Volume 92, Issue 28

Friday, October 23, 1998



Sprit home away from home

By Brad Lister
Gazette Staff

You're free, you've escaped – you're in the big city now. Mom and Dad are quite a few hours away and you are in your very first apartment, a space all of your own. Now all you need to do is decorate the space to create something that you can be happy with.

Being on a tight budget, however, means you can't go shopping for all the best furniture, the best fabrics, fancy decorative accessories and other things that can make your apartment the coolest on the block. Most students just don't have the money to turn their homes into designer showrooms.

No need to worry, with a little know-how, some elbow grease and smart shopping, you may just have that chic or funky place you've always dreamt of.

With the proliferation of design shows, magazines and books, now is the perfect time to be moving into your first apartment. "It's sort of an off-shoot of the cocooning that happened in the early '90s," says Greg Walsh, marketing manager at Gielen Design. People started staying at home more and got into home decor.

With so much information, however, one could easily get confused. Not to worry Christine Payne, an interior designer at Interior Accents, says there is no right or wrong answer. Walsh adds it's whatever makes you comfortable. Simply put, there are no rules.

"Nice doesn't have to be expensive," Walsh says. He cites a simple $20 can of paint as a perfect design tool.

Colour is actually one of the first steps in pulling together an apartment. It's a good idea to first decide on a colour scheme and keep it consistent throughout the apartment to create a flow, Payne says.

Since most students, when they first move, come with furniture from Mom and Dad's basement, a big concern might be what to do with that really awful couch or lamp. Both Walsh and Payne say don't be afraid to paint it or change it.

Getting creative even includes painting the new pad. If your landlord wants you to return the apartment to its original state when you move out, Payne suggests painting one wall of the apartment and then tying in the colour, with accent pillows and other decorative accessories in that same shade, elsewhere in the room.

"It works and it gives the impression that the whole room is that shade. Plus, it's very inexpensive," claims Payne.

After the painting and colour is set, it's time to decorate the apartment and give it your own touch.

Payne says if students are on a limited budget, they should give function priority over the decorative aspects. "For example if you need a lamp, get a lamp that will be a good reading lamp," she says.

In making the space your home, remember as well to think creatively. "A box is a box but can it be something else?" asks Walsh.

He also suggests displaying things of your own. For example, if you're a snowboarder, maybe hang a couple of snowboards on the wall as art. It says something about you and it can add a certain uniqueness to the space.

Simply putting up the laminated posters that university students love so much can add to the room. "They make a huge difference," Payne says. She adds even hanging personal pictures is a great way to decorate.

Payne advises that if you are looking for furniture, think rummage sales, second hand stores and other such places, but look for good quality.

Anne Remkiss, owner of So Low Used Furniture in London, says she sees many students in the store throughout late August and right into October, buying up furniture. "We get a lot of our stuff from auctions," she says.

Considering most students live in older homes and apartments, what does one do with those cracks and other imperfections which are ever-present? Walsh and Payne both suggest covering them up as well as you can, for example, by putting a screen in front of the meter box in your living room or if there are scratches in your hardwood floor, play them up. "Its character," Payne says.

She also suggests that if the landlord hasn't fixed a crack in the wall, put a frame around it – play up the defects.

Designers aren't the only ones with ideas on how to deal with a less-than-perfect apartment. When Bill Lewis, a first-year computer science student, moved into his apartment, he found it to be freshly painted, but too neutral for his taste – he wanted to make a statement.

"I put up a lot of my collectables so people can see them," Lewis says. "They say a lot about me." Lewis also suggests not to be bound by a particular style.

"Be eclectic in how you decorate. Don't match everything together because that's boring."

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998