8 Fundamental Dorm Decorating Tips

It’s true that many residence halls leave much to be desired, as far as interior design goes. Most students step over the threshold into their new dorm to find plain, wooden essentials—a high-rise bed, chest of drawers or wardrobe, desk, and an end table—mirrored across a linoleum floor. Rather than get bummed about your sparse quarters, think of your dorm or suite as a blank canvas for you to decorate as you like!

Even if you’re a novice to design, you can make your dorm room feel brand new with a little bit of effort and creativity. Mom and dad don’t make the rules here: you do. But in case you’re clueless as to where to start, here are a few guidelines you’ll do well to follow!

Don’t stick with the given dorm layout

This advice comes first, because it’s much easier to move around your furniture when nothing is unpacked. But redecorating can happen at any point in the school year! Oftentimes, the design of the room runs parallel, with all furniture lined up against the walls—and while some students love the setup, others prefer to deviate from the norm.

On move-in day, break the ice by changing up the layout of your dorm with your roommate. Typically, you won’t have many options for rearranging furniture because the dorms are so small. This actually makes it easier on your part! Think about:

  • If you like your beds separate or bunked
  • If you like your beds low to the ground, or on risers (and at what height)
  • Which way your beds and desks should face when entering the room
  • Whether you and your roommates’ furniture should feel “separated” or inclusive
  • Where your mini fridge, TV, microwave, and other shared appliances should go
  • If and where you have room for extra furniture not provided by the school (think: a couch, lounge chair, coffee table, computer desks, storage trunks, and other shelving or organizers)

Start with your textiles

Your bedding, rug, and curtains will likely cover the most surface space in your small dorm, meaning they’ll draw the eye and set the tone of your whole room. Oftentimes, these textiles can mean the difference between a room that feels cold and sterile, or one that feels comfortable and luxurious. Before you get hung up on little accessories, prioritize these elements!

Make it a space that’s inviting

Your dorm should feel like somewhere you want to hang out—whether that’s solo, with friends or with your significant other. Think about designing a space that you’ll not only sleep and study in, but will spend your free time in, too!

You may discover that your dorm room is a great place for friends to meet for something in particular—like for game night, afternoon tea, studying for finals, or watching everyone’s favorite weekly TV show! Whatever the function is, make sure that your room is optimized for it with an open layout, plenty of seating, and whatever other essentials you and your buds require.

Be intentional about your design vibe

The more cohesive your décor, the more put together your whole room will feel. Some students have a “look” or aesthetic that they gravitate towards—maybe one of these speaks to you?

  • Beachy
  • Boho
  • Minimalist
  • Plaid
  • Grunge
  • Preppy
  • Glamorous
  • Wanderlust
  • Musical
  • Artsy

If you and your roommate can agree on one style, it will make it easier to shop for items that match your overall design! Another thing you should agree on? Your dorm room’s primary and secondary colors. This will seriously help with cohesion. Plus, it also makes shopping a breeze!

Make your “kitchen” the main attraction, not an after thought

Speaking of luxurious, is there anything less cute than a borrowed mini fridge collecting dust in a corner? Promote healthy eating for you and your roomie by being intentional about your “kitchen” space. You may not have much to work with, but you can find little ways to spruce up your snacking station! Consider finding fun magnets for your fridge, creating a mini coffee bar with a personal coffee maker, and having a designated space for your non-perishables.

Give extra thought to designing your work space

Your desk shouldn’t be a catch-all for stray items (think: mail and packages, syllabuses and class print outs, tape, staplers, and binders galore!), but with little surface area in your dorm room, some clutter is bound to happen. As a student, you’ll be spending a lot of time at your laptop and hitting the books. So while your bed may be the focal point, your desk is the most important part of your room to maintain!

Make sure your area is neat and clutter-free by utilizing storage solutions, ensuring proper lighting, and keeping motivation high with inspiring pictures, memos and images!

Go vertical to make your room feel bigger

Though the beds are often high, the furniture provided tends to make dorm rooms feel flat and grounded. Design upwards with posters, wall art, shelving, and string lights or standing lights to make the room feel taller and more spacious. If you have a window, arrange your space so that it becomes the focal point for letting light through. You can also amplify your square footage by tricking your eyes by using mirrors. Hang one to the back of your door, inside of your wardrobe door, or as wall art!

Don’t forget the little things

With your big-ticket items squared off, it’s time to add the finishing touches. A little decoration can go a long way with the right pieces! These minor details add plenty of personality, and are especially fun to shop for. Remember your design vibe and color scheme when perusing different options. Here are some ideas for décor you can add to tie everything together:

  • Storage – trunks, cubes, and extra shelving not only keep things tidy, but help differentiate your dorm room
  • Temporary Wallpaper – if you have the OK from your RA, peel-and-stick wallpaper can add a whole other level to your design plans
  • Wall Art – with approval to hang things on your walls, anything from movie posters and school banners to personal photos, hanging calendars, and motivation boards allow you to express your style and personality
  • Accent bedding – Decorative pillows and throw blankets keep you warm, and keep your space looking well put together
  • Hobby items – Whether it’s a musical instrument or sports equipment, put your treasured items on display!
  • Lighting – table lamps are great for task lighting, while hanging lanterns and string lights set the mood
  • Pottery, vases, and miscellaneous trinkets – From bowls to photo frames, paperweights and more, these items are relatively cheap but can make a huge impact on your design ideas

Remember, if you still need a little inspiration to get started, there’s always Pinterest!

OCM invites any student who is proud of their decorating chops to submit a pic of their room to the #DormGoals Dorm Room Decorating Contest. There are a few great prizes up for grabs—including a $500 Visa card, gift baskets, and OCM gift cards. Submissions are open now through midnight on Friday, November 11, 2016!

To enter, simply fill out the form and post a photo of your dorm to social media, using #dormgoals and tagging @ocmdotcom. One winner and two runners up will be selected via public vote on Facebook. For more information, or to submit your dorm room, visit OCM’s college blog for the official contest page.

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One thought on “8 Fundamental Dorm Decorating Tips”

  1. Jordan Miner says:

    I’ve been wanting to look at some contract dormitory furniture for my son. I’m glad you talked about how you may want to look at adding some lighting to brighten up the dorm. I’m going to have to see what furniture is included for his contract and see what we can find!

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