Your Student Residence: Decorating Tips From Karl Lohnes


So you’ve finally found an apartment.

It’s in a good location, the rent is affordable – at least, on a student budget – and you’ve gone ahead and signed a respectable tenant contract. Congratulations!

As a student, finding your first apartment is a big step towards adulthood, increased responsibility and being able to say, “I have a place of my own.”

Believe it or not, finding and renting an apartment or home in and around your school’s area is only half the battle.

Now comes shopping for furniture and home décor. Whether you have a big budget or a small budget, this can be a daunting task – so I connected with preeminent Canadian design expert Karl Lohnes to discuss how to furnish your humble abode.

Karl, in your opinion, where are the best places to shop for furniture on a student budget?
I find that looking online is always a great option.

Places like Kijiji are a fantastic way to find the hard things, the big heavy wooden dresser, or the metal bed frame. Kijiji is underutilized for that sort of thing.

For personal items, things for the bathroom, bedroom or kitchen, students should check out the big box stores. The big stores tend to get great deals on useful items. Home Depot is great example: you can find a nice sturdy coffee maker for a really reasonable price.

What about discount stores? Can they be good places to shop if you know what you’re looking for?
Those types of places are for a really resourceful person.

If you’re in a large urban area they can be great. Out in Guelph it may be a little bit harder. Students should also look at the flash sales that certain websites have. Always taking a peek at the clearance section is a great idea for finding a deal. Dollar stores can offer a really good alternative, with nice, simple kitchenware like glasses, plates, utensils and so on.

The only thing I would recommend buying new and spending money on is bedding.

If you have a small apartment and are looking to maximize all the space that you have, what things should you keep in mind when furniture shopping?
I really think it’s about setting up priorities.

A small apartment doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but everything you buy should be able to pull double- or triple-duty. For example, even the bed should be able to store things under it. When trying to maximize space, a lot of people forget to go up instead of out.

Going vertical is always a great option. Things like multiple floating shelves can be a lifesaver.

Let’s say that you now have all the essential pieces of furniture covered and it’s time to decorate. How can you add personal style without it becoming too much?
You should always look at the biggest pattern and color – bedding in the bedroom and the sofa or rug in the living room.

Once you start there, you can work around it and build up a style that fits the centerpiece.

It’s all about finding a style, not multiple clashing ones, that you feel comfortable with.

How can you figure out what your personal style is? Is there such a way to figuring that out?
Finding style is easy… The thing to remember is that only YOU can determine what that is.

An easy way to figure that out is to look at cherished home decor or fashion items that you have. For some, that could be a small antique dresser and for others it could be a cool 1960s silk scarf or tie.

Choosing decor influences of that style or era is an easy way to help develop your style.

Are there any big no-nos or things to avoid when shopping for furniture or home décor for an apartment?
Well I mean, you get what you pay for. My suggestion is to be judicious when you’re out shopping. Making sure things fit before you buy them is always important, which means taking measurements. Measurements are important in a smaller apartment.

I would say that people tend to want to decorate their apartment more than they need to. Think about it in terms of areas: kitchen, bedroom, living room. It’s okay to be utilitarian.

If you could only give one piece of advice about apartment décor or furniture, what would it be?
Buy the best quality you can afford; having less for longer is good for the soul and the environment.

Remember, when it comes to buying the right furniture, it’s important to keep the size of your space in mind. Don’t be afraid to think up and not always out.

Use Kijiji to find those heavy and hard items such as a chest of drawers or bed frame. And when it comes to home décor, the style is all your own, and you can never go wrong with that.

A big thank-you goes out to Karl Lohnes for taking the time to offer his expert insight and guidance!

What’s your #1 decoration and design tip for a student budget?