Nothing transforms an unwelcoming room into an inviting one as quickly and effectively as fairy lights do. You’ll be amazed at the change a few twinkly LEDs can make!
Lights4Fun have simple strings of warm white lights for £2.99 and festive flashing ones in all the colours of the rainbow.
Pricier options can be found at The Fairy Light Company- their natural leaf lights will add rustic chic to your decor but cost £18 for twenty. One for the Christmas list?
It's possible to make your own: boil up leaves in a pan with half a cup of laundry detergent, leave them to simmer for about two hours, transfer them to a tub of cold water, then gently rub the outer layer off with a paintbrush. Leave the skeletons to dry for an hour or so before wrapping them around some plain LED lights using double sided tape and ribbon.
Another idea is to find cheap lampshades and customise them with bows, buttons and your own print designs.
flickr: Kristina (KBoneva)
Sadly many university halls ban the use of candles, and their safety precautions should be respected. When you escape the confines of college living, however, you should be free to indulge. There’s a vast range out there waiting to be enjoyed, but Lily-Flame offers some tempting hand-made tins in scents such as ‘Fairydust’, ‘Bluebell Forest’ and ‘Heather and Honey’. There’s even one called ‘Smile!’ for when revision-blues get you down. These cost £8.50 but will last a while and are ace for masking undesirable smells.
For a cheaper alternative, stick taper candles into empty wine bottles - the wax will melt down the side of the bottle creating a gothic feel perfect for Hallowe’en.
Making your own candles is fairly simple, but care must be taken when melting the wax and positioning the wick can be a fiddle. Try pouring wax into patterned tea cups for a pretty, vintage look.
Remember that first impressions count, and the bed linen is the focal point of any student room.
Matalan has bedding sets from £8 and offers plenty of bold designs for boys wanting to steer well clear of floral styles, as does Ikea. Look on the BHS website for regular online deals as bedding prices are regularly slashed.
Highly recommended is a faux fur throw to keep you cosy while reading in bed or watching a film. These can reach the dizzy heights of £100, but bargain alternatives can be found for closer to £15.
Lighter, summer throws are available in bright colours and eye-catching patterns, with the best ones coming from foreign lands. Good news if you have some ‘gap yah’ stash to bring, but Ikea's on hand if not, with an orange fleece blanket for just £3.
You can make your own patchwork quilt in any shape or size by stitching together off-cuts off fabric in various patterns. Use a sewing machine for speed if you have one at home.
flickr: Katherine (chatirygirl)
If you fancy some cushions to throw on your bed and chair, browse ASDA’s large and affordable range, where prices start at £3. Zara and Urban Outfitters both have attractive home sections but will cost you more cash.
Few home accessories are as easy to whiz up as cushions. Choose a vibrant, clashing colour to cheer up your room or delve around in the off-cuts box hiding in most fabric shops. Cut two squares (or whatever shape you want) of identical size, face the outer designs inwards, stitch the pieces together along three sides leaving an inch from the edge, then turn the new cover inside out, stuff and sew up. Simple! The fun comes when it’s ready for decoration - use sequins for a bit of glitz.
flickr: Ben and Kaz Askins (teamaskins)
They cover coffee, red wine and nail polish stains, while making everything feel a little softer underfoot. Time to roll in the rugs.
How about a welcome mat so you know you’re home as soon as you step into your room? Argos offers several starting from £5.50, alongside a choice of rugs including - wait for it - a ‘sparkly shaggy’ one in multiple colours. Debenhams is worth a look too if you’re after something a tad classier that still won’t break your piggy bank.
Photos, photos, photos. Probably the best way to add instant personality to your new room and spark conversation, stick them on pinboards, hang them from string or wire using clothes pegs and create your own collages.
Order photos online in bulk for wallet-friendly deals. Bonusprint charges just £12 for 200 photos, while Snapfish is a popular alternative. If you own a retro Polaroid camera, make sure to document all the fun of first year by putting photos up as they develop.
These quirky photo frame stickers from The Binary Box come in a multi-sized pack of 13, costing £14.99 for the lot. Simply attach round the edge of photos and apply to the wall. The best part? They're easily removable, so grumpy landlords shouldn't protest too much. Available in a ton of different designs to suit all tastes.
The Binary Box
If you steer clear of clichés, posters are fab for hiding grubby marks on walls left by previous tenants while reflecting your own tastes and making the room feel ‘yours’. You’ll be inundated with flyers for club nights and events, so you could stick these up for starters. Browse any poster sales at the Students’ Union and check out websites such as All Posters which, as you may guess, feature a vast collection. To avoid playing Snap! with new friends in the poster department, opt for something more original than the Keep Calm franchise.
Use white tack rather than blue to keep the - probably boring white - walls clean. Other things to plaster them with include magazine cuttings, concert tickets, sticky notes and even, shock horror, academic posters.
Make your own posters with The Warholizer to transform your photos into pop art paintings that Andy Warhol would be proud of, complete with quotes if you choose.
flickr: Erica Kline (loosepunctuation)
Make the most of your resources and don’t be afraid to stretch any artistic muscles you may or may not have. Bunting is a staple of all crafty girls’ rooms, made easily from triangles of patterned fabrics sewn together and threaded onto some string (hole-punch the top of each triangle and ta-dah!). You can make it from card too, in any shapes you choose. Bunting can be bought from many high street shops too, so if you lack the time or inclination to make your own, don’t panic.
Pick up some of those big letters you can buy in art shops and decorate them, remembering to add a base coat of white before adding colour to brown wood. Likewise, if you’re genuinely artistic, paint your own designs on canvases - you can always imitate something you find and like online. You can use chalk if you cover something with blackboard paint first, but spritz it with hairspray to prevent smudging en route to university.
To pimp up storage, cover old shoe boxes in wrapping paper and scout out some bright folders, notebooks and pencil cases.
Pinterest is home to a ton of crafty folk and would make a great first pit stop if you’re stumped for ideas and looking for inspiration.
flickr: HGK handmade
Flowers are great for injecting vitality and colour into a dull room. You can often find bargain bouquets in supermarkets and you never know who might surprise you!
If you’re unlikely to remember that plants need water to live, opt for a cactus. These can gather dust though, so at the very least give yours a spring clean every now and then! Otherwise, you can buy artificial flowers for as little as 50p a stem from the likes of Dunelm Milland Hobbycraft.
For DIY foliage, get green-fingered by spray painting some branches and popping them into a transparent vase. At Christmas, dab some pinecones with glitter glue for an icy sparkle.
If all else fails, a traffic cone, road sign, or some other entirely unnecessary but oh-so-coveted night-out trophy will remind you that you're only a fresher once - make the most of it.
flickr: Graeme (Sergeant Howie)