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30th March 2022

Grand design your home on a budget

Transform your student space with these tops tips, ranging from plants and prints to nifty storage solutions.
Grand design your home on a budget
Photo: The Mancunion

It’s never too early to start planning your room design for the next academic year. So, whether you’re a first year thinking about how to make that dirty Fallowfield house seem like a home, a future fresher wanting more than Ikea furniture, or even a student who has still not decorated their current halls, The Mancunion has the perfect guide for how to spice up your space!


First up, get something on those walls. Posters are the obvious choice and Afflecks have a huge selection, with everything from band posters to city prints.

For a different aesthetic, hit up the charity shops for things like art books, old postcards and calendars. This unique artwork can be bought on any student’s budget, and the DIY project of transforming your second-hand finds into a wall installation will leave a personal touch to your home.

Unique artwork can also be found within the print pages of The Mancunion which is perfect for a bright, sustainable DIY wall display. You could also consider doing something more interesting with your DIY projects, such as making your own collages, bunting or 3D art with sustainable finds – be creative! Whatever you decide on, visiting the Northern Quarter’s Fred Aldous where both artwork and endless art supplies are sold is always a good move.


With the move from halls to student housing, you’ll suddenly find a whole lot more space to think about in the design process. Consider visiting antique centres or car boot sales to bring your vision to life. The cheapest options may include side tables, chairs, mirrors and books to add that intellectual touch to your Fallowfield pad, and you can always go wild on the up-cycling.

Alternatively, check out Etsy if you don’t fancy doing the upcycling work yourself. Antique centres can also be a great place to find quirky trinkets for your room, or even one of a kind crockery to impress your guests.

Some of the largest antique centres in Manchester include Antique World Manchester in Failsworth and Levenshulme Antique Village, though often the best antique options are found by getting out of the city. Good crockery is also available new in places like IKEA, however for something more individual it could be a fun day out to visit gallery gift shops and independent retailers across the city.


Soft furnishings are vital to any cosy space needing to provide comfort from the stresses of university life. Pillows are a great place to start, and any inviting bed or sofa wouldn’t be complete without a blanket or throw. In addition, bright rugs have been shown to make a room feel bigger – they’re a treat for the eyes and the feet.

There are many homeware brands to choose from when selecting soft furnishings, but Dunelm or Habitat is a good place to start. You can even print your own photos onto textiles on websites like Photobox! If you feel like leaning into the crafty spirit,consider crocheting a quilt, pillowcase or throw.

Charity shops often have crocheting or knitting wool and needles for very cheap prices, so it’s easy to get started with an online tutorial. Textiles also give the opportunity to add a pop of colour to your room, for which the Northern Quarter’s Oklahoma has lots on offer.


A staple in any student space, house plants really bring the outside in. Start by checking out The Mancunion’s guide to the best student plant shops, which will give you the perfect recommendations for which independent places to visit.

Alternatively, supermarkets usually offer a good selection of house plants that won’t stretch the budget too far, as well as flowers for a quick fix of nature. And, if you want to add a touch of green to your space without the pressure of keeping the plant alive, there’s always the option of a fake plant or two for the same effect. I’d recommend Home Sense for the fake options, or a visit to establishments Flourish and Nice Things to create an indoor oasis in your space.

Any good plant or furnishings shop will probably also offer botanically themed prints, so why not double down on the artwork and add that extra pop of green to your walls without the need for water?


If you’ve moved into student housing, rejoice in the luxury of candles! Candles are perfect for transforming that dingy smell of old rooms, and there are tons of independent candle businesses floating around the internet and Manchester alike. Deadstock General Store in the Northern Quarter is a great place to start.

Consider investing in a good reed diffuser (or even just a nice air freshener) for that shared bathroom – you’ll thank yourself after a messy night out. Reed diffusers are also a great option for those in halls where candles aren’t an option, as is a good fabric softener. You’ll soon create a space that smells so good, you’ll never want to leave. Diffusers can be purchased in any good homeward section, such as Next or M&S, whilst there are many candle small businesses to discover on Tiktok.

If you want to do your own candle research, the account @candlepeeps on Instagram might be a good place to start – they share a different independent candle maker every day.


Mood lighting is a must. Investment in some kind of salt lamp, projector or viral sunset lamp, if your pennies can stretch that far, will set the mood for any room. Of course, fairy lights are a classic and come in many variations. Or, you could plump for the strip of LEDs which feature at all the Fallowfield house parties. LEDs and fairy lights can be purchased for low prices online, whilst Afflecks has a good selection of salt lamps.

Equally, mirrors are a great way to make a space feel bigger, especially if placed next to a source of natural light. As mentioned, antique centres and charity shops are good places to go for a unique option, while Wilko and Primark will offer something cheap yet effective.

Storage Solutions

Most of the time students aren’t afforded the luxury of large rooms. Simple and cheap ways to add storage to your space include under-bed boxes, wardrobe organisers and extra shelving, all of which can be bought extremely cheaply in your favourite furniture giants.

Command hooks and over-the-door hangers will also save room in your precious cupboard space. A simple fix could be buying a cover for your electronic leads, or some trays to shove away the miscellaneous crap – out of sight, out of mind! For smaller storage solutions, consider bookends, pen pots and miniature crates, which can be found in retailers such as Flying Tiger, Paperchase or the independent Fred Aldous.

Annabel Benton

Annabel Benton

Co-Culture Managing Editor at The Mancunion // Twitter: @AnnabelBenton_

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