The prospect of an online term, stuck in our rooms using whatever iteration of video call would allow us to continue our education, threw up all sorts of questions. How would tutorials work? Can we complete a full Oxford term from home in the midst of a global pandemic? And potentially the most significant question of all – would my tutors judge me for my background on Zoom?

I had barely lived in my room ever since I’d moved into my house in 2014. A constant cycle of school, shifts at my part time job, and socialising, meant I pretty much only used my room for sleeping, but even that went out the window when I turned 18 and discovered the pub.

Combined with the general prospect that I’d be moving away for uni and likely flying the nest forever after that, my room pretty much remained a time capsule of the Dunelm summer collection from the year I moved in. The only major differences were the cycle of posters that had pockmarked the walls with Blu Tack, and the red lipstick stain on my floor from an unfortunate incident with a loose cap. When my tutor asked why I had a periodic table from the University of Sunderland on my wall, despite not having been to either the university or a chemistry lab in three years, I knew things had to change.

Moving into college accommodation made me realise the value of a tapestry in hiding a multitude of sins. The wall that would be visible for my tutors was scarred by years of posters ripped out of the centre of Kerrang! magazine during my emo phase, so the easiest, non permanent way to disguise it was by finding the biggest tapestry I could find and nailing it into my wall. It’s a quick but effective fix – it can be changed when I want, matches the colour of my bedding, and most importantly it was on sale at Urban Outfitters. If you’re in rented accommodation, or for whatever reason can’t go full Pontius Pilot at the wall, I’ve used Command Strips for the same effect, although there was a mild learning curve that led to more
than a few incidents of me verbally berating a wall.

Tapestries are a great way to introduce some colour, patterns, or just a bit more flavour into an otherwise bland room with minimal effort. However, I think we all saw people searching for a more permanent change, and achieving this by doing that tape paint geometric design we all saw on Tiktok – no judgment here, but it does mean that every time I see one of those walls I’ll know exactly which stage of lockdown it was done in, at approximately the same time as Tiger King and whipped coffee.

Source: Laura McBride

My next order of business was to improve the lighting situation in my room. The corner where my mum’s forbidding desk/bureau/bookshelf combo (don’t ask questions, it’s from 1981) was set up, was dark and didn’t particularly inspire me to get off my bed where I could gaze lovingly
at my new tapestry. To solve this, star-shaped fairy lights were purchased from Amazon in lieu of those glow in the dark ceiling stars we all wanted when we were little, and carefully draped around the bookshelf to add a little more light. I managed to find a lava lamp as well to set up on
the desk, but it distracted me so much during Zooms that I accidentally knocked it off mid-class and it broke. RIP to that lamp, which brought me so much joy in such a short period of time.

A word of warning to anyone investing in lighting solutions – make sure 1) they’re plug-in, as otherwise you will spend your life savings on batteries, and 2) that they don’t overheat and burn your mum’s sacred furniture.

Other than that, I found it valuable to buy a couple of plants. “They’ll release oxygen! It’ll make my room nice and green!” I thought. Well, they did that until I killed them by being a neglectful mother. If you’re more green-thumbed than I am, try supporting local businesses like flower markets or garden centres to source some plants, which do add a nice bit of colour, can help purify the air, and make you feel like you live a picturesque life.

However, I found it easier to source some fake cacti from my local shopping centre and spray paint the pots, which not only gives off CEO of DIY vibes but also allowed me to pretend I was Banksy. Probably less Banksy and more Crapsy, but it’s the thought that counts.

These are all little things that I’ve done to help spice up my living space at home, but things like reshuffling furniture to open up floor space, adding a cute rug, or even putting up photos of your friends from uni that you miss so desperately can all change your room’s vibes. Don’t forget, basic makeovers like what I’ve done at home can be replicated at uni too, although maybe don’t try to spray paint your IKEA fake plant on the college quad.

Laura McBride

Laura McBride is Senior Investigations Editor at the Oxford Blue. She is a second year studying Law with European Law at Magdalen College.