When you walk into a bedroom you immediately get a sense of what the person who lives there is like. This impression may well be wrong, and we know most often they are, but what is important about impressions are the feelings that they come with. The way you feel when you sit in your room can largely be impressed upon by what your room is like. Empty and plain can be depressing. Cosy and lively can be energising. 

You’d be surprised how much of an impact this can have on you. You’ll find this whenever you move out of a house. Seeing the rooms stark and empty is such a contrast to what they looked like before. In order to really make a room truly your room the best way is to decorate.  
 

For students, interior decorating can seem very inaccessible. By decorate we don’t mean you have to buy loads of fancy, expensive furniture or spend ages masterfully crafting some new items to jazz up the place. This is why we decided to put together this guide of ideas to redecorate your room with a student budget in mind. Most of these suggestions can be done through repurposing old stuff for free or taking a trip down to your local charity shop.  
 

To be eco-friendly the best way to redecorate your room is to re-use old items and make them new. Cultivating a creative mind by developing thought processes that do this is not only helpful for decorating but also in the long term. So many start-ups and entrepreneurial business ventures have started out by doing this exact process. The best bit is that through to redecorating you can help your local community and reduce your carbon footprint. Less waste = a happier planet! 😊 
 

This guide will start with quick tips on how to paint, clean and reupholster furniture for beginners (all of which can easily be done at home). Then it will give you some inspirational DIYS for carpets, trinkets and pinboards to make your room feel more homely. All of these ideas are created with a student budget in mind with an outlook on sustainable living. 


Up-cycling Furniture 

If you’re thinking about getting rid of an item of furniture start off by asking yourself a couple of these questions: 

  1. Would it look good in a different colour? 
  1. If there is fabric on it would it look better with some different fabric? 
  1. Is it just dirty and needs a clean? 
  1. Can it be used as a different piece of furniture? 
     

If you answered YES to question 1, then it looks like it’s time to get painting. Before you start painting get your phone out to take a snap on the furniture. Use the photo to check what colour suits it best (also a great way to try new hair colours on yourself before you go to the hairdresser).  

Redecorating an old cabinet
Instagram @ khushtiwari

When picking the colour here are some things to bear in mind. Most colours tend to evoke emotional reactions for example red colours inflict anger, whilst blue colours can be calming. This is why you don’t tend to see red in interior decorating too much. However too much blue and grey can be too cool and create an uninviting environment.

Pick colours that you like, and think will create a relaxing, serene environment.  

Once you’ve picked colours that you like it’s time to start painting!

To start with you need to add a primer. Even if you might want to skip this step, it is necessary. No matter how much you clean something the surface can have residual oils, which will look rubbish if you go straight in with the paint.

Redecorating an old cabinet
Instagram @ khushtiwari

If there are any edges, or areas you don’t want to add paint on, try covering these with masking tape. Masking tape will be your best friend when it comes to painting, you can use it to make patterns and really have fun with the project. If you are worried about the tape sticking try it on a small area first to make sure. Take it slow and add small amounts of paint at a time. Don’t just dollop a massive wad of paint on and try spreading it out. It should usually take 2 or 3 coats and then viola you have beautifully upcycled piece of furniture! 

Wrangle tip: It is best to use a roller rather than a paint brush for a clean finish. 


If you answered YES to question 2, then you need to try reupholstering the fabric. This might sound scary, but honestly it is so easy for you to do. If for example this is a chair, you can push the seat cushion out the frame. It should just pop out. If you flip it upside down there will staples attaching the fabric to the cushion. You can either try taking off the fabric and then putting on your new fabric or just covering the whole thing with new fabric. 
 

Fabric moodboard for upholstering furniture
Instagram @ oleander_and_finch

Fabric wise you can try checking around your house to see if there is anything you can use. Maybe an old jacket, pillowcase or tea cosy. If not look for similar items at a charity story or buy something online (try Facebook marketplace, Depop or Ebay). Remember you don’t have to buy fabric you can also look to buy something with the fabric already on it (e.g. an old sofa or ironing board) and tear the fabric off. Make sure the fabric you use is sturdy and will last some wear and tear. 

All you need to do to apply your new fabric is grab a staple gun or stapler. Fold the fabric around the surface of what you are going to cover and staple the fabric down on the side of the item that will never see the light of day. 
 

Wrangle tip: Fabrics have a wrong and a right side, the wrong side being the one that is usually hidden from view. However, sometimes the wrong side of the fabric can be far prettier than the right side and makes for a much more interesting design. 


Washing up time
Instagram @ redcandyuk

If you answered YES to question 3, then you need to pull on some marigolds and get scrubbing. Don’t be lazy as this can be really worthwhile and you’ll end up with a lovely piece of furniture that you didn’t have to fork out a lot of money for.  
 

