Congratulations! You’ve made it to uni. This is the start of something beautiful… well, maybe not. While your social and academic life may be about to take off for the better, if you’re living in shared digs things may be about to take a dive instead.
Let’s face it, landlords aren’t there to provide you with creature comforts and home-made cooking. “Mum’s laundry service” won’t be open for business either – unless you plan on posting your clothes home each week. Everything about your new digs will scream: this is not what you’re used to!
Things like leather sofas, hand-crafted Danish lamps and silk cushions aren’t their concern. The walls will be magnolia, the carpets a brown, grey or dark blue or some other colour that won’t show up the dirt, spills and scuffs. It’ll be hard-wearing too and cheap to replace. Roll around on it at your peril.
To be fair to landlords, they’re only there to offer you a safe and clean room in exchange for your rent. Interior design is not their forte. It might not be yours either, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your digs quickly and easily.
Here are 5 ways to make the most of your new home on a budget:
1. A lick of paint goes a long way
You don’t have to repaint the whole house, just your room or one wall even. Adding a splash of colour here and there will give it a fresh feel and the sense that it’s more how you want it to be. It will also cover up any sticky tape marks and nail holes from the previous tenant.
If you need a communal message board then don’t bother with a cork board or post-it notes: paint a wall with innovative whiteboard paint instead and scrawl messages and slogans to each other in neon whiteboard pens.
You should double check with the landlord first though. They may not mind you repainting a wall or your room – especially at your expense - but not if you intend to decorate in sunburst orange.
2. Affordable art
Posters and pictures can work wonders. Especially giant ones. You don’t even have to fix them to the wall either. You can prop a canvas or picture on the floor or a chest of drawers. How easy is that?! Another brilliantly cheap way of creating art is to request a few wallpaper samples in bold but complementary designs and frame them – it’s a fraction of the cost and hassle of a papered feature wall. Covering a dilapidated desk or the inside of a wardrobe in wallpaper will also it bring it back to life.
Wall transfers are all the rage too. Dive onto Pinterest or eBay and turn your room into a temporary forest, city or starlit sky. You won’t get bored with transfers either; they can be peeled off and repositioned to any other wall in the house at any time.
3. Make a shrine or a line of family and friends
Hang a thick hessian cord across your room, grab some wooden pegs and put up your favourite photos from home. It takes two seconds! On the other hand, you could put all your photos on one wall or if you’d prefer to avoid the hammer and nails, simply stand them altogether on a desk or on top of a chest of drawers.
4. Fake it with flowers and foliage
Real plants are beautiful, of that there is no doubt, but let’s face it, do you have what it takes to look after them? They’ll need food, watering, pruning, debugging, dusting down and air! When will you have time to do all that in between lectures, coursework, socialising and the occasional hang over?
Choose some affordable artificial plants instead; they’ll look great at whatever time of day, night or year. Modern manufacturing techniques mean they look incredibly realistic so you won’t be sacrificing beauty or style. No one will ever know and they’ll think you’re a gardening god.
5. “Throw” out the sofa!
It’s anyone’s guess how old the sofa and chairs will be in your student digs and what they’ve been through over the years, but you don’t have to put up with the tatty corners and threadbare covers a minute longer. Give it a good vacuum then grab some throws, sarongs and cushions and spread them all over. What the eye can’t see, the mind can’t grouse about.
If the carpet is looking decidedly desperate, grab yourself a cheap and cheerful rug - cover it all up in fresh fabric and you’ll fool everyone into thinking your digs aren’t so dull or dingy after all.
It really doesn’t take too much money or effort to turn your new place into a home from home. And of course, you can take most of these things and ideas with you when you leave at the end of term.