricks to making your first rental pad feel welcoming is to add a personal touch. Bring things from home, but simplify your possessions: leave behind your soft toy collection, but hang on to photos of family and friends, your favourite blanket and mugs, and mum’s teapot. All these things will make your space feel more warm and appealing to your uni mates.

The flatpack, one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, is the renter’s best friend. The do-it-yourself option is usually far cheaper than its pre-assembled cousin, so arm yourself with a set of Allen keys and a spanner, and you’ll be relaxing in your flatpack chair, with your feet up on your flatpack coffee table, in next to no time.

Another way to make a room feel full and lived in is to adorn the walls with all things inspiring, personal, thought-provoking and colourful. Online companies such as Easyart.co.uk and Art.co.uk stock thousands of prints and offer a range of framing and canvas options.

Or you can create your own art. Make a collage on your wall, anchored by your favourite piece in the centre: start in the middle and work outwards. Guests love to have a gander at photographs and artwork, and this can be a great conversation-starter when you’re entertaining new acquaintances. Alternatively, you can cover your walls with decal stickers, wrapping paper, market buys or maybe even some of your own paintings. Tiger stocks blank canvases, should you want to bring out your inner Van Gogh (from £2 each; tigerstores.co.uk).

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