How to decorate your first-year halls

Your first day at university can be absolutely terrifying, and arguably one of the worst parts of the process is having your parents drop you and your miserable few boxes of stuff off in a bare, soulless room in halls.

It doesn’t matter how vibrant and exciting student accommodation looked in the brochure, the empty room you’re faced with when you finally move in always seems a little sad.

Although there are some rules (No candles! Don’t use blu-tack or drawing pins on the wall!) there are a lot of ways you can customise your room to make it more homely - and show off your personality a little to your new flatmates, as well.

Soft furnishings

The simplest solutions are often the best - before you leave, purchase a few nice duvet covers and matching pillowcases, and get a rug for your floor. These will go a long way to brightening up your room and making it more habitable. Once you’ve arrived you could even measure the windows and invest in a new pair of curtains or blinds: the ones provided are often a horrendous pattern, and made from material that lets the light through. Picking up some kind of tablecloth for your desk (even a scarf could do the job) will make a world of difference too.


Most halls will only have a harsh over-head light and perhaps a desk lamp if you’re lucky. Bring a bedside lamp to provide softer lighting, or replace the lampshade on your overhead light if you can do so. Also remember fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas! Drape them round mirrors, windows, your bed - anywhere really - for an extra glow in your room.

Decorating the walls

Although you’re usually not permitted to “damage” the walls by putting things up outside the designated pin-board zone, there are ways to get around this: These days, you can pick up wall decals/stickers and patterned tape fairly cheaply: some companies will even provide you with a custom design. And they’re made to peel off walls with no damage to the paint or plaster - as well as being reusable for your second-year house. It’s also worth considering if you do have a lot of photos, posters, etc. that blu-tack won’t leave any mark at all on wooden furniture, so you could stick things to your wardrobe doors or desk without any repercussions.

Upgrading your storage

When you’re packing to come to uni, you’ll probably be amazed at the amount of “essential” things you’ve collected over the years, all of which absolutely have to come with you. When you arrive in your room and see your small wardrobe, meagre bookcase and tiny bedside table, you might start wondering where you’re going to put it all. Storage boxes and other storage solutions such as hanging shoe organisers are your friend in this situation. And if you spring for something in a nice colour or with a cool design, they can make your room feel a lot more like home.


If you can afford to buy fresh flowers every couple of weeks or so, they’re a great way to brighten up your space. But if not, you could always buy a couple of potted plans instead. Make sure you keep them in natural light, and don’t over or under-water them so that they prosper. If your idea of something decorative is an object you can’t kill, make sure you bring a few bits and bobs from home (money boxes, photos in frames, anything else you’ve picked up on your travels) to put around your room instead. You could proudly display the uni books you’ve paid so much for as makeshift art, or get a clothes rail so that your most exciting fashion choices are constantly out on display (this has the added bonus of making you actually hang up your clothes).

Although it might seem like there’s a lot to buy to make your halls feel like home, a lot of the things that can really spruce it up - like duvet covers and storage boxes - are pretty essential. But for everything else, there are ways to do it on the cheap: beg, steal or borrow from your parents! Trawl Freecycle, Ebay and Gumtree for bargains, or go to the failsafe, cheap options of Primark and Ikea for your interior design needs. And the ideas above are just a few of the ways you can make your room your own: the only limit is your imagination! (well, and the uni’s rules of course).