Lifestyle 23.11.18

How to furnish your student room on a budget

It can be easy to spend loads of money on your student room. But what if you can make it look good on the cheap? It is possible, and here's how.
Kim Connor Streich
Kim Connor Streich

This article was written by an external contributor. Lucy Pegg has some tips for anyone looking to spruce up their flat, house or dorm room. 

Whether you’ve got a place in halls, you’re moving into a student house, or you’ll be living in an unfurnished flat, furnishing a living space on little – or no – budget is a longstanding student problem. Just how do you achieve that minimalist Scandi-chic look, or luxe vintage vibe, in a temporary home when you have no money?

Read on for four tips on low-budget decorating that will transform your bland magnolia box into a home you’ll be proud of.

Second-hand is the way forward

student room

If you have limited funds and need to save money, you need to buy second-hand wherever possible, particularly when it comes to larger pieces of furniture. In furnished halls or student houses you probably won’t need too many bigger items, but an extra bookcase or a full-length mirror might still be on your wish list.

Check out what’s available at your local charity shops or second-hand stores, which are often flooded with the furniture donated by students moving out the previous year. Online sites such as Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are also full of cheap items, and allow you to do a very precise search of what’s nearby too. Look out for free items too, particularly on Facebook – even better, see what’s on Freecycle, where all items are free, though the selection is usually more limited.

Get artsy

student room

If there’s something you really want to decorate with that you can’t afford, why not see if you can make it yourself? That’s right, it’s time to unleash those arts and crafts skills you honed in primary school and let them run wild in your student room. Even something basic can really freshen up your room.

If you’re looking for ideas, these are some particularly simple projects that look great, but are simple to make; create paper bunting (use newspaper if you don’t want to buy coloured paper specially), make a collage from magazines rather than buying an overpriced poster, or try framing your posters to give a touch of art gallery class.

If you’re sticking things to your walls just be careful to mind the blue tack, or you’ll hate yourself when you get charged for repainting at the end of your tenancy.

Raid your family home

student room

I’m always surprised by how much useful stuff can be found by having a rummage in my parents shed, garage or loft. For some reason there still seems to be forgotten bookshelves or chairs each time I look for one. So if you have obliging family or friends, see if they might have something hidden away that they wouldn’t mind you breathing new life into.

Plus, those 1980s bed sheets your Aunt had stored away are vintage now, rather than just old, so you might gain some cool points in the process too.


student room

I say upcycle, but what I really mean is desperately turning one thing into something else because you just don’t want to be spending more money on decorating. Whether it’s throwing a scarf over a large box to make it into a coffee table (I did this for a whole year and can credit how well it works), or attaching a tablecloth over your windows rather than buying curtains (again, I can attest that this is effective), the solutions may seem hodgepodge but are perfectly serviceable.

After all, students can get away with different standards than “real” adults and its probably going to be fellow students that spend time in your room. Your ingenious techniques will more likely be lauded than laughed at.

When you’re decorating and furnishing on a student budget, try to see it as a chance for creativity rather than just an annoyance. With some second-hand furniture, a splash of arts and crafts, and a touch of upcycling, your room will be as ready for student life as you.

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