Wrangle tip: Make sure to check the items label to see what type of cleaning liquid you can use on it. 


If you answered YES to question 4, then it’s time to get creative. For this activity you really need to think outside the box. There are so many ways to repurpose old items. Picnic hampers can be used as storage stools or coffee tables. Bins can be wrapped around with twine to make foot stalls. There are really no limits to how you can reuse items. It might take some jazzing up or hacking off a few table legs, but why not if you save money in doing so. 
 

Wrangle tip: If you’re struggling to find ways to repurpose your old furniture look on Youtube, TikTok or Pinterest for inspiration. 

If your answer to all these questions is NO then unfortunately it is time to move it on. 

Wrangle tip: To be more eco-friendly rather than taking it to the dump think of ways to move your furniture onto another home. Try taking it to a charity shop, posting it on Facebook marketplace/Ebay/Gumtree or ask around your friends and neighbours. Most charities have specific shops dedicated to furniture so have a quick google to find your nearest ones. 


Pinboards and Wall displays 

To make your room feel like your room a pinboard can make you feel at home. Putting up pictures of your friends and family, the things you love to do and places you want to go is a nice way of remembering who you are.  

Blue pinboard and desk decorations
Instagram @ propshop24

Most dorm rooms come with pinboards, however if yours doesn’t or you’re moving into private accommodation there are many cheap and easy ways to make one. 
 

To try and buy a pinboard cheap we would suggests checking out Ebay or Facebook marketplace.  
 

If you want to make your own pinboard here are a couple of ideas: 

  1. Buy a large piece of foamboard on Ebay and some pins. Once the board is covered with your memories no one will see the material underneath. 
cork pinboard using old wine bottle corks
Instagram @ thecorkartco
  1. Use old bits of cardboard (from all those ASOS deliveries you’ve been getting) and Sellotape them together to make a square.  
  1. Collect all your old wine bottle corks and cut them into tiny slices. Layout and glue the corks onto a large flat surface of cardboard to create a cork pinboard. 
  1. Get an old picture frame from your local charity shop and repurposes it as a pinboard. 

Wrangle tip: If you want a pretty background for your pinboard cover the board with wrapping paper or fabric and stable on the reverse. 


Trinkets and Miscellaneous Items  

If you’re a bit of a potter head (and no not Harry Potter, we’re talking actual pottery making) then you should definitely give this challenge a go! Sculp have reinvented potting so it’s easy to do at home. Their kits include all the necessary pieces for you to make your own pots. These pots are great for keeping jewellery in, for plants or just as display items. 

Sculpdit a pottery company helping you create plant pot DIY at home
Instagram @ sculpdit

Wrangle Tip: If you are a potter head in both senses, why not make a Harry Potter themed pot! 

To add a bit of life to your room try having some flowers on display. These will quickly brighten up the space and add a lovely aroma. Although flowers can seem expensive there are a couple of student budget friendly tips to bring make them cheap. Rather than use a flower vase, use an old bottle. Clean out the bottle with fairy liquid to remove all the labels and residue. This will reduce your glass waste and create a lovely feature in your room! 
 

Wrangle tip: Rather than buy expensive flowers, go to your garden or local forest and pick some! Weeds can blossom some of the prettiest flowers and by removing them your helping out the local wildlife.  

Repurpose your old crockery as jewellery holders. If you don’t like the colour you can get some paint and put a pretty pattern on the inside. You can pick up bowls and mugs at your local charity shops if you’re too attached to your current collection. 


Carpets and Rugs 

If you have any old clothes or towels that you are thinking of throwing out, keep them! You can reuse these to create carpets, rugs or bath matts. Carpets are good for separating out spaces. For example, if you live in a studio flat and want to isolate your kitchen from your living room put a carpet down in one of those spaces. This is particularly good idea if you work in your bedroom and struggle separating your down time from your work. Place a rug under your desk to give a sense of closure at the end of the day. 

With your old towels you can recycle them into a bath matt. Layout the towels neatly so there are no creases and cut into long strips. Use these strips to weave together a shape that resembles what you want the bath matt to look like. 

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a knitter, you can have a go at this idea; Cut up your old clothes into long strips and tie them all together. This will create one long strip of yarn. Then to create this chunky cable knit rug you weave the yarn together using your hands. 

We hope you liked our cheap ideas for decorating your room! For more ideas on living a sustainable life check out our blog. 
 

For more ideas on how to live sustainably read our blog article on vintage shopping … Sustainable shopping: The Best Vintage Shops in and Around Shoreditch.

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