Student Rental Housing Therapy: Deck out your college digs with a nod to the environment—without breaking the bank!


Student housing getting you down? Dorm and apartment living during the college years can be pretty bleak when it comes to décor. Most of your time is spent, er, studying, and you’d sooner spend your cash on extra-curricular activities than gussying up your crash pad.
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Well, the team at did a bit of research by surveying our team of post-grads and came up with a handful of ways to make a design statement out of your apartment rental. The good news is that none of the following ideas will put a strain on your wallet. Plus, they all make use of recycled materials, so you’ll be doing the environment some good as well.

Picture Perfect
Are you a magazine collector? Does your roommate have some old maps or CD covers lying around? If you’re not making use of papers like these but can’t bring yourself to getting rid of them, recycle them! Every university flat has some old furniture on or around the property that’s too distressed to use as is, but can be easily refurbished.

First, figure out what paper you’d like to use and which piece of furniture could use an upgrade. Hint: You’ll want to cover areas that are flat so that they adhere better and last longer. Then, prep the furniture by giving it a good dusting and by sanding any ridged edges. Cut the paper to size. Once the piece is clean and dry, cut the paper to size, slap on some heavy-duty glue (something a bit stronger Elmer’s) and carefully set it. Be sure to eliminate any bubbles and excess glue. If you can, brush some acrylic over your work, let it dry thoroughly and voila!

Light Drinking
What’s the deal with candles being so pricey these days? If you’ve got a thrift store and a dollar store nearby, you’re in luck for a little DIY trick that will brighten up your rental apartment with the flick of a match or two. Pick up a package of battery-operated tea lights from the dollar store – or anything that produces light electronically – and a half dozen wine glasses from the thrift store. While you’re at the thrift store, grab some old lampshades. When it’s time to entertain, simply drop one light into each wine glass and place the lampshade over top of it. Your friends will be astonished at your savvy use of inexpensive materials to create such a dramatic centerpiece.

Space Chopper
Chopping food is messy and the cutting board can take up valuable counter space. That is, when you can find it. If you’ve got a set of two drawers – one small top drawer and one bottom drawer deep enough to hold a small garbage bin or bowl – you’ve got this space-saving trick in the bag. Note: this is a more advanced activity and will require the help of a roommate from a small town with handyman experience.

First, accurately measure the size of the top drawer. Then, find a piece of wood at your local hardware store and ask someone to cut the wood and add a circular hole to it. (The hole is for food waste to go through.) Sand and seal the wood and then remove the bottom piece of the top drawer. Affix the piece of wood so that it sits securely on the top drawer, add a small bowl or bin to the bottom drawer and you’ve got yourself a custom mess-free cutting board.

Disappearing Act
At a certain point, you might find yourself tiring of the IKEA look, which tends to run rampant in student housing communities. Shock your friends and flat mates by floating your books on the wall using a concealed bracket. For this activity, find a steel bracket and affix it to the wall so that when you’re looking at it from a profile vantage point, it makes an ‘L’ shape. Stack a pile of books on top of the bracket and they’ll look like they’re hanging in mid-air. Create a focal wall out of them to wow visitors while saving precious floor space.

Team Spirit
This is a quirky idea that a former varsity cheerleader passed along to our team. It’s a cute, colorful and eco-friendly way to show school spirit and decorate your student apartment rental. Many university towns have second-hand stores that are chock full of vintage team wear from the local school. Take an outing to one of these stores and pick up some team jerseys in an array of sizes and colors. Then, head over to a crafts store to buy some pillow inserts in sizes that will suit the jerseys. Insert the pillows into the shirts and add a few stitches to secure your creation.

Frame Works
Everything looks good in a frame. If you don’t have the time or the cash to hit a poster store, find some items around your apartment that can fit in a frame or shadowbox. Think of it as a way to make memorabilia out of your college experience. This can include tickets to concerts, your first-ever class schedule, old book covers, vintage record covers—anything.

Fold Your Own Furniture
OK, we admit it: this isn’t our idea. Cardboard furniture is an eco-friendly movement that’s taking the country by storm. Many companies have jumped on the bandwagon, launching full-blown furniture lines crafted of recycled cardboard.

In our research, we came across a cool website,, with the following philosophy: “Mass culture is run by superficiality and ecological absurdity. Foldschool supports craftsmanship as a face-to-face approach to design and brings together product and user the closest possible. The mindset of foldschool is to restore design to one of its original missions: to provide a product at an affordable price through a smart manufacturing process.” Create your own stool, chair or rocker by downloading one of foldschool’s patterns.

And lastly, if you’re searching for Student Rental Housing across Canada, make sure to check out our large database of rental housing across Canada.

The Team