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Joe Evans analyses student interior-design decisions.

Okay, a new academic year has well and truly begun, and finally the majority of us are able to be physically present on campus for the full year this time (here at The Glasgow Guardian we jinx it so you don’t have to!). That means living in Glasgow again, and aside from all the time and effort of actually getting a roof over your head, there really is only one question of any importance: how do I decorate my flat?

In my 4 years of living here I’ve encountered a few different philosophies of decoration, which I’m going to reductively boil down to the following archetypes. Be fully aware – one of these decorating styles is absolutely the correct one, and the rest are aberrations unto God for which any self-respecting young adult should hold nothing but contempt.

Firstly, we have to look at the weakest of the bunch: the “this flat is a complete dive and nothing can save it so why bother” approach. I have to admit this sums up my style in first year, since no amount of decoration can make a Murano bedroom feel like anything more than a grim box held together with the vomit of its previous occupant. Bung a couple of flags up, keep your Song of Ice and Fire box set on prominent display to impress your flatmates and tell yourself you’ll try again next year. Who has time to decorate when pre-drinks started an hour ago? This flat is not to be confused with the "Boys’ Flat", which as far as I can tell is intentionally bleak, and usually has more football shirts stapled to the notice board.

"First, the 'this flat is a complete dive and nothing can save it so why bother' approach..."

Coming in a close second on the boredom scale: the flat that cost enough money to come already decorated and fully furnished. This one is for our postgrad friends. You’re so busy with work you don’t even mind the fact that your bedroom is straight out of the IKEA catalogue. A trip to the home section will leave you wondering how you got back to your living room so fast. You tell your pals that the live-laugh-love decal on the wall is there ironically. Sometimes at night you look around your soulless home from the fake leather sofa and, shocked, you realise you are now the very thing you once mocked in articles like this one.

Next up, we have two very different ideas that branch off a single theme: "The Art Flat". This can be either a complete bombsite of discarded ideas, spilled paint and old books piled up into towers from which you can never find anything you need, or it’s a minimalist masterpiece, with everything pristine, white, and so completely bland and sterile I’m going to go back to talking about the first type. The chaotic art-flat sounds like an instagrammable haven for the spontaneously creative. More likely it’s a waking nightmare for its inhabitants, who last saw the floorboards while trying to make room for another clothes rail for their out-of-control Depop habit.

"More likely it’s a waking nightmare for its inhabitants, who last saw the floorboards while trying to make room for another clothes rail for their out-of-control Depop habit."

Finally, the original, and still the best, it’s the "classic student house look"! Guarded by a lifesize cut out of Borat – or possibly a miniature Danny DeVito for the connoisseur – and by at least one traffic cone, the walls are a hectic mess of brightly coloured tapestries; pastel-toned posters; and about a thousand photographs taken the week before you ran out of money for film. Everything is covered in either blankets or fairy lights, (more often both) and the clashing rugs are perfect for hiding stains on the threadbare carpet the letting agent assured you was brand new. The furniture the landlord deigned to provide is so ancient and battered even the British Heart Foundation wouldn’t take it, but you cheerfully make do with the various camping chairs you bought for the Daft Friday queue as you all gather to appreciate the majestic tower of empty tinnies you use as a year-round Christmas tree. Some of your cooler friends think your flat is a little garish, but you know that, in here, surrounded by colour and warmth and light, you are home.

"The furniture the landlord deigned to provide is so ancient and battered even the British Heart Foundation wouldn’t take it..."

I think the reason why other styles of decoration are just so unappealing in comparison to most student flats is that they just aren’t interesting. Busy walls feel closer and warmer, therefore the room is cosier; pale and plain walls create the opposite effect. Bland minimalism has been the decorating trend in vogue for the last decade or more – in conjunction with the obsession with open-plan. My pet theory for the logic behind this is that it makes claustrophobic new-build housing estates look bigger, thus conning their buyers into overlooking the low ceilings and cheap brickwork. It makes sense that so many of us are rejecting this, because when I’m ground down by essays the last thing I want to do is sit feeling exposed in a sterile white room without the comforting stimulus of a good tapestry.

There is a darker side to taste that it would be irresponsible to forget: it is a privileged position to be able to factor aesthetics into our decisions. Especially around the West End, where even charity shop furniture is often unaffordable, many of us have to weigh every decorative decision against its cost. The fun poked here at empty-feeling or dingy flats comes with the recognition of this reality, and from a dissatisfaction with my own inability to recreate the social media-worthy environment on my Instagram feed within the means I have.


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