Student style on a shoestring

Students are more style-conscious than ever before. Nicole Swengley goes shopping for well-designed, low-cost furnishing essentials
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The Independent Online

Forget charity shop bargains. Students are much more design-aware these days and want their pads to look stylishly cool. One thing that hasn't changed over the years, however, is the shoestring budget available for kitting them out. So here are 10 must-buy choices from the high street.

Forget charity shop bargains. Students are much more design-aware these days and want their pads to look stylishly cool. One thing that hasn't changed over the years, however, is the shoestring budget available for kitting them out. So here are 10 must-buy choices from the high street.

A stylish rug gives a dull room an instant lift. Ikea's hand-knotted Indo Gabbeh rugs (60cm x 90cm) in various designs and colours cost £15 each, while reversible cotton Alvine Randig rugs with blue stripes on beige (70cm x 130cm) are £6.90. Just turn them over to hide spills.

Cushions are an inexpensive way of adding colour and comfort. Woolworths sells silk-mix cushions in seven colours, from £6.99, velvet cushions, £8.99 each and fake suede cushions, £7.99 each. Toss in a couple of leather cushions in black or red, £11.97 each from Asda, and your pad will perk up immediately.

Late-night studies call for a good desk lamp. Adjustable designs at Argos include a black Flexi lamp, £3,99; adjustable-height mini halogen desk lamp (blueberry or transparent), £3.90; silvery GU10 desk lamp, £9.99, with adjustable head and arm and an energy-saving compact fluorescent desk lamp, £14.99, in black or silver. Home delivery orderline: 0870 600 2020. Online orders; www.argos.co.uk

Posters blue-tacked on walls are so yesterday - Framed prints are much more grown-up. Head off to John Lewis, where a wood-framed print such as Andy Warhol's Soup Cans or Marilyn design will set you back around £20. Or splash out £30 for a set of three Icon photographic prints (also from John Lewis). Choices include Audrey Hepburn, Mohammed Ali or The Beatles.

Shared bathrooms can become a no-go area. Avoid disaster by investing £19.99 in a towel bale from Next Home. Bales include two hand towels, two bath towels and two face cloths in a choice of 18 attractive colours such as raspberry, aubergine or ice-blue.

There's no need to dig deep into your student loan to buy design-conscious bedlinen. Giant spots decorate Matalan's Fifties-inspired bedlinen sets. A single duvet cover and pillowcase costs £9 and a double with two pillowcases costs £12. Or check out bright swirly Pucci-inspired designs or red polka dot bedlinen at Asda. Double sets cost £7.97.

Whether you enjoy cooking or prefer living off take-aways, you'll need tableware. It's hard to beat Habitat's white earthenware Ecco collection for design purity or price. Mugs, bowls and side-plates cost £2 each; dinner plates are £3 each. It's also worth checking out Woolworths' Simply Blue and Simply White ranges (dinner plates, £2.99; side-plates, £2.49; latte mugs, £3.49).

No student can survive long without using a kettle (endless cups of coffee) or a toaster (fast food at any time of day). The cheapest we've found are at Argos where a Cookworks corded filter kettle costs £5.70, and Cookworks two-slice toaster, £5.75. Or buy a Cookworks triple pack with two-slice toaster, jug kettle and sandwich toaster in blue, green or yellow for £19.99.

Smart storage solutions are essential in small spaces. Habitat sells white or charcoal-coloured boxes made from recycled cardboard in a range of sizes from CD boxes, £6, to under-bed boxes, £20. Ikea's Lingo Blomma cardboard boxes and holders offer a decorative way of stashing paperwork, CDs and other paraphernalia while Asda's leather-effect storage boxes, from £9.97, and magazine holder, £9.47, look thoroughly businesslike.

Where do you seat friends who drop round unexpectedly? On folding chairs. Ikea's Nick folding chairs, £7.50, are designed for hanging on the wall when not in use while stackable Forby stools, £3, are handy as additional perches. Habitat's folding chairs include Dino, a beech design, £19, and Macadam, £9.50, in silver, black or red metal.

And for student rooms that double as party central, invest in a portable mini fridge, £69 from John Lewis or a groovy Budweiser can-shaped electric cooler, £69.99 from House of Fraser stores. Just remember to keep it well-stocked.

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