From The Sunday Times, October 18 2009 © Dara Flynn
You’ve bought the text books, joined the various societies and picked out your romantic prey for the academic year ahead. Next on the list? The state of “the gaff”. No self-respecting undergraduate can hope to win friends and influence people without a bit of decent kit to make their digs feel more like home. Throwing a bit of beer money at a few pieces will not only make you look good, but will also let you express your own personality through the magic of interior design.
There are a few simple rules to kitting out student accommodation. The most important is never to spend a fortune. At the same time, you should ensure you have the basics so studying will be as comfortable as socialising. It’s unlikely that you’ll live in the same digs next year, so focus on disposable items, especially if you or your flatmates have a habit of stuttering “all back to mine” come closing time. Flatpack is the fastest and easiest way to furnish a new place, but you’ll gain little credit for originality. It’s better to stick to a few key pieces and marry them with your own version of university style. The classic Ikea Billy bookcase is a good option. At just ¤39 for the basic size, it costs about the same as a night in the pub with a kebab on the way home, and it won’t take a degree in mechanical engineering to assemble. Digging a little deeper into the college fund could prove worthwhile if your accommodation lacks both couch and guest sleepover space. The Beddinge Havet sofa bed from Ikea (¤369 for the cheapest three-seater) has a removable cover and a machine-washable mattress, so it’s easy to clean.
Personalise your kitchen with statement-slogan mugs. Hunkydory Home has the very cheerful “Now panic and freak out” mugs (¤8.60 each), which should send just the right message come exam time.
Next Directory stocks a range of fluorescent kitchen goods this season, including the “Fancy a Brew” and “Full of Beans” slogan mugs (¤9 each) and a porcelain seven-day mug pack (¤13) featuring a slogan for each day of the week.
Matching tea towels are also available (¤13 for seven). Accessories can help you personalise your look in countless ways. Hell will probably freeze over before the landlord will let you change your digs’ colour scheme, so the best way to inject colour is with wall accessories. For originality and style, pick up a few strong prints for the walls online — Bodie and Fou has Alphabot, a retro, quality print with a bit of designer edge (¤40.50).
If that’s a little on the pricy side, art and movie posters are a preference — and, for heaven’s sake, frame them. You can pick up cheap clip frames from any DIY warehouse for just a few quid. Removable wall stickers are quite cheap and can look like feature wallpaper; it’s up to you whether to keep it decorative or go daring. Mabel and Violet, the Irish-based online boutique, has a set of 13 Flora Wallstickers (¤34.50), as well as a large, black world map sticker, which, at ¤77.95, isn’t cheap, but it is definitely a pretty way to brush up on your geography.
For a lads’ pad, go all out with the Pin-up wall sticker from the Irish company Wallstickers.ie (¤41).
It shows the silhouette of a woman, perched on any piece of furniture you choose to place next to it — position her correctly and perhaps nobody will notice she isn’t a real girlfriend. Meanwhile, you can show your guests the door with the charming, Irish-designed “Feck Off” doormat from People Love Presents (¤20). Another way to add personality through art, without the price tag, is with tea towels. If your tendencies are bookish, try the series of tea towels featuring the covers of Penguin classics, designed by Tony Davis for Art Meets Matter (about ¤10 each from leading book shops).
Hunkydory Home also has the Mr Tea tea towel (¤9.60). Embossed with the designer’s version of the A-Team character, it strikes just the right note between the inner child and the ironic. The point of the decorative tea towel, however, is to be hung in pride of place, and not to polish pint glasses “borrowed” from the boozer.