Keeping chic on the cheap

It is that time of year when there are three things on everyone’s mind: midterms, spring break and housing assignments. Maybe you are a rising senior eager to snag a prime quad in Ivory Tower, or a freshman merely praying that you won’t get stuck kitchen-less in Potomac House. No matter what your living situation may be next year, there are four universal must-haves for decorating your pad next year.

Accent your Area

A geometric-shaped carpet can add a splash of color to your room’s dull, tiled floor. A brightly colored rug can serve as the focal point of your room and will make even the most mismatched room appear in total sync. The space on the floor between beds is an optimal spot for the layer of cloth, offering a sense of balance in the room.

Save: Target sells solid-colored rectangular rugs by Room Essentials at 30×48 inches for $29.99.

Splurge: supplies a huge selection of unique accent rugs, including animal prints and oriental patterns in a variety of sizes, starting at $58.

Love that Lighting

The first thing many residents will likely notice upon trying to study in their room for the first time is the lack of good lighting. To avoid straining your eyes, supplement your poor-quality ceiling lamp with a good floor lamp. Floor lamps are great functional pieces that add to your room’s décor at the same time. Try to choose a funky style, like one in shiny chrome or with a translucent patterned lampshade.

Save: Head to Wal-Mart for a 94-inch tall lamp with a round rice paper shade at $30.

Splurge: For $99, Pottery Barn Teen offers a 59.5-inch tall “Spot Light” lamp with three pastel-colored globes that pivot so you can control where the light shines.

Pick Puffy Pillows

Plush throw pillows are a necessity for any college student. Comfortably accommodating for studying, chilling and hosting friends, they are also great pieces to add character to a room. Pick out one of two giant plush cushions or gather a bunch of smaller ones to pile on top of your bedspread. An offbeat collection that does not quite match your comforter and sheet set can highlight your room’s uniqueness and offset the dreariness of a room that is too coordinated.

Save: Walk down the home furnishing aisle of any Marshalls discount store and you will find pillows in a variety of sizes, shapes and patterns. Prices start as low as $4.99 for a 20-inch blue-and-white striped Tommy Hilfiger pillow.

Splurge: Anthropologie’s 20-inch “Seed Packet Pillows” are brightly colored with fun floral prints and sell for $98. The store’s cushy 24-inch green “Victoria Bay Pillow” is embroidered and features pompom tassels, at $128.

Place Passionate Posters

Wall-mounted posters are expressive and only take up space on your wall, which is ideal for college students trying to make the most of their room’s square footage. Find posters that best depict your personality to ensure a room that represents your individuality. You can buy posters of all sorts, from a retro advertisement for your favorite circa-1960s flick to a picture of your all-time favorite athlete.

Save: Go to to find more than 1,000 posters at wholesale prices. Most large posters sell for $3.25, plus the cost of shipping.

Splurge: Show your support as a fan and do some bidding for memorabilia on eBay. Bidding for a mint condition Pearl Jam Copenhagen Tour poster signed by the band went for more than $75.

Don’t wait until your mom tries to drag you to The Container Store at the end of August – keep an eye out for these essentials so you are prepared when September rolls around.

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