It’s about space. Your own space versus shared space. Wall
space, counter space, too much space, too little space … way too
little space, breathing space, shelf space, refrigerator space anad
closet space. In short – living space.
There is a lot to deal with when first stepping back on campus,
and decorating an apartment or house may not feel like the most
vital, but until one’s living space is settled one cannot be
completely settled either. Considering this, it may seem as though
very few people on this campus are in fact settled, but that is the
beauty of the decoration process – it is 100-percent personal.
Although, when visiting a friend’s house, you might prefer to
have something more comfortable or substantial to sit on besides
the empty keg that was never returned, they may have no problem
with it at all. That keg might be there as a daily reminder of that
great Welcome Week party and with that, a valued piece of
But, if oversized alcohol containers are not your cup of tea, do
not fear. There are dozens of other ways to direct the decoration
of your space. The greatest roadblock faced when dealing with space
is that there always seems to be too much where you don’t need it,
and not nearly enough where you do (the latter being the most
common since the majority of college living quarters, in terms of
size, rival that of the backseat of a mini Cooper). So, the plan is
to maximize the space that we have to work with, and in order to do
that, it must be remembered that less truly is always more.
You may be daunted by massive blank walls, but try and fight the
urge to immediately cover them with multiple posters or tapestries.
This will just make the room seem smaller. Wall space is sacred –
don’t hide it with clutter. Keep the wall ornaments to a minimum.
Posters are not the end-all-be-all. Try some of these ideas:
Postcards: They’re small, they’re cheap and they might
even inspire you to keep up with actual written correspondence
Magazine advertisements: They tend to be stylish, witty,
and feature hot models.
Mirrors: They make rooms appear miraculously larger.
Comic strips: Cut out the “Boondocks” or your favorite
cartoon and tape it to your wall. With any luck, visitors to your
room will think that you actually read the paper.
Photographs of your friends: They are what college is all
about (your friends not the photos.)
If after that you are still not feeling ambitious enough to
decorate, allow your friends to decorate for you. Buy long sheets
of white butcher’s paper and cover your walls. Leave out a bucket
filled with markers, pens and crayons, and let your guests’
creativity go wild. After a few weeks go by with a number of
parties tossed in, and a handful of post-bar tirades, you may find
yourself running back out for more paper.
We may have been conditioned to restrain ourselves from coloring
the walls at home during early childhood, but the desire to do so
Moving on from the mere aesthetics of your space, there is also
the matter of furniture and appliances. Many houses and apartments
on campus are furnished, but for those students who dropped their
suitcases and boxes off in an empty room when they got back to
campus, here are two words: “Meijer” and “Target.” Get there as
fast as possible. At Meijer, five-piece dining room sets range from
$160-$200. Desks, television stands, and bookcases all hover around
the $75 mark, and for the frugal consumer in us all, dishes and
glasses can all be picked up for about $2 each. You have to look,
and not be too picky. The money saved in these areas can then be
put towards the pricier items like appliances. Although considering
that an Easy Bake oven goes for $19.99 the $29.99 for a George
Forman grill does not exactly seem steep.
Several students also try to save their cash by bringing things
from home (one explanation for why it is almost impossible to find
two matching sets of silverware in any given students’
By now you should be on your way to settling in to your new
place, but remember to be patient and to pace yourself. Accept that
changes are going to be made and leave openings for such changes;
because like the empty beer keg you never know what decorating
ideas might just happen.
In my quest to prepare for this article I hunted through Ann
Arbor’s stores, and from this I compiled a list of my favorite
finds, deals, and tips for transforming your space into your
Magnets. No refrigerator is complete without them. Alphabet
magnets make leaving notes for your roommates easy, and “magnetic
poetry” sets provide countless hours of entertainment.
Soft Pink light bulbs, better than the average bulb. They create
a softer mood and more subtle light. Available at hardware stores
and Hiller’s Market. Price $3-$5.
Miniature stacking suitcases. These are a great decorative
storage option for toiletries, makeup, etc… Available in several
bright colors and in 3 different sizes at Vintage to Vogue Home (in
Kerrytown) Price $9, $10, and $12.
Window Art puffy paint set. Color on your windows, and give your
neighbors a real reason to peek. Available at Mudpuddles Toy Store
(Kerrytown) Price $20
Also at Mudpuddles…Tie Dye Kit. Make your own colorful drapes
or sheets. Price $12.
Handcrafted wooden bookcases and shelves. These pieces can be
left bare or can be painted to fit in with the rest of your
d�cor. Available at the Ann Arbor Artisan’s Market (part of
the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown) Price $40-$80
Mosquito netting. In either pink or blue this netting hangs from
the ceiling and drapes over your bed or any other piece of
furniture that you chose to set apart from the rest creating a very
regal aura. Available at Urban Outfitters. Price $24.
Peacock feathers. They’re exotic, beautiful, and look great in a
tall vase. Plus they are plant like enough to add life to your pad,
but do not need to be water nor will they wilt and need to be
thrown away. Available at Middle Earth. Price $1 per feather.
…And one final tip. Please, do not decorate with perishables.
Take my word for it; the result is less than appealing.