6 Ways to Personalize Your Dorm Room

You're starting a new semester at school — your dorm should look as great as you feel! Here's six ways to turn your dorm from institutional to inspiring.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #221

A couple weeks ago, I saw a story online about two girls who did a ridiculous makeover on their dorm room. The before pictures of the room had the standard fixings of collegiate housing: block walls, industrial flooring, and boring furniture. The after images make the room almost unrecognizably glam.

Now I realize that most college students aren’t going to invest the time and money to decorate their dorm rooms to this extent, but it doesn’t hurt to use a few of their ideas. Talk with your roommate and see if they are on board, and start putting together ideas for how you can makeover your dorm room. If you all agree, you can start making a few small changes to a dorm room that will make it feel much less industrial and more like home.


This first idea is highly dependent on your school’s rules. Some colleges allow the students to paint the dorm rooms, so long as they are painted back to the original color at the end of the year. If your school is one that allows dorm rooms to be painted, it is the biggest thing you can do to make your room feel like home. Many dorm rooms are painted a bright white, so being able to change the walls to pretty much any other color will give it personality.

By painting the walls a light neutral color, you can create a cozy atmosphere that will make the dorm room feel like a normal bedroom. If you want to add a pop of a brighter or darker color, pick a wall to make an accent wall for that color. The girls in the story painted their walls a tan-ish gold color which set the base for their glam décor. Whatever the vibe you want to create, painting the walls is a great way to start.

Add curtains

Most college dorm rooms come with standard window treatments, usually blinds. These are a great start for window coverings because they provide privacy and block out the early morning sun, but they don’t offer much personality for the room. Curtains can do a lot to change the feel of a room, and if you are not allowed to paint your dorm, they can actually allow you to change the color of a wall without paint. All you need is a long curtain rod or track and a couple extra curtains.

By using longer curtains, 96” at least, and a long curtain rod, you can hang the curtains to almost completely cover a wall. Don’t be afraid to do this even if the window in your dorm room is on the small side.

The large curtain can trick the eye in to thinking that the window is bigger, which can make your room feel more luxurious.

Cover the floor

College dorms are notorious for having unattractive industrial flooring. I can’t blame the college for not putting in plush carpeting because I know I had my fair share of spilled drinks in my dorms, and I saw many others who had everything from chocolate to vomit end up on their floors. Colleges have to put in the heavy duty flooring, otherwise they’d be replacing it every summer.

If you want to instantly give your dorm room a softer, homier feel, a large area rug is a cost effective ways to do that. A 5’ by 8’ rug is usually plenty big to cover the floor in between two dorm beds. By stepping out on to a fluffy rug when you wake up each morning, you’ll start your morning off on the right foot. Just make sure to be careful when you have others in your room. You don’t want your rug to become a sticky, nasty mess from your friends sloshing their sodas all over the floor. If your rug does become a bit too icky to make it through the rest of the year, luckily it’s easy to roll up the old rug and bring in a new one.

Add lighting

Dorm rooms are notorious for having poor industrial lighting. The overhead fluorescent lights aren’t doing anyone any favors, so consider investing in a few lamps to place strategically around your room. At the minimum, I’d recommend adding table lamps to your bedside table and desk, and a floor lamp next to a reading chair. Not only are lamps a great way to not wake up your roommate when you come home late, but they also add a softer, more flattering light than the overhead lights. 

Get good bedding

Even though I was in college many years ago, I can still remember how fun it was to pick out my new bedding. There was something so grown up about going to the store and looking at bedding sets, and I really enjoyed thinking how my bedding was going to set the tone for the dorm room. Like most teens though, I focused more on the colors and patterns than the quality of the linens. In my defense, I don’t think I had ever realized how many options there were when it came to sheets and comforters and how much of a difference a slightly higher thread count can make. Now that I’m a little older, I would love to go back and advise my younger self to spend a little more time picking out my bedding because I know the difference it can make in getting a good night’s sleep.

Find a set of sheets that make you melt and pillows that make you want to take a nap in the store.

Instead of simply opting for a bed-in-a-bag set, wander through the linen aisle and start touching things. Find a set of sheets that make you melt and pillows that make you want to take a nap in the store. Instead of opting for a basic comforter, consider layering your bed with a couple blankets and a quilt. The added weight of the covers will help you feel snug all night long, and you can modify your covers to better match the temperature in your room. Having bedding that you love will give you a place that feels like home.

Use real artwork

The final tip to making your dorm feel more like home is to use real artwork on your walls. While I’m not talking about hanging an original Picasso, I am talking about an actual painting, a metal wall sculpture, marquee letters, or a wall collage of framed photographs.

A painting on stretched canvas, even if you bought it at Target, will always feel more like a home than a cheaply framed print. If you want to bring in memories from back home, a wall collage made with black and white prints of yours and your roommate’s high school friends can also be a great conversation starter when people come to your room. By spending a little extra on good wall art, you can really change the feel of your room.

Now that you have a few suggestions, there’s no reason you should be feeling like you live in a boring box of a room. The good news is that most of the items on this list are relatively inexpensive and can be found at discount stores like Target and Walmart. Pick up a few things on your next shopping trip and try them out. If they don’t work, just make sure to keep the tags and your receipt so you can return them and try something else.

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