Dorm Room Decorating: Ideas for the College Student’s New Home

Congratulations! Going off to college is a major accomplishment and important time in anyone’s life. You are now officially “on your own” and your first step, even before cracking the books, is to get your new home life in order. The tiny room in your dorm (that you probably are sharing with someone else) is your home base for the next nine months. Here are some ideas on how to make it comfortable and cool.

First off, know all the rules for your dormitory. There may be rules about what can be put on walls, whether or not you can paint (probably not), what is allowed on windows, and so forth. Familiarize yourself with your dorm’s restrictions before buying anything.

Second, consider your roommate. Your room will be an expression of yourself so make sure you are not misrepresenting yourself. Make it friendly to your roommate, don’t crowd their space. If you already have been told who he/she is going to be, give them a call or write them a letter to get to know them and give them an idea of what you will be doing to the room. There may only be room for one throw rug or easy chair, so there is no reason for you both to show up with an item that you have no space for.

That aside, be creative and have fun. Express yourself and make it a place you will love coming home to after a hard day of hitting the books. 

  • Bedding – This is where you will make the largest impact. The bed takes up most of your room, so make it lively with color. Also beware that some dorm beds require extra-long sheets. You can find these at Target and Linens N Things, among other places. For girls, bright citrus colors are popular at the moment, and will draw the eye to your bed as the focal point in the room.
  • Pillows – Most beds have to double as the couch for visitors, so get some throw pillows to line up along the long edge of the bed. It adds color and pattern and is much nicer to look at than a cement block wall.
  • Throw Rug – The flooring in most dorms is old industrial carpet or cold hard tile. (Asbestos, if you’re lucky!) So add more color and excitement to the room with a big soft area rug.
  • Chair – Odds are you will have room for one chair, if any at all. Inexpensive cushion chairs can be found in popular colors that coordinate with your bedding. Or if you don’t want to spend money on a new chair, borrow an old one from home and cover it with a throw quilt or blanket in an eye-catching color and pattern.
  • Wall Art – This can be tricky because of cement block walls or rules against making holes. There are hangers that can be stuck to the wall and easily removed – these are found at hardware or home improvement stores. Then you are free to hang your artwork. Buy a big canvas from a craft store and have all your old friends help in decorating it so you can look at it and remember them when they are hundreds of miles away.
  • Windows – Your window will probably consist of one plastic-y old curtain, or maybe built in blinds if your dorm is a bit newer. Skip hanging other curtains which gets expensive and needs a curtain rod and holes, and decorate the window with peel and stick stained glass pictures or buy large letters and send messages to the kids in the dorm across from you.
  • Door – Welcome people to your room with a dry erase or chalk board. They can leave messages or you can leave outgoing messages. Interact with the other kids on your floor by having a daily poll, such as “What is your best class so far?” or “What is the worst food in the cafeteria?”
  • Closet Organization – Put your closet to work. You need to store your clothes, jackets, shoes, backpack, sports equipment, extra sheets, towels, bathroom supplies and more. Find out the measurements of your closet so you can get items that fit exactly. Buy back of the door organizers too. Don’t forget you need a laundry hamper and a place to store detergent and dryer sheets, and a bathroom caddy to tote all your goods to the bathroom each day.
  • Lighting – An overhead light and a light by the desk is probably already in the room, but buy a little mood lighting in the form of a small lamp with a unique shade. It is also handy to have something that will direct the light in just one place, so you can study while your bunkmate is sleeping.

Enjoy your year in the dorm and good luck at school!