Big Pimpin': Blinging Out Your Student Digs on a Budget

Student digs: cheap furniture, bad decorating and Withnail & I-esque kitchens, right? We find out if it's possible to maintain a certain level of style without losing your entire deposit

Feature by Helen McCarthy | 09 Sep 2013
  • Fairy Lights

A student house or room in halls is probably like nowhere you will ever live again in your life. Pretty much every house or flat you will find yourself in during your degree will be a plain, basic, empty shell of naff fake wood, dodgy showers, and almost constant noise from the other side of the partition. 

Let’s start with the walls. The overwhelming trend for red fairy lights is the epitome of quirk for some, but if you're anything like us they'll just make you think of overpriced hipster bars or a twinkly brothel. Don't do it, don't go down that road. A section of wall can be transformed with posters (avoid Che and Le Chat), or, more interestingly, tiled postcards. A friend patchworked hers with train tickets accrued over two years: that's one way to track fare increases over time and count down the days to the end of your 16-25 Railcard, RIP.

Next: the living room, or, if you’re in halls, your Small Room, which will become your living room, dining room, bedroom and everything-room. Until it drives you mad and you never want to go in there ever again, you can jazz it up no trouble by channelling Elizabeth Taylor on a budget. Faux fur is the perfect material to drape over those hideous floral sofas your landlord hasn't replaced in 15 years. It looks luxurious, it feels luxurious and yet it can be found all over the high street dirt cheap. If you're in halls with nothing but a single bed and a desk to your name, you are by no means exempt from the fur. A throw is essential for damp northern weather, and flicks a V at the heating bill.

Speaking of the cold: Christmas! The festive season will creep up very quickly during your first semester, and one or more of your flatmates will inevitably get into the spirit enough to spend money on it. So when their cheer hits your living space, there are two options: embrace tack, metallics and the pound shop, or go out and find some pine cones and arrange them artfully next to the TV. If a real tree is beyond your house or flat's collective budget, some Pine Fresh and tinsel won't go amiss.

Much like a genuine tree, other forms of organic life tend to fall by the wayside during one's student years, but you can freshen up a room in an instant and improve that really nasty smell of last night's Jacob's Creek with some flowers. If you want something more long-term, try a houseplant. Most of them are so low maintenance that all you need to do is water them when they wilt, which happens approximately every ten days – far easier than a goldfish, or indeed a girlfriend or boyfriend. And if you're inclined to not getting scurvy and cooking properly, pots of fresh, living herbs on your windowsill are not only convenient and economical but also decorative. They might even deter your local opportunist thief, who'll take one look at your herb garden and assume that this is not an easily accessed student house filled with MacBooks beyond an open window somewhere. Basil can be your burglar alarm.