dorm_web.jpgFor many college students, the opportunity to move off-campus, into an apartment or house, is a welcome lifestyle change. So once the keys are in hand, here are some tips on decorating the off-campus nest.

Typically, students choose a group of friends to live with to share costs. Once the home’s been secured, have a group discussion about what the common spaces will look like.

Paint is a good way to bring color and life to a room, if the landlord permits. If not, look for wall decals and posters. Instead of tacking up art with pushpins or tape, use inexpensive frames for a more grown-up look.

See what you can scrounge from families and friends or get secondhand. Find out if your space’s current renters — often graduating students — are willing to leave large items. Fill in the holes with inexpensive pieces that can take some hard living.

“At Goodwill, we found a vintage phone, a shelf and some cute bottles,” said Aimee Ciancarelli  of Brooklyn. “We got a free couch and chair from Craigslist. And we decorated the walls with our own artwork.”

Bob Koch, a senior in Ithaca, N.Y., says his R2D2 trashcan gave his place some character, but the best purchase was “this huge beanbag chair — it was everyone's favorite thing in the apartment.”

Invest in pieces such as a sofa bed with slipcover that can convert to an extra bed and features storage underneath. Side tables can be grouped, and also used as seating. Shelving units do double duty as space dividers and clutter busters. Inexpensive mirrors can work as art, space expanders and convenient primping stations in a houseful of students when everyone’s getting ready at the same time.

Invest in new bedding. A reversible comforter with a solid hue on one side and a pattern on the other gives you style options.

Buy kitchen items that are durable, microwavable and dishwasher-safe.

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