How to Style Your Space on a Budget

I've dreamt of this day since I was a little girl. The key turns, the door opens...and viola, my very own space. Sure, I probably won't be a homeowner for many years to come (thank you Sydney real estate market), but for now, I can live the designer's dream with my own little "studio apartment" for a few months right?

Said studio apartment is, in fact, a small room with dark blue curtains, maroon carpet (ugh) and wooden furniture potentially older than my grandmother. A sink stands in the corner, an empty desk occupies one side of the room next to a wall-length brown corkboard, and a stark white mattress on top of a metal bed frame takes up much of the room space on the other side. No light tessellating wooden floors, white wardrobes with golden accents, no candles allowed. 

With only 37kg of luggage in tow, how do I make this room into a home, my home, for the next few months without spending a fortune?

Here's what I've learnt:

1. Suss out the benefits and use them to your advantage.

We can't all choose our living spaces, but identify what the good elements are and build your home around them. I refused to be deterred by the ugly colour clash that was maroon, blue and brown. Instead, I realised that I had a big south-facing window that showered my room with autumn/winter light for most of the day. It also had a ledge, perfect for displaying books and small succulents. My desk had a black surface and the wood gives off an almost industrial yet rustic feel. The bedsheets were white i.e. #flatlay central. It was a good starting point.

2. Don't splurge on decor.

Adopting Marie Kondo's famous mantra, only buy what sparks joy. Even better, do it on the cheap. Partly influenced by the blogging and vlogging world, decor is a big deal these days. Businesses have responded to this by competing with each other to sell trendy decor on the cheap. Think Kmart, Asda, Ikea, and even your local supermarket - they are great places for finding cheap decor gems. Also, go to a vintage market and bargain hard for that brass elephant paperweight. I found the matching pink bowls from Sainsbury and Ikea respectively and they only cost me a couple of pounds. 

3. Be selective.

Every decor item should have a purpose. Otherwise it's just trash. This is particularly important to keep in mind if you're furnishing your room on a budget. Not only did I have limited funds to splurge on my room, I also had to think about what I would do with all these things in a few months' time when I move out. So for me, everything had to have a purpose. One plant only (I named him Asher), to bring greenery and life to the room. Travel guides, both informative, spark wanderlust and decorative. A cool-toned floral printed duvet, not only functional but detracts from the maroon carpet and forms the visual focus of the room. 

As an example of being selective, I had to forgo buying fairy lights because as they would bring magic to my room, they virtually served no other function. They would be too dim for studying, and when I sleep...well, they're hard to appreciate when my eyes are closed. Sadly, I had to put them back on the supermarket shelf. 

4. The cheesy tip - make the space yours.

Make it yours, it's up to you, have fun with it. Every styling post on every website ever includes this tip. As unhelpful as that sounds, everyone has their own style and different ideas of what feels homely and sentimental. Mix your space up with quirky prints (I often buy cards that have funny or motivational quotes and patterns because they are cheaper), photos of loved ones and things that reflect your passions (be it travel guides, beauty products, books or food). 

And that's how a random dorm room in a new country become my sanctuary. 

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Cereal travel guides; Ikea indoor plant (Peace Lily); Mango espadrilles; French print; Polaroid camera; Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream; Crabtree & Evelyn La Source travel set; Sainsbury's plate and diffuser; Azda cup; Ikea bowl