Making the Most of It: Dorms

16 05 2009 someone says the word “dorms,” most of us picture floor after floor of plain, florescent, whitewashed rooms. Most college goers simply settle for a reversible comforter and a few drab posters to try to add some “personality,” but if Trading Spaces ever taught me anything, it’s that you never have to settle for plain. There’s plenty of ideas that go beyond the ordinary to turn a drab dorm from hole-in-the-wall to home-away-from-home.

  1. Get inspiration. Definitely the most important part! For some, inspiration will come from the shopping itself, but some of us need more. Try browsing sites like HGTV’s Dorm Room section for some cool ideas (like the room at the bottom of this page) to get you started.
  2. Pick an item. Choose something (like a comforter) that speaks to you and design your room around it. Look for other items with similar or complementary color schemes, patterns, or textures to add to it. The point is to make your room look put together, not thrown together.
  3. Put your ideas somewhere you can see them. Go old school and print and clip photos onto a board, or use an image program (like Photoshop or the free tool GIMP) to make a digital idea board. Just make that inspiration piece the focal point of the board and go to town. Also, the online tool Evernote* is fantastic for browsing the web and making an online scrapbook of sorts. Just clip images, text, etc into it and watch your dorm room grow! Best of all, you can click the images you clipped and go straight back to the source.
  4. Talk to your roomie. If you know who your roommate will be, consider making decorating a joint venture. Maybe you want two completely different sides to show off your personalities, or a matching room. Talk about placement of furniture as well.
  5. Shop the norms….like Target, DormBuys, Kohl’s, Walmart, Linens ‘N’ Things, and Bed Bath and Beyond. If you’re up for spending a little more, check out specialty sites like Dorm Suite Dorm or PBTeen. Don’t forget about IKEA and The Container Store.
  6. …Or DIY! Probably one of the coolest things you can do is some good ol’ DIY. Since you’ll probably be spending the most money on big decor items (like a bedding set), aim to save on little things. And since making it yourself is always cheaper, consider checking out Instructables for various cool fresh ideas. Remember IKEA? Their items are usually super plain, but that means that the options to customize and improve them are endless!
  7. Know your limits…like the size of the room, what you can and can’t bring into your dorm (like outside furniture or appliances), and what you can’t do to the room itself, like painting or putting tacks in the walls.
  8. …But don’t be afraid to bend them. The most important part of dorm room design is remembering that you’re working a confined space, and you have to make the most of it. If you can’t paint the walls, hang colorful fabrics (like a bed sheet or a shower curtain) with double stick tape or Command hooks. No room for a couch? Get a bunch of pillows and line them against the wall on your bed…instant welcoming seating! Also, stick some fun surface graphics on the wall, like Bliks, for a cool conversation starter.
  9. And while we know that storage is key, there’s no reason to make it the focal point of your room. Make an extra long bed skirt if you’re using risers, and put up some fabric as a cover for your closet. Having exposed storage bins is a sure-fire way to make a clean room look cluttered.
  10. Play up the mood. My dorm room doesn’t come with overhead lighting, but even if it did, bright florescents are hardly mood-inducing. Instead, invest in some soft table and floor lamps to make your dorm room feel relaxed and inviting. String the ceiling with christmas lights. Add a rug to the floor. And don’t forget the curtains!

* = A good guide to using Evernote is here:’s “How I Use Evernote To Organize Everything.”




One response

16 05 2009

Great article! Thank you so much for mentioning Dorm Suite Dorm. We strive to make the girls and their mom’s have the best first experience for college! We love the choice of fabrics we have added this year and are continuing to add more to keep up with the newest trends!

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