Ten ways to make halls home

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Nothing's worse than having to study and sleep in a boring and bare room. Jess Denham has done all the legwork and found some great ideas for making your room in halls more cosy

Arriving at university for the first time is a defining moment in the lives of many new students. Yet, despite all the post-results exaltation and dreams of Freshers revelry, the cold welcome of a bare room in halls is sure to put even the most confident undergrad on edge. Fear not however, as all that’s needed is a touch of the familiar to make you feel at ease in these unknown surroundings. It won’t be long before your future home no longer resembles a cell-block, honest!

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Home stores up and down the country offer vast ranges of bedroom bits‘n’pieces, from clocks and cushions to lighting and linen. Money as a student is invariably tight however, so why not put any pesky thoughts of reading lists on the back burner and attempt some DIY? Any preparation prior to moving day will help to ensure that you can settle in quickly and hit the union bar in no time!

Check out our top tips for a home away from home:

1. Bed linen

Strangers will form first impressions of you based upon your bedroom, a point worth bearing in mind when contemplating taking your beloved Thomas the Tank Engine or Westlife linen set (you can drag those back out come second term…). Consider Matalan’s £12 reversible bedding for a quick visual change, or explore Ikea’s collection starting at £15. BHS offer classic unisex designs in dots and stripes, while Primark have yet to launch their online home-ware store but are sure to promise some colourful choices at a low cost.

After a hectic night of socialising, you’ll be grateful for an inviting bed. Admittedly the duvet cover design is unlikely to matter much at this point…

2. Lighting

The importance of mood lighting is paramount for transforming box-room blah into boudoir chic.  Fairy lights are the popular first port of call, but for some slightly more unusual varieties, try these ethereal skeletal leaves from Candlelight Creations (£8 for a string of twenty). Alternately, gather some fabric remnants from local interiors shops, cut them into ribbon strips, and tie them in bows onto a standard line of tiny bulbs.

Candles may not be permitted in most university halls, but for private student residences they offer the ideal fast-track to a warm and cosy room.  Lily Flame makes beautiful tins for £8.50 in a tantalising array of scents such as ‘Fairy Dust’, ‘Smile’ and ‘Cranberry Crush’. Their mist sprays, also £8.50, will do a first-rate job of disguising any undesirable pizza smells.

To make your own atmospheric lights, try freezing water in empty tin cans over night. Once frozen solid, hammer nails into the outer surface of the tin to create patterns of little holes. Allow the ice to thaw, drop a tealight into the can and voilà, a home-made lantern!

Another fun idea is to crack one of the innumerable neon bands you’ll collect during Freshers’ Week and empty the contents into a jar of water. Add some glitter, shake, and you’ve got yourself a pretty bedside glow.

3. Cushions

Liven up a block-coloured bed set with some eye-catching cushions. To whiz up a few of these yourself, locate some patterned material and cut out two large squares of identical size. With the outer designs facing inwards, stitch the pieces together along three sides, an inch or two from the edge. Then simply turn the newly made cushion cover inside out, stuff, and sew up the gap. Add buttons, sequins and ribbons for a final  artistic twist.

Too busy or lazy to hone your textiles skills? Urban Outfitters boasts a tempting range of cushions, such as this cute‘n’quirky tartan owl, often at sale prices. Head to their Online Exclusives home decor section to scout a budget-friendly bargain.

4. Rugs

Rugs are the perfect cure for unsightly carpet stains and bare floorboards. Welcome mats and fluffy shag carpets (interpret as you will) add instant warmth and provide the room with a more homely feel.

Sneak a peek at the pictured £12 range by BHS. For faux sheepskin rugs, try Ikea, where a super soft selection starts at just £10.

5. Posters

Keep your eyes peeled for Student Union fairs selling innumerable discounted posters in all shapes and sizes. Meanwhile, a multitude of websites sell every poster imaginable, allowing no excuse for a blank bedroom canvas.  Try All Posters (the clue is in the name), HMV and GB Posters for guaranteed scouting success. Use white tack to avoid staining the walls and arrange artwork so as to cover any dodgy marks left from previous tenants. If your university experience dramatically fails to reach expectations, you could always use the poster to hide your tracks as you prepare to tunnel out…

6. Photos

Photos are a great ice-breaker conversation, especially if you’ve taken a year to travel between school and university. Memories of recent parties and childhood will serve as reminders that ‘old friends are gold’ and encourage you to keep in touch with your pals back home.

A hanging photo album from Bouf, could decorate the back of your door or any wall space left unfilled.  If you own a Polaroid camera, take snapshot photos from your first term and stick them up as they develop- watch as your wall slowly documents your student life.

Photos can be pegged to lines of string, or simply displayed in the huge variety of frames available from most home stores.

Remember to take down any incriminating evidence before the parents inevitably decide to visit!

7. Plants

As long as you remember to water them, flowers are a lovely, easy way to bring life and colour to your room.  If you’re simply not the gardener type and they’re likely to die within days, invest in a cactus instead- zero care required! Plenty of artificial flowers look unbelievably realistic and can be bought from the likes of Dunelm Mill for as little as 50p per stem. For year-round decoration, spray-paint some twigs with glitter and pop them into a simple vase. 

8. Bunting   

Oh so simple to make yourself, even for those with non-existent creative self-belief. One fun idea is to cut shapes from the multi-coloured paint swatches found in home decorating stores across the country and string them onto an old washing line. Bring your summer festival memories to university with you by choosing your own fabrics and stitching pieces together as neatly or as shabbily as you wish.

Should the arty route not appeal, bunting is widely available online. There's a pretty vintage-inspired floral set sold by Bouf for £15.

9. Stationery

Bright files and desk organisers will render coursework less of a chore as well as bringing a touch of colour into your room. They can be bought for next to nothing from supermarkets, but try Paperchase  for some more exciting patterns at slightly higher prices. Ryman offers an exclusive 12.5% student discount on a range of over 4000 products, while Paperblanks make beautifully innovative diaries and journals.

10. Food & beverage

Prop your door open as you unpack and decorate, so that new corridor buddies can drop in and say hello. Nothing says ‘home’ like offering a good ol’ fashioned cuppa…or a glass of something stronger to calm any first-day nerves.

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