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From Drab to Fab: Room Decor Tips for Students

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Western chapter.

Amidst the chaos and filth of student homes, one needs a calm and organized space to unwind at the end of the day. Unclaimed dishes piling up in your kitchen sink? Rest your head on a fun throw pillow. Unidentified stains on the communal couch? Take solace under the covers of your 400-thread-count sheets. The last thing you need after a day of sitting in Social Science’s ergonomically-incorrect chairs or staring at the concrete walls of Club Weldon is another stress-inducing space. Before your next year at school, freshen up your student bedroom by following my decor version of the three R’s: Refresh, Repurpose and Restock.

          Photo courtesy of the author


It’s important to begin with a clean slate when decorating a space. If you add more to your room before you purge unneeded items, you may quickly become one with a pile of clothes like this old woman from Hoarders. Start by evaluating the items you have. Japanese organizing consultant and best-selling author of The Life Changing-Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo, believes that only possessions that “spark joy” are worth holding onto. So ask yourself: does your O-Week bracelet from a Down with Webster concert that never happened deserve space in your drawer? If you’re like me, the answer is no, even though we were told to hold onto those bracelets for a future concert (I’m lookin’ at you USC). Try to get rid of items that don’t serve a purpose and aren’t pretty to look at.

Beyond purging greasy Little Caesar’s boxes and donating Hollister camis to Goodwill, think about how the bare bones of your room can be improved. Maybe your walls could use some patching and repainting (disclaimer: painting with your bf in a confined space for hours on end with broken AC is NOT recommended). Most student homes get downright nasty, so also take the time to wipe down those dusty baseboards and your makeup area’s white-turned-orange surface. The idea of refreshing a space can be daunting, but a trip to the hardware store and a day of elbow grease is sure to take your room from drab to fab.


Now that your room is a gorgeous blank canvas, you can tap into your inner designer. As students, we usually have the tightest of budgets for home goods, so look at what you already have and get creative. This is where my fellow crafters and DIY-ers can go ham. An easy yet impactful project I love is using inexpensive frames to display visuals of various mediums. For my room, I framed fabric scraps that I had lying around to add some colour and pattern to my otherwise bare walls. I also used fabric to re-cover a hand-me-down lamp that needed some love. Thoughtful handmade touches can make your room both inviting and reflective of your personality.

If you need new furniture items, check Kijiji, Facebook pages and second-hand stores for unbeatable deals and one-of-a-kind pieces. Keep an eye out for garage sales and never discount front-lawn castaways (one man’s trash, am I right?). At the end of the day, those neglected couches are just like the thirsty boys at Ceeps: all they want is for you to take them home. I got my West Elm bed for free from a couple moving condos in Toronto and my treasured bulletin board was found by my roomates in our neighbour’s garbage (so literally, one (wo)man’s trash).


Okay, I love this part because it involves spending money. Consider the items for your room that you couldn’t source second-hand and need to be bought new. Maybe you could use a fresh set of towels or maybe you just can’t help but take home a few candles and decorative vases from Anthropologie (not speaking from personal experience…). Once your room is full of items that “spark joy,” you can rearrange and reorganize to your heart’s content. For me, I love having a new item or two to play with while creating decorative vignettes but I also enjoy mixing and matching accessories I already have. This leads to the ultimate goal for room décor: to find pleasure in every individual piece so your room is un-cluttered and your style is purposeful.

The hard part of this process is usually maintaining your beautifully-curated space. Unfortunately, the bliss of a clean room isn’t always enough motivation to keep things tidy. In truth, the maintenance of a space takes work but the result will be worth it when you need to escape from studying at The Spoke. The best advice I can give to avoid room-relapse is make sure everything has a place. Eliminate the need for junk drawers by mentally (or physically, with labels) creating spaces for unique groupings. Along with this, the more drawer dividers and bins, the merrier! Take the madness out of the method and focus on method. Desk drawers often becomes nests for clutter, so grab some bins from Dollarama and organize school supplies accordingly. With a home for every item, you won’t be tempted to hoard inkless pens and broken hair elastics.

LA-based boho-chic interior designer Emily Henderson says that colour, texture, plants and personal items are what give rooms personality. If you incorporate these qualities into your journey through the 3 R’s, you’ll be sure to end up with a space that speaks to your personality and feels homey. Even Drake recognizes the perks of a cozy room (he only loves his bed and his mom), so with Drizzy’s sentiments in your ear and a glue gun in your hand, turn your room into the chill pad you deserve.

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