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Tips for students designing on a budget


Chaise lounge, Ikea, $749

Students party hard, but they also work hard, which is why a functional and comfortable living design is so crucial.

When it comes to small spaces, two main rules Toronto designer Robin Fraser stands by are: Purging useless items (“if you haven’t used it in six months, you don’t need it”) and buying multi-functional furniture pieces.

For instance, she advises using a dining room table that can also act as a desk and a storage cube for a coffee table.

In a bachelor apartment, defining space and finding many uses for one item is particularly important, says Fraser, who is president of Fraser Designs & Associates.

Wooden pantry, Canadian Tire, $79.99

“I wouldn’t use a (traditional) bed, I would use a day bed or a chaise lounge ... It would make a statement and have double function.” (Futons are also multi-functional, but are harsh on the body so she doesn’t recommend them.)

HomeSense trend expert Natalie Jikerjian agrees. “Using a small dining room table as a vanity or a bookshelf to house dishes in the kitchen is a clever use of furniture that can be moved to any room in the home. A consistent use of colour can also make the space look and feel larger than it really is.”

A trick Fraser uses is putting a creamy white on most of the walls then using a “real” colour (including bolds like reds and browns) on the window walls. In the bedroom she suggests painting only the wall the headboard lies against.

“That gives the walls a bit of punch, a vibrancy in the space.”

To separate rooms, like a bedroom from the rest of the apartment in a bachelor, Fraser suggests using a large drape made of an interesting, yet solid-patterned fabric.

Oval ottoman with storage, Walmart, $39.88

“I would drape it across my bed so that the bed is hidden and then I could slide it back if I had a date or … just needed that freedom,” Fraser says.

A large bookshelf or even a large mirror can also act as space dividers for a small, open-concept space, says Jikerjian.

To improve air quality and the overall vitality of a room, Fraser encourages everyone to have at least one big, oversized plant somewhere.

“The one thing that I advise all of my clients, and this is just part of the whole feng shui thing, is to bring living plants into the space and having a sense of green in their home.”

Lamp, HomeSense, $49.99

Proper lighting is another area that should not be overlooked, says Fraser. She recommends having a couple large, upright lamps that can bounce light off the ceiling and some smaller ones for reading and/or in the workspace.

When it comes to accents, both Fraser and Jikerjian warn against creating clutter. The key is simplicity, says Jikerjian. “Items inspired by nature are moving indoors for fall, but that doesn’t mean your home should look like a forest,” she says.

“By adding wooden serving pieces in the dining room, some bamboo woven storage and vases in the living room, you can instantly update your home with the newest trends without going overboard.”

a few tips

  • Instead of having 10 photo frames lying around, group them into one larger frame.

  • Invest in great storage pieces like faux-croc stackable boxes.

  • Keep large pieces simple: Sofas, drapery and chairs in solid fabrics and colours allows you to easily change the look of the room.

  • If your apartment does not get direct sunlight, use a white shade with blue in it to freshen up your walls.