Tips on how to decorate your home like a grown-up

Worried that your space could be mistaken for student digs? We explain how you can make sure your home graduates summa cum laude

Young woman lying on bed using laptop computer, in student dormitory. Getty Images
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Gone are the days when we slavishly followed interior decorating trends. Today, while taking inspiration from the changing styles around us, we're embracing individualism, and creating homes that reflect our lives and personalities. But there are some things that simply shouldn't be a part of any self-respecting adult's decor.

Fake plants

For starters, let's agree fake plants may have made sense when you were a student. You benefitted from the greenery, that little touch of biophilia (that's our innate human need to connect to nature), but without worrying about watering them. You could ignore them while studying late into the night and they would still be there the next morning, looking exactly the same as they did before, if perhaps a little dustier. But outside of student accommodation, fake plants are a big no-no. They scream cheap diner, they collect grime and, frankly, there's no need for them when there are so many fantastic, living houseplants out there.  

When there are so many houseplants to choose from, the plastic kind are a big no-no. Courtesy Chattels & More 
When there are so many houseplants to choose from, the plastic kind are a big no-no. Courtesy Chattels & More 

If you're not exactly green-­fingered, go for a variety that doesn't need much care and can survive a certain degree of neglect. Aloe vera, spider plants and rubber plants are all good options. If you have a track record of killing flora, choose an air plant that can even thrive without soil; they simply need soaking every couple of weeks.

Plastic cutlery

Plastic cutlery is another item you need to free your space of. Unless you're going on a picnic, there's really no excuse to eat a meal with planet-destroying, single-use plastic knives and forks – nor on plastic or paper plates, for that matter.

Plastic Forks In Glasses On Table. Getty Images
Plastic cutlery doesn’t belong in a grownup’s home. Getty

Posh knives and forks might not be essential as a student; the reality of life at university is that things often get broken or are lost. But when you move beyond that stage, it's time to strive for a little more formality in your kitchen drawer. You don't need to go as far as buying a solid silver cutlery set or a full complement of bone china dinnerware – and this doesn't mean you can't still be funky and stylish, either. But take a step or two away from a takeaway vibe in your dining room and lean more towards a sit-down restaurant.

Temporary furniture 

When you take those fledgling steps out of your parents' house and into your own place, shared or otherwise, the budget isn't usually large and your new digs are most likely temporary. You probably don't feel ready to make big decisions about expensive furniture, but at some point you need to put that attitude aside. After all, every house is temporary, in theory. The sooner you begin to invest in decent pieces of furniture that will last, the sooner you'll create a space that feels like home.

When it comes to more expensive furniture items you will keep for years to come, choose classic pieces of high quality. If you want fashionable pieces to give your home a more contemporary feel, add less expensive accessories that can be updated whenever you like.

A cheap mattress  

There's definitely something to be said for respecting your budget, but one vital item you simply should not scrimp on is a mattress. We sleep for an average of seven hours every night, or about 106 days a year. If your mattress is cheap, lumpy, too hard or too soft and generally uncomfortable, you're not looking after your health as well as you should. Physical ailments aside, a lack of sleep affects our emotional and mental well-being, too, so it's worth ensuring you're comfortable at night.

Put artistic prints on display and always choose a good-quality mattress. Courtesy The French Bedroom Co
Put artistic prints on display and always choose a good-quality mattress. Courtesy The French Bedroom Co

When you're looking for a new mattress, think about cost last. More pressing concerns are how much support it gives you, how breathable it is and so on. Do your shopping in real life rather than online, so you can test out different types. Only once you've narrowed down a few options should you compare the price tags.

Tiny accessories

Big buys aside, we'll now turn our attention to the just-as-important little accessories. You know the ones we're talking about: those collectibles you got from the local craft market while on holiday – carved wooden boxes, bud vases and other trinkets, things you buy as a little treat for yourself and that you haven't spent a lot of money on. These might represent fond memories, but they're not decor. Take a look at any professionally designed space – from a hotel lobby to a residential development showroom – and you'll see the accessories there are oversized. One statement vase is worth a dozen little ones scattered around a room that looks cluttered as a result.

Group small trinkets together to avoid clutter and create more of a visual impact. Courtesy Indigo Living
Group small trinkets together to avoid clutter and create more of a visual impact. Courtesy Indigo Living

Always choose quality over quantity. Only buy those items you truly love and, if you must collect trinkets, group them together to create more of a visual statement. For example, place a collection of vases and candles on a mirrored tray or place micro items in a printers tray to create a beautiful piece of artwork.


Posters, that bastion of student decor, fall under the must-go-now category, too. Growing up, it's pretty much essential to display your taste in music, art or films via these large-scale, low-cost wall coverings. But once you leave your teenage years behind, it's time to ditch the posters. Investing in proper art doesn't have to be expensive – there are plenty of great prints out there, or you could decorate your walls with framed photographs instead.

But if you really don't want to get rid of your favourite posters, then have them framed. A good frame – and don't forget the mount – makes the difference between student accommodation and stylish home.

Finally, get rid of anything you don't like. This catch-all is a short and snappy way of summarising a famous quote from designer William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." Or, if you prefer a more contemporary reference, there's Marie Kondo's idea of keeping only those items that "spark joy".

In essence, life is too short to live in a home filled with things you don't like, whether that's an ugly rug, a chipped plate or an annoying cupboard with a door that doesn't close properly.

Instead, trust your gut. Your home needs to be a place where you feel relaxed, happy and comfortable, so don't loosen your purse strings for anything that's mediocre or makes you think "I guess it'll do". And if there's something in your space that you're not happy or satisfied with, either replace it immediately or set a deadline for ridding yourself of it in the future.