A-level results day 2021: Best cheap uni room decor ideas for new students

Starting university is a major life milestone. Just getting a place on a course is cause for celebration but it’s also the first time many young people have lived away from home.

Moving into a bare room without all your usual creature comforts can feel very daunting but you can soon make the space your own by choosing the right homewares.

While your new digs will generally have all the essentials such as a bed, desk and wardrobe, everything else is up to you. Those moving to a student flat rather than halls have even more to think of and will need to consider more practical items including kitchenware. And we don’t just mean a corkscrew…

How we tested

We tested all sorts of affordable homewares that will make the move a little easier and a lot more stylish.

From can’t-do-without towels to won’t-live-without coffee machines, we chose items that are useful, cosy or will make you smile even when you’re far from home. Most importantly, none will break the budget but all will make you feel prepared for your new university life.

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The best budget student homewares for 2021:

  • Best overall – The Student Box: From £179, Noahsbox.com
  • Best for emergency meals – Salter Handbag Sandwich Toaster: £24.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for lie-ins – Appletree Lyra Bedding Set White: From £22.49, Terrysfabrics.co.uk
  • Best essential – 6 Piece Mallory Towel Bale: £16.99, Wayfair.co.uk
  • Best low-maintenance décor – Cream Artificial Orchid Flowers in Black Ceramic Pot: £12.99, Homescapesonline.com
  • Best for self-catering – Salter 4 Piece Pan Set: £64.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best eco buy – Contigo Autoseal Chill Couture: £28.15, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best money saver – Breville Iced Coffee Maker: £39.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for socialising – The Cotswold Company white wine glass: £8, Cotswoldco.com
  • Best for making food go further – ZWILLING Fresh & Save 7 Piece Vacuum Starter Set: £89.95, Zwilling-shop.com
  • Best for study sessions – Lever Table Lamp: £35, lightsandlamps.com, Lightsandlamps.com
  • Best for anyone missing home – Umi. By Amazon Photo Frames Gallery Set of 7: £27.99, Amazon.co.uk

The student box

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Not sure where to start? This ingenious box is a life-saver for anyone moving away for the first time and would make a fantastic present for an anxious new student stressed about what to bring.

It comes in a giant box and features absolutely everything you’ll need including a 10.5 tog duvet, pillow, bedding, coat hangers and a plush bath and hand towel. For the kitchen, there’s a two-person white dining set, three good pans, a knife set, tea towels, food containers, a baking tray, oven glove and a colander. There’s even a bumper box of kitchen utensils including everything from a masher to a pizza cutter, which you’ll need eventually even if you only plan to live on beans on toast for the first term.

Everything is really decent quality and Noah reckon it will save you 50 per cent on buying like-for-like products individually, although we’d have loved to see a corkscrew and a couple of wine glasses in there too.

However, we were floored by the vast range of items included and loved the fact the box can be further customised with extras like a coffee maker, hairdryer, water bottle or even a first aid kit. Even better, it can be delivered straight to your student halls on any chosen day for hassle-free moving in. Top marks (sorry) all round.

Salter handbag sandwich toaster

Best: For emergency meals

Rating: 8/10

If you’re starting to panic about cooking for yourself for the first time in your life, this dinky toastie maker will at least ensure you won’t starve. Call us fickle but we also loved its rose gold trim, diamond embossed casing and mini handbag style.

Better still, it couldn’t be easier to use even if your only cooking experience is ordering a takeaway. It pre-heats in around three minutes, heats up to 200 degrees and has a light to let you know when it’s ready to go. Add bread and toppings, close the lid and you’ll be moments away from a hot meal prepared by your own fair hands. Just remember to clean it soon after use so you’re not chipping off dried-on cheese a week later.

Appletree lyra bedding set white

Best: For lie-ins

Rating: 9/10

Brighten up your room with this chic, simple bedding that goes with everything and will always look stylish. Made of thick pure cotton, it feels luxurious to the touch and is perfect for sleeping in after late nights, erm, studying (aka propping up the uni bar). It comes in blush pink or white with a navy trim, but we loved the crisp all-white set for a classic feel. All have attractive pom-pom embellishments but luckily not in a place where you’ll risk waking up with their imprint all over your face – not a great look on your first morning of lectures.

The well-priced single set comes with a duvet cover and one pillowcase but it’s also available in double, king size and super kingsize. Just remember that you will need an extra pillowcase if you prefer two pillows on your single bed. The whole set washes well at 40 degrees and can be tumble dried and ironed too. Stop laughing…

Wayfair basics 6 piece mallory towel bale

Best: Essential

Rating: 7/10

Whether you’re in a halls of residence or moving straight into digs, towels are a must-buy for any new student. This handy bale includes two bath towels, two hand towels and two facecloths so you won’t need to panic if you get behind on the laundry. It’s a fantastically priced set that comes in a range of colours including purple, teal, black and a classic grey, though you might want to avoid the white set if you wear any makeup or fake tan. All are 100 per cent cotton and can be washed at 40 degrees and easily tumble dried for clean towels without a faff. They’re not especially thick but for this price, you can’t go wrong.

Cream artificial orchid flowers in black ceramic pot

Best: Low-maintenance decor

Rating: 8/10

Let’s face it, sometimes it can be a challenge keeping yourself fed and watered at university. If adding a real life plant to the mix feels a step too far, this elegant artificial orchid is a great way to introduce greenery to your room with zero effort. We were pleasantly surprised how realistic this orchid looked for the price, with soft petals made from silk-like polyester to give them a more believable appearance.

