Ways to spruce up your university living space

The transition to college can be tough. Even after freshman year, leaving the comfort of home is difficult. Making friends and getting involved helps ease the process, but ending the day in a cold, bare and unwelcoming dorm room or apartment hardly compares to the uniquely soothing sense of home sweet home.

Yet dorms and apartments have the potential to be spaces where personality and creativity can let loose. Because these empty canvases are so sparse, your dorm room is a perfect opportunity to experiment and figure out what design style best suits you.

Though decorating might seem silly, especially given the fact that most of us will move around each year, there are many affordable steps you can take to make your apartment or room a home.

Candles and incense are nice, but sometimes fire codes restrict their use. In this case, many of the flameless alternatives have now become stylish. You can find them at Target starting at $10.

Splashes of color are another fairly easy way to liven up and personalize a room. Whether this means buying those extra storage units and drawers in color rather than clear or buying some fun throws or floor pillows, the extra effort truly makes a difference.

Floor pillows are particularly great because they add color and comfort while also increasing the seating capacity of the room, an added luxury for entertaining or just hanging out.

Zebra-print pillows are a simple, affordable way to make your dorm room or apartment more homey.

One of my roommates brought two zebra print pillows to accent our putrid brown, suspiciously stained couch, and they made all the difference. The living room now looks as though humans live there and care enough to make the space their own, even if only for nine months.

Though posters are certainly a college dorm cliché, picking a theme, at least for the common spaces in an apartment, can help make the most of an inexpensive accessory.

Whether the theme emphasizes landscapes, art replicas, a music genre or old movies, the extra planning will result in a poster display that is cohesive. Visit Amazon.com for the cheapest posters, starting from 99 cents plus shipping.

Dedicating a wall to be collaged throughout the year can also be a fun and virtually free decorating option. All your roommates can contribute to the wall, immediately personalizing the room. You might choose to use old magazines or newspaper clippings. Some friends of mine decided to allocate one wall for pictures that they took throughout the year, allowing them to look back on memorable events. If a picture is worth a thousand words, at the end of the year, your wall will tell quite a story.

Vases can be a great investment in home decorating.

Should you want to go the extra mile, investing in some vases is always a good idea. The fresh flowers sure to follow will not only make any room more aesthetically pleasing, but will also add a pleasant aroma, useful in masking those familiar, unwanted college scents.

Though you most likely can’t paint your walls, you could make or buy a colorful, quilted bulletin board, which is both functional and aesthetically interesting. One option is to cover basic canvases with several different patterned cloths that match your bedding, so that you can hang those blocks of color on the wall.

You might not be the next “Design Star,” but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make your room or apartment your own. Some people might not care what their space looks like, but for those of us who miss the familiar comforts of home, these tips can help make the disparity less noticeable, all while serving as an outlet to express your creativity and personality.