Home - Top Five Essentials for Students

So here it is - the design work I've been talking about.
And I'm very very nervous, I do hope you like it!

This is the gist: I was contacted by Vouchercodes.co.uk and asked to create my Top 5 interior items from the High Street for student spaces, whether that was a room in halls of residence, a bedsit or a flat. I was set a budget of £80 to make the space feel like a home.

At first I thought, wow, here you go Jen, take this money and go buy some lovely things from the High Street! Then panic set in, and I suddenly felt like I didn't really have a clue what students would like. After a sleepless night, I calmed down a bit when I started to remember that I had lived that life, I'd been to University (although a hell of a long time ago). I'd never stayed in halls but I had many friends who did and I remembered the blandness of the space and the lack of home comforts in those rooms. Obviously this was quite some time ago and maybe rooms in Halls were completely modern and not at all how I remembered them. So I did a bit of online research to see how rooms looked now - and they were exactly the same as they were twenty years ago! Once I saw that, I realized pretty much what these spaces needed to make them a homely and cosy space without breaking the bank.

So here's what I chose:

Bedlinen: Most of these rooms have a small single bed where you have to take your own duvet, pillows, bedlinen and blankets. It's easy to find good quality duvets and pillows cheaply, but not so easy to find quality bedlinen sets at good prices. However, my go-to place for high quality and on trend bedlinen is TK Maxx. It's a bit of a gamble what they are going to have in stock as they get different items in all the time. But they regularly have the top end duvet covers and pillowcases at 60% off the retail price. On my visit, they had duvet covers from Bedeck, Designers Guild and Kirsty Allsop home all offered at discounted prices. But I was thrilled to see the gorgeous bedlinen from Lisa Stickley London and I snapped it up. It's a hot pink colour, with a 200 thread count and made of 100% cotton. And the price? £21 for a single duvet and two pillowcases. Regular retail price is over £100. It's a huge saving for such a warm and comfortable duvet cover. And it gave me the best night's sleep I've had in years! There were a variety of colours and design options too, but I chose the hot pink as I thought it offered such a vibrant and happy colour and makes a room shine. I also thought I'd add a throw or a blanket for a bit of extra cosiness, and I found that Ikea offered a great selection of thick, colourful fleeces. Even better, the hot pink fleece was on sale at £2 reduced from £6.

Decoration: One of my favourite ways to get colour into a neutral room is by using art on the walls. I tend to buy art online from independent artists and I was disappointed by the selection of art on the High Street. It was all very generic. However, one of my best pieces of advice for buying cheap art is to use wrapping paper. Most of the major stationery companies use independent designers prints to create cards and wrapping paper. Meaning you get the latest designs for only a couple of quid. Paperchase is great for this having on trend designs perfect for framing or just sticking up with some blu-tack. I've used a couple of sheets of paper here, with designs by Leah Duncan and Alexander Girard (both of these were bought online, see where to buy below). I've also bought a box of cards from Paperchase with bold geometric patterns on, perfect for a bit of a display on your desk or wall.

My other decorating thought was about photo frames. I wanted something flexible that could be easily changed as photographs were printed out or add a bit of colour with some bright postcards. I came across the hanging photoclip mobile from Urban Outfitters. It has clips to hang 12 photographs on, perfect for hanging photographs of family and friends, and then adding your new University pictures too. I've photographed it with some of my favourite postcards, one from Seventy Tree and two from Ikea. (see where to buy below). It's never going to go out of style and can be moved easily from home to home.

Lighting: One of the best purchases to make for student rooms is lighting. Essentially a good desk lamp. Most rooms in halls don't provide you with a desk light, but it's really important to have a light that can function as a great task lamp, create a cosy and calming environment and remain stylish for years. For me it's always good to buy a tall anglepoise light and not a small desk light. That way you can angle the light and it is a design classic, so you can take it with you and it won't ever go out of style. This is a great lamp from Ikea and at only £17 is a brilliant buy.

Desk Organisers: One of my other key purchases is storage on the desk. I've bought simple dotted accessories from Paperchase - a very sturdy cardboard file for paperwork. And I also bought spotted pencils and a Scandi style patterned pen to add a bit of brightness. Rather than buy a pen pot which are generally small and you can't get a lot of things in, I bought a plant pot from Ikea for 95p in a perfect mustard colour. It can fit in a load of pens, rulers, scissors etc and looks super stylish on the desk.

(print in frame is by Seventy Tree - see below for where to buy).

Crockery: One piece of advice when it comes to crockery - don't buy white when you are sharing a kitchen with lots of other people. Although white is simple and chic, it's usually cheap and everyone will buy it. Meaning, you'll probably get them all mixed up and you won't know which belongs to you. It's better to buy something in neutral shades for plates and bowls, greys and pale blues are always nice as they always keep food looking appealing (even if it's just a bowl of SuperNoodles!). Oh and buy a couple of each item, you'll need it for friends coming round or in case you break anything. However, when it comes to mugs I say the more colourful and patterned the better! I adored these Scandi owl and flowers mugs from BHS. Priced at £2.50 each these are made of fine bone china but still seem chunky enough to be an everyday essential item. BHS have a fantastic collection of Scandi pieces, lovely cushions, bedlinen and other crockery items all at good prices. Funnily enough, it's not somewhere I'd regularly go to shop and I was very pleasantly surprised at their homeware range.

So these are my choices. I do hope you like them, or that you find some inspiration from my suggestions. I've also compiled a quick list of hints and tips for stylish home ideas on a budget:

1 Visit charity shops for crockery and ornaments. There are some stunning vintage pieces out there and at great prices.

2 Don't buy interior magazines, instead use blogs and pinterest to see how real people style their homes. These are more inspiring for your own space and also affordable.

3 Don't just buy an interiors item because it is trendy. Think about how it will look amongst the rest of your belongings and how it would look in several years time. Buy to last.

4 Look for discounts online through voucher companies like vouchercodes.co.uk

5 Don't buy the cheapest thing out there. It's better to save up and get the item you really want because in the end you'll just buy twice.

Thanks for reading! Have a great time at University. x

Where to buy:

Duvet and Pillowcases from TK Maxx
Fleece Blanket, Lamp, Picture frame and postcards all from Ikea
Photoclip mobile picture frame from Urban Outfitters
Leah Duncan wrapping paper from Betty and Dupree
Alexander Girard wrapping paper from Lagom
Desk accessories all from Paperchase
Mugs from Bhs
Hello Postcard and Smile print from Seventy Tree