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How to Decorate a Dorm Room

Decorating a dorm room can be a major challenge since most dorms tend to be small, drab, and institutional. Domestic CEO to the rescue! These 6 tips will help students feel at home in their new space, without paying a high price.

By
Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #73

...make sure to purchase a few risers to lift your bed higher above the floor. This will create storage underneath. The advantage of using a real bed instead of the dorm furniture is that you can use a bedskirt on a real bed, which can help hide the storage underneath. Just make sure to label and organize any storage boxes you use under your bed so you can easily access whatever you're looking for.

Sometimes dorm room desks are built into the room already. But if yours isn’t, this is another item I recommend bringing from home. If you don’t have a desk, consider purchasing a small table that can be used for impromptu takeout dinners with your new dorm family, as well as a study station. You can keep the table stocked with 3 or 4 chairs, or you can get folding chairs to keep in the back of your closet until your dinner guests arrive. Either way, having the flexibility to use the table however you like will make your dorm feel more like a studio apartment than a boring old dorm room.

Dorm Room Tip #3: Use Real Furniture

Just like keeping the school's furniture can make your room feel cold and institutional, using plastic crates and plastic storage drawers as furniture will make your room scream “college dorm.” If you want the room to feel more like a grown-up space, using a few pieces of real furniture will help achieve that look easily and at just a little more cost.

The key to making a dorm room feel less like a dorm room is to think big.

Start with seating. If you have room in your dorm, it’s a great idea to bring in some kind of comfortable seating. Whether you use it for reading, or your friends use it for lounging when they come hang out, a comfortable reading chair is always a great option for a dorm room. Check with your family, even your extended family, to see if any of them have a small reading chair they are willing to part with. If you can’t borrow one from friends and family, check out local thrift and consignment stores to find a comfortable, clean chair. You can always cover it with a slipcover, so just look for one with the shape and feel that you could see yourself curling up in.

Next, look at your storage options. Instead of plastic crates and drawer systems, consider buying inexpensive shelves and small dressers from places like Ikea. If you're crafty, you can also find some great deals at thrift stores, but you may need to put a little time into repainting it to make the item look presentable. You can use a small bookcase to set up a kitchenette area in your room. Put your microwave and coffee maker on top, use the shelves below to display your dishes and food items, and your dorm room instantly has an attractive and functional kitchen area.

Leather or fabric storage ottomans are a great way to provide additional seating, as well as storage for books and supplies. If you do a quick online search for "storage ottomans," you will find them in a variety of colors, fabrics, and price ranges. Find a few that work with your style and budget and you'll add great accents to your room.

Dorm Room Tip #4: Color the Walls

While painting your dorm room walls will give youthe ultimate feeling of home, not a lot of colleges allow this as an option. If you can get permission to add a splash of color to your walls, do this before moving your furniture in and you will instantly feel more at home in your space.

If your school does not allow you to paint the walls of your dorm room, you still have some great options for wall decor. The key to making a dorm room feel less like a dorm room is to think big. Instead of pinning lots of little pictures on the walls, try to find a big piece of art that can fill most of a single wall. Or, print a few of your favorite pictures to create a large picture collage. Whichever option you use, try and fill at least one big, empty wall with the art. Hanging mirrors, large bulletin boards and dry erase boards is also a great, functional way to fill your wall space.

Dorm Room Tip #5: Add Lighting

The next step in decorating your dorm room is to add lighting. Most dorm rooms come with standard overhead lighting, but that only adds to the institutional feeling of the room. Add lamps, and lots of them, to every nook and cranny you can. At minimum, add small table lamps to your nightstand and desk and a tall floor lamp next to your reading chair.

Using these lamps instead of the overhead light will give your room a much cozier, warmer feeling immediately. If you want to add some pizzazz to your dorm room, you can also consider hanging a pendant light from your ceiling using hooks to swag the cord. Then use the normal electrical outlet to power the light. This can give a cool lighting effect over a table, or even over your bed.

Dorm Room Tip #6: Add Lots of Soft Touches

The final step in turning your dorm room into a home is to add the soft touches. Every home furnishings store fills up with twin size bedding sets in the fall, so you have lots of options there already. After you get your bedding picked out, consider finding curtains to hang that will add another pop of color to your room. A couple of extra blankets draped over your reading chair will add more color to the space, as well as provide you with a blanket to wrap up in while studying for finals. And extra throw pillows will not only add a softness to your room, but they will also give you the ability to offer your friends something soft if you run out of seating room.

Now that you have my 6 tips to get you started, it’s time to make your dorm room feel like a home! If you have any pictures of your dorm room, past or present, I would love to see them! You can post them my Facebook wall, or tweet me your experiences @thedomesticceo.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Dorm images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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About the Author

Amanda Thomas Domestic CEO

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