Dos, don’ts of decorating on a budget


Ryan Ash

Sophomore Natalie Bizon decorates her apartment on Oct. 2. It’s important to wisely decorate your living space.

By Matt Troher, Staff Writer

Whether you’re in a dorm, an apartment or sharing a co-op house, one thing is certain — you have to decorate. With vaccinations trickling throughout the community, it’s certain we’ll be cooped up for just a little longer, and no one wants to be stuck inside an unfurnished, undecorated ugly residence. But we’re also college students, and money is tight. We can’t afford to buy into the latest home decor trends — smart mirrors and infinity pools and all. However, we can offer the dos and don’ts of decorating on a budget. 


Pictures: A picture is worth a thousand words. Luckily, a 4-by-6 photo print from Walgreens is also worth 35 cents. Dirt cheap but also intently personal, printing out photos of your most cherished memories and closest friends may be the best way to decorate a blank wall. Especially for those in dorms, where all you have to work with is the wall to the side of your bed, photographs offer a way to make a patchwork collage of fond memories and scenery.

Posters: Larger and more expensive than their photographic counterparts, posters are a classic college decoration. Posters are perhaps the best way to showcase your taste in music, film and pop culture. Nothing builds friendships faster than seeing the poster of your favorite band on someone’s dorm room wall. However, when it comes to movies, try to showcase some originality. Everyone’s seen the “Pulp Fiction” and “Fight Club” posters a million times. Why not shake it up with some fan-made posters you can buy off Etsy or Redbubble or, better yet, some different movie posters. My favorites are “The Social Network,” “The Tree of Life” and “Midsommar.”

Books: Nothing says classy and well-read better than an adorned bookshelf. Plus, with all that reading you’re doing for class, you’re bound to have a bunch of books lying around anyway. A nice line of books, especially if they’re arranged by height, or better yet, color, says you can read and decorate. Plus, some books’s cover art are so beautifully designed that they function as their own piece of artwork — face those outward on display. My favorites are the vintage edition of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Tyehimba Jess’s “Olio.”

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Tapestries: Perhaps the most expensive item on this list, tapestries are still a good way to fill a blank wall without totally breaking the bank. With the internet being as wide and weird as it is, you’re sure to find a tapestry with any design on it, from landscape sceneries to pop culture icons. Redbubble, the most popular source for ordering niche interest-oriented tapestries, runs at around $35 for a 60-by-50 textile. If you want to go even bigger, Redbubble’s largest tapestry size measures 104 inches by 88 inches — certain to convert a wall into a full-sized work of art.  

The Readymade: Readymade is a pretentious art term for an object that already exists — any object can be art if you want it to be. If you’re strapped for decoration ideas, often the best decoration has been right in front of you all along. Perhaps that mug in the back of your cabinet will make a great accent piece, or that sweater you haven’t worn in years will look better hung up on your wall instead of collecting dust in the back of your closet. Finding readymades to turn into decor takes a bit of creativity, so don’t be afraid to try something new. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t look good. 


LED Lights: You know the ones I’m talking about. Those color-changing LED strip lights all over TikTok are ugly, overdone and, worst of all, tacky. You’re not in high school anymore. There are better ways to light a room without looking like you’re trying to recreate a social media trend. There’s nothing worse than standing outside of ISR or Weston Hall and seeing window after window with the same blue or red glow. This isn’t to say all lighting options are bad; try Christmas lights or miniature Edison bulbs instead. Target will have tons of sleek yet mature lighting options for under $15.

Buy into Minimalism: The case for clutter is strong. There is nothing more lifeless than a sterile house void of any decorations, the color palette consisting of whites only accented by grays with spotless shelves and a TV on the middle of the wall. Do something! Don’t be sloppy, but nothing creates a warm, inviting environment like some thoughtful decorations. After all, it’s your living space, even if you’re just renting it for the year. Make it your own!

Matt is a sophomore in LAS and Media.

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