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Dorm Decorating 101

Things to Remember When Decorating Your Dorm Room


Dorm Decorating 101

It's hard to imagine and gather what you'll need to begin your college life. We're here to help!

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Before you grab your long “must-have-for-my-dorm” list and head to the store, there are some things you should consider. I’m sure you are excited (and a bit nervous) about leaving for college, making it even harder to imagine all you will need for your first year of college.

Our Dorm Decorating 101 tips and tools can help you make a healthy and comfortable transition to dorm room living. We’ve also got links to help you with dorm decorating ideas and options for buying online. We also tell you what to avoid. So before you shop, consider these practical and budget-friendly suggestions.

Begin with your bedding.
Buy your bedding first, but before you make your purchase, decide on your style. Do you want cool sophistication or do you prefer a preppy look? Bright patterns or soft neutrals? Stripes or solids? Choose what you love, and then use your bedding as the color palette for the rest of your room.

Decorator’s Hint: You may want to coordinate with your roommate on colors and style – small rooms look much better when they are cohesive. If you can’t reach a compromise, don’t worry. Your bedding may last longer than your roommate, so go with what you love.

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Stock up on storage, storage, storage.
Space is always lacking in any dorm room, so you’ll want to maximize storage as much as possible. Avoid storage containers that will need something else to sit on – like pencil cups, small bins, etc. The best storage will not add clutter. Cube shelving with cubbies or hanging wall bins can provide ample hiding spaces for your things.

Decorator’s Hint: To maximize storage space, no surface is off limits. A shower curtain rod hung from the ceiling can be used to dry delicates. Hooks on the back of doors can hide wet towels and other items. Shelves above windows or doorways can hold infrequently used items. When it comes to storage, no surface is off limits.

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Choose items that can multitask.
Before you buy, consider items that can do double (or triple!) duty. Can that storage trunk also be used as a table, ottoman or seating? Can that shoe organizer also be used to hold school supplies? To save money and maximize space in your dorm, think outside of the box when purchasing dorm room decor.

Decorator’s Hint: Search hardware and other sections to find great multiuse items. Wine racks can hold all types of items. Steel pizza pans make great magnetic boards, and you can cook with them also! A laundry line and clips can hold photographs or other memorabilia, or even homework.

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Consider vintage decor.
Everything in your dorm room doesn’t have to be brand new. Save money buy choosing a few small vintage or handmade items for your decor. Not only will these items add personality to your room, but they also provide conversation pieces – a great way to make new friends!

Decorator’s Hint: Browse yard sales, flea markets or freecycle.org to find cool vintage items on a dime. Dorm life can be hectic and items are easily broken or misplaced, so this is not a time to buy expensive or precious items.

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Go green.
Strong smells and chemicals can be overwhelming in a small space. Green cleaning supplies can now be had just as inexpensively as the chemical-laden versions, and they work just as well too. Going green in other areas of dorm life can help you stay healthy and strong during the stresses of your freshman year.

Decorator’s Hint: There are many other ways to go green in a dorm room. A dry erase board can make sure that important note to your roommate – or self – doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, and it is tree-friendly too. A retractable laundry line will save you money, and help out planet Earth also. When freshening your space, choose natural fragrances and potpourris.

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Things to Avoid in Your Dorm Room

I know many dorm lists say bring a plant, but will you really have time to maintain another living species during your hectic first year? If you feel you must have something green, consider freshly cut flowers in a pretty vase or low-care succulents.

Fire Hazards
Even if your dorm room allows the use of toaster ovens, candles or hot plates, don’t. These items require a watchful eye, and with all of the activities surrounding dorm life, neglect can quickly result in a fire. Or worse. Choose small appliances and personal care items (like curling irons) that have an automatic shutoff feature.

Too much of anything.
That 24-pack of wall hooks or 6-pack of light bulbs may be a good deal, but how many do you need? Avoid lots of throw pillows, tons of loose storage bins and multipacks of anything, unless you know for sure that you will use it and have a place for it. There will be stores where you are going. You may find it easier to buy as you go rather than store unused items.

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