I live in a dorm, and I love most things about it. I like my roommate, who is a great friend. I like how dorm life is so vibrant and puts me into contact with so many interesting people. A fun get-together is never far away! And I don’t even mind the relatively close quarters–I don’t need a ton of space, and I like the challenge of being minimalist and organized so that I can make everything work in my little dorm room.
The only thing I don’t really like about dorm life is the way it looks. Call me a snob, but I’m not a huge fan of $8 posters and printed photos push-pinned in the wall. The cheap furniture and bland, over- or under-decorated walls bum me out and make me feel less relaxed. But I know there’s only so much I can do to change the dorm room vibe, since I don’t own the space. Experts, do you have any tips for decorating a dorm? I want to do it cheaply, and I want it to still feel like a dorm, but I need a change!
Dorms are iconic parts of college life, in part because they are such a microcosm of the whole college experience. Like college as a whole, dorms are fun, sometimes overwhelming, and full of youthful energy. They’re also often full of the sorts of minor sins you’d expect from a happy college student: messiness, slapdash decor, and so on.
And, as you say, there’s a lot of reasons to love this. We don’t blame you for wanting your dorm to “still feel like a dorm” after you redecorate–but we also don’t blame you for wanting to redecorate in the first place! Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to make your dorm feel more beautiful and relaxing while still feeling like a place that suits a young college student.
For starters, let’s talk about affordable and impermanent changes that you can make without upsetting your school. You should, of course, double-check with your university before you make any changes that you think you may not be allowed to make. But you can surely use many of the strategies that renters use to make rented spaces feel more beautiful and comfortable. Try using rugs and large throw blankets to add color and comfort to your space. Use wall hangings effectively (and we’re not just talking about posters–more on that later). You may also be able to use temporary wallpaper, tape, and other things to make your walls feel more alive.
Addition by subtraction is an option, too. You point out that over-decoration is a problem in dorm style, and you’re not wrong! A minimalist vibe might be just what your space needs to feel a little less dorm-y.
You say you’re sick of posters and cheap loose photos. We don’t blame you. You can class things up a bit by simply framing your posters or–better yet–swapping them out for more elegant pieces. You don’t have to lose your photos of your friends, though: maybe you should just spruce up their appearance by using canvas printing to put them in a more attractive medium. Other options include framing. And remember, you can also change the vibe on your walls by taking a look at how you actually hang up your wall hangings–that can be as important as what is actually on the wall!
Making other changes, including swapping out pieces of furniture, can be tough in the limited space of your dorm and with the mandatory nature of some of the furnishings. But you can try to add pieces that help you organize and store your belongings, since those sorts of items can help compensate for their own footprint by helping you hide and stash other items. Lighting fixtures with small footprints can also make a big difference in a small space.
The ideas here aren’t your only options! Look to interior design blogs for inspiration. And be sure to involve your roommate in this process–it’s their room, too, and you want them to approve of the changes that you make and help you by taking similar steps in their “territory,” too. Good luck!
“If you love something, it will work out. That’s the only real rule.” — Bunny William