Be inspired: Upcycle unused items from home in your hall room. Create your own unique style on a shoestring budget
by Chrystal Chan / Photos by Don Tan / Videos by Ei Ei Thei
So you’re a freshman, or a returning NTU student, looking to kit out your newly-assigned hall room which comes with basic furnishings only.
For starters, you can score a stylish space for less by recycling or upcycling, such as by raiding the storeroom at home or at your relative’s place to give a new lease of life to timeworn pieces.
And you’ll be right in sync with the green movement to reduce and reuse as you deck out your campus pad without burning a hole in your pocket. Unlike recycling, upcycling involves creatively reusing unwanted items. Think along the lines of turning over that cute toy bin to use as your new bedside table. Or using an abandoned dish at home as your new bowl for coins and keys.
Decide on a room décor theme and then look for items that fit your design goals. If you cannot find them at home, try asking your neighbours or relatives if they have furniture or home accessories they wish to get rid of. Trawl Carousell, flea markets or second-hand shops such as Salvation Army for budget-friendly items. Real steals could show up through platforms like OLIO, where you can bag unwanted furnishings for free from people who don’t need them anymore.
In this story, the HEY! team dressed up five different hall rooms with items sourced from our colleagues. As you will see, we upcycled items like glass bottles as vases and old shawls as furniture throws.
Third-year economics and psychology student Wang Yonghan, who appears on the cover of this issue, saw two of the room themes coming to life. She exclaims: “I love the makeovers! I never imagined hall rooms looking this way, like they are straight out of an IKEA catalogue. They are so cosy and I doubt I’d be going home on the weekends if my dorm resembled any of them.”
Yes, with a little ingenuity and resourcefulness, you can be that cost-conscious student with the cool pad.
The warm woody neutrals of many hall rooms go well with contrasting industrial elements like shiny glass bottles and metallic finishes. For a pop of colour and contemporary chic, you could add items such as a velvet cushion or a pre-loved fake fur rug.
Here’s a cheap trick: DIY your own statement pieces, like this poster of The Hive, edited with a phone app, printed on recycled paper and mounted on discarded cardboard.
“I love the idea of clipping my favourite photos on this wire grid. It’ll instantly brighten up my room and I’ll smile whenever I see all the silly snaps with my friends.” – Social Sciences student Wang Yonghan
Rescue those drink bottles! The glass ones make good flower vases. To remove the drink labels, soak the bottles in hot water. Lucky residents of Hall 5 can make use of the spacious window ledge in their rooms to display their wares.
Feel like you’re living by the sea with the help of soft gauzy fabrics and shades of cerulean blue. Add a couple of rattan, cane or woody accessories such as a wicker chair or basket, which you can easily buy second-hand online or perhaps salvage from your grandpa’s home. These tend to be durable and contribute to the chill, relaxed vibes.
Hall pals coming over and you need a hangout spot on the double? Just overturn a sturdy rattan storage basket. It’ll be just the right size for a bowl of snacks and some mugs.
Dad’s old workbag languishing in the storeroom? Get his permission to cut a square of leather from it so you can make a handy-dandy trinkets tray for your keys and bric-a-brac.
Finally put those holiday souvenirs that people gift you to good use – such as this dreamcatcher from Bali – by hanging them up with the help of removable hooks. See what you can retrieve from your drawers at home.
Candles are a fire hazard, so instead of an open flame, use a candle warmer. When the wax no longer smells nice, remove it and you could turn the glass jar into a pen holder.
Mum’s retired ceramic sauce dish can become a stylish container for all the small things that you tend to lose easily, such as your rings or stray buttons.
Upcycle a bucket into a table top. Think out of the pail and use the overturned bucket as a storage compartment as well.
If your window faces a swathe of greenery, like many rooms on our garden campus, you can extend the tropical resort feel by bringing nature inside, such as with a forest green bed sheet, leaf-patterned cushions and some artificial plants. Add visual interest with DIY botanical prints. Why not hang a real plant on the window grille to take advantage of the natural light streaming in? You’ll feel one with Mother Nature, and may find it to be a stress reliever.
Instead of buying curtains, ask your family or neighbours if they have fabrics that have been sitting around unused. All you have to do is drape them over the curtain rods in your room. Tip: Make sure you don’t misplace the original drapes, as you’ll have to put them back up when your stay is over.
Having an indoor plant in your ensuite bathroom like this one at Hall 2 is sure to brighten up your morning routine. You’ll have no problems keeping it watered, and you get to enjoy the science-backed health benefits of greenery.
Do you have a fish bowl lying around at home? With some stones and a few artificial stalks, you can instantly infuse your desk with some jungle vibes even if you don’t have green thumbs.
Be energised by splashes of colour – the more the merrier. Stick to the primary palette and basic shapes like circles and triangles for a bold, graphic take, or go avant-garde with a dramatic medley of colours and textures. Here’s your chance to reuse furniture your kid brother has outgrown, like that adorable multi-coloured clothes stand that will not look out of place here.
You’re bound to have a couple of sturdy cardboard boxes lying around from your shopping hauls or birthday presents. Not only do they look nice and add colour, they help to reduce visual clutter if your room has open shelves.
Need more space to hang up your bits and bobs? Place an over-the-door hanger on one side of your closet door.
Keep your favourite drinks cool with a desktop mini fridge, which you may get for less than $30 on Carousell. Err on the side of safety and declare it to your hall office.