The student flat where shabby chic meets luxe
Mention Dunedin's Castle St, and most people think of shabby student flats, raucous parties and the odd bit of couch-burning, but behind those paint-chipped doors there's a whole other story going on.
Think: glamorous bedrooms to rival the pages of interior blogs, created from second hand furniture and lengths of cheap fabric.
Every February, second-year students and their families cram the aisles of the local DIY stores, loading up on fabrics, bedding and furniture.
I should know . . . I'm one of those parents. This February, we decamped from Auckland to Dunedin and joined the hundreds of families scouring every budget furnishing store in the city, creating chic havens in those rundown, drafty Castle Street villas – though it has to be said, this is a girl thing.
Isabel Colville and Emma Murphy are two of seven flatmates in a Castle St pile, grand, decaying and decidedly draughty. Their rooms are odes to shabby chic with touches of luxe – the latter mostly acquired from their parents' homes. I did wonder where my guest room linen duvet went.
"I think most of the girls try to make their rooms as homey and cosy as they can – but on a budget. Nothing in my room cost more than a hundred dollars, except the bed and a wardrobe', Colville, 20, said.
What the girls can't afford to buy new, they can get on a favourite site, Otago Flatting Group, which has 25,000 members.
"We love posting our favourite hacks, and the Kmart Instagram page has 26,000 followers, it's really popular here," Colville said.
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Her own hack: using stackable crates as storage for her jumpers. "It's Dunedin, we wear a lot of jumpers," she said of her 30-strong collection.
Murphy picked her room out of a hat, and scored one of the grandest, the former lounge, with mushroom pink walls. She has made it her own by creating photo boards out of cork with hundreds of printouts, and adding glamorous touches with throws and cushions.
"It was pretty dark, and I wanted to create a welcoming space that I'd want to come home to. I brought a lot of my things from home and then added everything bright and light to it. It is very girly, but also grown-up."
Her favourite hack – a huge orchid – fake. "I knew I'd never keep a real one alive, but it looks great."
"My friends come from Auckland and they are surprised at how nice our bedrooms are - they thought, 'Castle St, that'll be roughing it'."
Storage is always an issue for students. The girls' flat has one cupboard in the entire seven-bedroom house. Annabel Ellis, 20, got the smallest room in the house - so small she has bought a dehumidifier designed for a cupboard.
"It works fine," she said.
Ellis transformed the space with clever tricks – every space does service as a storage area, including her bedside chair, handy for storing books and electronics underneath.
The final touch of comfort, non-negotiable for every Castle St resident an electric blanket.
"When it's too cold we just get in our bed and study or use wi-fi there. We don't really use heaters – the power bill gets too high," Colville said.