Deck the Halls
They may be cramped and budget-bound, but student digs really don't have to be dire. Gabrielle Fagan marks out some class kit for new students
College is calling, and those first-time students are all set to fly the nest and endeavour to create a new perch of their own.
It can be emotional watching them take their first steps into independence (or you might be secretly relieved to say goodbye to teenage tantrums and mess, of course!), but one thing's for sure - there's some style studying to do to get those new rooms A-grade worthy.
Bear in mind, student digs can range from purpose-built airy spaces to rooms with the dimensions of a hamster cage, but both need parental purchasing power to make sure they're cosied up and made comfortable in record time.
Speed is essential on moving day: it's not wise to linger once you've dropped them off, as your presence can embarrass them as they try to mingle with other freshers, and those drawn out partings can be hard on them and you.
So start shopping for their new kit now and be sure to include a supermarket sweep, because their impressive ranges at budget prices are ideal for a student room makeover.
If you're a would-be Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, take some extras, such a roll of fabric, which can be handy to use as a makeshift curtain or a spare bed throw; a roll of wallpaper lining paper hung with a string loop on the back of a door could be handy for messages, and make sure you include non-marking Blu-Tack for putting up posters.
In reality, desks will soon be piled high with books and papers, but at least they can start off organised, if you supply a desk tidy, files and storage boxes.
Paperchase has a Calculator design range, with Stationary Boxes and Magazine Files, £7 each, and attractive Pen Pots from £2.50 (paperchase.co.uk).
A Rimforsa Bamboo Tablet Stand (above), £10, would be super useful, as might a new Lisabo Desk which, in a lacquered ash veneer and solid beach, is a snip at £115 (ikea.com).
Spoil a Student: Alessi's trademark is combining good looks with practicality, and its Big-Game Multipurpose Container Cargo box (right), £32, is super sleek with a nifty carry-handle (alessi.com/020 7518 9090).
If they're swotty, or you want to encourage them in that direction, there's a witty Geek Chic collection at Dunelm - which could at least raise a smile if they're suffering first-day nerves. I love the 'You Look Spectacular' glasses design Mirror, £14.99, the 'Eat Geek Sleep Repeat' Cushion, and laundry bag with the 'Laundry today or naked geek tomorrow' slogan, both £4.99. Also worth checking out is its Geometric Duvet Cover Set - singles, £10, and doubles, £12 - and set of four 'I Heart Geeks' mugs, £5.99 (dunelm.com; some items in store only).
SPOIL A STUDENT: All that swotting in bad light can lead to headaches and eye strain, so a good task light's an essential. An Anglepoise Type 75 Mini Desk Lamp, £105, won't take up too much room but will do the job (design55online.co.uk).
Trailing around all those shops to find bargains can be time consuming, but many stores offer packages of student homeware, which can save a lot of trouble. A Sabichi University Survival Kit (right), currently reduced from £106 to £59.99, has all the essentials to get them started, including two pans, four mugs, a laundry bag, cutlery, plates and a towel (sabichi.co.uk).
Spoil a Student: Make cooking easier by gifting a House by John Lewis 4 Piece Pan Set, £80 (johnlewis.com).
Sleeping, sitting and well, whatever else it'll get used for, the bed's a focal point. The easiest way to cheer up the look of a bland room is to dress it up with bright bedlinen, throws and cushions. Ikea's a great source for funky designs at budget prices, and their monochrome striped Tuvbracka bedlinen is one of its stars: £15 for a duvet cover and two pillowcases (ikea.com).
Spoil a Student: Marks & Spencer has bedlinen sets, from £49.50, with digitally printed animal photos, including Ella & Polar Bear, Stag and Penguin Family (marksandspencer.com). A spare bed's always useful, and TJ Hughes has a brilliant and compact 5-in-1 Inflatable Flocked Sofa Bed, £29.99. (tjhughes.co.uk).
Keep it Clean
One of the mysteries of uni or college life is the 'disappearing towel'. No matter how many students take with them, they rarely return with the same number, as some will inevitably go walkabout. Do a supermarket sweep for bales of towels; dark coloured ones are most practical, but more eye-catching ones are easier to track. George Home's selection includes a Grey Stripe designs, with hand towels, £4, and bath towel, £6 (direct.asda.com/george/home).
Spoil a Student: Keep washing out of sight, with Habitat's fun canvas Spinit White Collapsible Laundry Bin, £35, which looks like a washing machine (habitat.co.uk).
Cosy up the atmosphere of the bleakest student cell with cushions and throws. Next's good selection includes a 'Live Your Dreams' Cushion, £10. Rooms tend to be either boiling or freezing - if it's the latter, layers can help. Diamond Cotton Throw, £14.99 (homebase.co.uk).
Photos of family and friends are a must as reminders of home, but don't despair if you're not allowed to pin anything to walls. Turn Instagrams and phone snaps into magnets, from £9.99 for nine (sticky9.com/magnets), and display on a Spontan Magnetic Board, £10 (ikea.com).
Spoil a Student: Ben de Lisi Home Designer Dark Grey Wool Blend Slogan Cushion, £32 (debenhams.com).
It's little things that will transform a room into a home for your fledgling student. Habitat's treasure trove of treats includes a yellow Tommy Metal Desk Lamp (below), £18, and a Trunk Silver Galvanised Storage Box, £30, which would be perfect for hiding clutter. Extra seating's invaluable, and its red Macadam Folding Metal Chair, £10, can be tucked away when not in use.
A chat and a coffee's the way to break the ice, and a Boucherie 4 Piece New Bone China Mug Set, £9.50, is good value from Sabichi (sabichi.co.uk). Take-aways and sauce with everything figure on most student's menus, and a Wall Clock Tomato Sauce (above), which looks like a tin of the red stuff, is £17.49 (thegiftoasis.com).
Spoil a Student: A Bookworm Cardboard Stool, which looks like a stack of books, £26 (jasmineway.co.uk).
Geo quilt cover set, double £12; cushions £34.99 each; I heart geeks, set of four mugs £5.99; Geek Chic laundry bag £4.99, all available from Dunelm