courtesy of ikea

Andrea cushion cover, $29.99 for a pack of two, at Ikea.

If you’re going to be a university or college student this year, or if you’re sending one of the kids off to school, don’t think for a minute that you are exempt from basic design rules when it comes to student digs!

The design team gets very irritable when we see a mish-mash of bequeathed, borrowed and bought items thrown together, with no obvious connection to each other.

We insist on some consistency in colour, style, and theme. This is one of our bottom line requirements! For example, the wall colour needs to go with the rug, which needs to go with the bedding, which should go with the lamp.

For example, colour is one way to unify decorative elements in the place where you live. If you love blue, think in shades of blue, or patterns that include blue, and in prints that show water or sky, for example. The same goes for any colour scheme.

Colour does not have to be expensive. It can be cheaply introduced with paint, with fabrics of your choice, either on your bed as linens, or as a window treatment. Towels in a bathroom, or even tea towels in the kitchen, or a tablecloth, can be bought cheaply to match your colour choice.

Styles should also match. For example, a traditional style of decor that may include dark wood furniture with brass hardware does not generally mix well with a modern style that may include furniture with shiny chrome and glass. It doesn’t have to be matchy-matchy, but stay within the same style grouping.

Theme is another great way to unify your decor. Think about what really represents you best. For example, if you love comics, there are inexpensive posters and other pieces of art that relate to this theme. If you love angels, think of framed Christmas cards, posters and cards, figurines, or children’s fairy wings suspended from the ceiling.

Here are some hot trends in inexpensive decorating, especially aimed at students.

• Inflatable furniture is hot! The benefits are obvious — it’s easily assembled and taken down. It comes in great jewel-toned colours, and is easily cleaned. We’ve found some great ideas at

• Comfy plush lounging chairs with matching footrests are another great idea for creating a comfy and stylish studying space.

• Lamps are a must, including focused lighting at the desk, by a chair and near the bed, so you can work anywhere. This year, they’re flying off the shelves in lots of different shades of brightly coloured translucent plastic.

• Stylish pillows are hot this year, including body pillows, which can turn a bed into a giant couch. The classic armchair pillow in plush fabric is also popular.

• Finally, stores like IKEA and many others that deal in storage solutions carry lots of pop-up storage, including pop-up cubes, folding laundry folders, collapsible file boxes, and great shelving ideas of various types.

So when you get your student loan, you’ll know how to put that money to good use. Class dismissed.

Catch Arresting Design every Thursday at 10 p.m. on W Network.

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