These are UV resistant so the flowers won’t fade over time like many artificial plants, though it’s still recommended to keep the orchid out of direct sunlight. The sleek black ceramic pot goes with any décor while the flower also comes in a bright cerise pink if you want to introduce a pop of colour. Just don’t forget to wipe the plant with a damp cloth once in a while so it doesn’t become a dust trap.

Salter 4 piece pan set

Best: For self-catering

Rating: 8/10

Anyone moving into a student house will need a decent set of pans to get started, even if your culinary repertoire only stretches to spag bol. This sturdy set of four looks good, while their non-stick surface needs little or no oil to help with healthier cooking. The pans are suitable for every hob type including induction and are a cinch to clean with soapy water, even if food is burnt on.

The set includes 16, 18 and 20cm saucepans which all have a tempered glass lid with steam vent so your pan (probably) won’t boil over if you get distracted and forget to watch your pasta. There’s also a 24cm frying pan for whipping up bacon sarnies and all have secure soft-touch handles to make cooking (almost) a pleasure.

Contigo autoseal chill couture

Best: Eco buy

Rating: 9/10

Carrying a single use plastic bottle to lectures is definitely not the done thing. Plus, what student wants to spend their cash on water? Instead, invest in this amazing reusable BPA-free water bottle and you’ll be sorted all day thanks to the generous 720ml capacity.

Don’t worry about it leaking all over your library books either. We threw it in the bottom of a rucksack and not a single drop escaped, thanks to the nifty Autoseal technology. And the double-walled Thermalock vacuum kept our water icy cold even after two hours in a hot car. We especially liked the fact the bottle can be used with just one hand by pressing the button to drink rather than unscrewing a lid, making it a great choice for gym-goers too.

Breville iced coffee maker

Best: Money saver

Rating: 8/10

From TikTok to Love Island, iced coffee is having a moment. Unless you want your student loan to disappear before Christmas, you might want to reconsider your coffee shop habit and treat yourself to this streamlined machine instead. Or better yet, drop heavy hints to your parents before term starts…

The Breville iced is very quick and easy to use and serves up a huge tumbler of iced coffee (with straw) in no time. Just add the water and the coffee and press start. The machine pours the brew over the tumbler of ice, chilling hot coffee almost immediately so you don’t need to wait for it to cool down in the fridge. You don’t need to work out the ratio of coffee to ice and you can add flavourings as you fancy too in case you’re craving an iced caramel macchiato. We were really impressed at how tasty the coffee was and we like the saving per drink even more.

The Cotswold Company white wine glass

Best: For socialising

Rating: 9/10

Even if you’re drinking £4 plonk from the corner shop, it will still feel like an occasion with these smart goblet-style glasses. Available in a smoky grey, clear or blush pink, they are made of thick, top quality glass that doesn’t feel like it will smash at the first jolt. We especially liked the short, sturdy stems which make them harder to knock over and spill red wine on the essay you’ve just finished. If your halls allow them, we also love the matching tealight holders (£4, Cotswoldco.com) for a safer and elegant alternative to single-use candles.

ZWILLING fresh & save 7 piece vacuum starter set

Best: For making food go further

Rating: 9/10

We know food storage isn’t quite as exciting as buying wall art or wine glasses, but honestly, this clever set will save you serious time and money. Forget bog-standard Tupperware for your leftovers, this bundle – which includes two borosilicate glass containers and four reusable vacuum bags – keeps food fresh for up to five times longer than standard storage methods.

The set comes with a vacuum pump that extracts the air from the containers and bags in seconds and – even better – stops automatically when a sufficient vacuum has been created. This seals in flavour and vitamins and we found it brilliant at keeping fruit and salad fresh days after a supermarket trip. The boxes and bags can also be chilled or frozen so it’s great if you want to buy bigger (and cheaper) packs of meat or fish then split them into single portions. The super-organised can even batch cook their favourite dishes and eat them smugly all week instead of living on Pot Noodles. Or more realistically, you can also easily store leftover takeaways and dine for days.

Lever table lamp

Best: For study sessions

Rating: 8/10

There’s no getting away from it. At some point, you’re probably going to have to sit down at a desk and do some work while at university. This sleek brass table lamp will at least ensure you can see what you’re doing and looks stylish at the same time.  Also available in matt black, the strokable brass works with all décor and we loved the fact it only takes up a tiny amount of space, so you’ll still have plenty of room to spread out your books (sorry).

The head swivels so you can make sure you have light exactly where you need it and avoid an annoying glare on your laptop screen too. It would also work as a bedside lamp as the bulb is bright but not blinding and it’s definitely a more sophisticated alternative to standard-issue student lighting.

Umi. By Amazon photo frames gallery set of 7

Best: For anyone missing home

Rating: 9/10

Nothing will make your new room feel more immediately like home than some well-placed photos of family and friends. Buy a bundle of frames like this and you can have them up in no time to help you settle in. There are seven included in this set including one 8×10, two 5×7 and four 4×6 which are great to create a no-hassle gallery wall. All can be displayed horizontally or vertically and the classic black frames will go with everything. They’re super lightweight too so you won’t need to worry about damaging any dubious plasterwork. If you have a difficult landlord or strict rules at your halls of residence, they also come with stands so can be positioned on a desk or shelf instead.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.