As a somewhat lover of all things design and a recent college grad (I finished about 3 years ago), I wanted to share some tips today about how to make a dorm feel more like a home.
I lived in the on-campus dorms for 3 years in college. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… No really, it was. I have tons of great memories from my college days. However, there are also quite a few stressful memories including all-nighters and overwhelming exams.
One of the key purposes behind great design is to provide an attractive space where a person feels at ease. I learned some things along the way about how to make four cinder block walls feel less like a prison cell and more like a sanctuary.
1) Let there be Lighting
Lighting is quite possibly the MOST important element in a making a dorm feel welcoming. My long time roommate and I were always having people comment on how cozy our room felt. Often, they would ask what we we did differently… the answer was lighting. We almost never turned on the overhead fluorescent light in our room. Overhead fluorescent fixtures are known for creating a more detached feeling in a space. They feel more clinical, if you will. Instead, we used natural light in conjunction with a few floor lamps, table lamps and desk lamps for task lighting. The difference was significant to say the least.
The goal is something less like this:
And more like this (note the use of table lamps and natural light):
2) Color is Better
Dorms are quite possibly the most bare, blank canvases known to the design world. The space has to be completely neutral for the revolving door of residents and occupants can almost never paint the walls. The result is a room devoid of any color. Bland would be an understatement.
Although there are a few attractive neutral and all white options out there for dorm décor…
I believe that a stimulated mind is a more active and energetic mind. What better way to stimulate the mind than with color? And when you are trying to get in the last few hours of studying before a big midterm, your mind needs all of the help it can get. Look at these vibrant options:
3) Artwork – Make the Walls Your Own
Artwork is no new things, yet so many students fail to utilize this space. Admittedly, I was one of them. I was never really the poster type and at the time command strips had not really made their emergence. Now, with a few boxes of command strips and a little elbow grease, plain walls can be transformed!
This wall mural printed on large scale paper is a creative idea.
Wall decals galore can be found at just about any major retailer now days. Infinitely more choices can be found online.
Posters have been a fashionable and funky staple of dorm life in the past and they are still as fun and affordable as ever. I love the gallery look that they give this space below.
There are also multitudes of fun DIY artwork tutorials that would be perfect for a dorm setting. I love this fabulous example of a monogram on canvas.
4) Pillows – Comfort is Key
College students like to sleep. Possibly an understatement… Ok, they love to sleep. On top of that they can often need to utilize their beds as sofas.
Throw pillows are a great way to supplement the all-important comfort in any dorm. By adding several pillows to a bed, an inviting seating area is instantly created.
Of course, they are also kinda comfy!
A great alternative to throw pillows are floor pillows. They too provide seating and lounge space for hours of studying or just hanging out.
Floor pillows are also a great substitute for college guys who don’t want a tone of “girly” pillows around.
5) Area rugs
Vinyl tiles are remarkably resilient to damage as well as inexpensive. So it’s no wonder they are used do extensively in dorm rooms.
…That does not mean that you have to live with them. Enter the area rug. Rugs instantly add visual interest and texture to the space.
To be practical though, not all area rugs are inexpensive. Even rugs from big-box retailers can get expensive quickly.
A fun, and possibly more affordable option, is to layer and/or group area rugs. By layering/grouping rugs, several inexpensive runners or mats can be used together. The outcome can be glamorous…
Or give the space a bohemian vibe.
6) Curtains – Windows are Important Too
Let it be know that I do not have anything against miniblinds. However, in conjunction with cinderblock walls, they are just plain awful.
An easy solution is curtains. AND when used with standard dorm miniblinds, the result can be incredible… sleep in darkness.
Curtains were not always a given in dorms though. After all, how can one hang curtains without screwing in drapery hardware? Thereby incurring the wrath of potential damage fees at the end of the semester.
Then the people at 3M rocked our world with command strips. Making this possible:
Do you hear angels singing too?
With a few command hooks and a café rod there are endless dorm room drapery possibilities.
7) Photos – Get Personal with the Space
Last, but not least… Few things can bring about a smile quicker than photos of friends and loved ones. During those all nighters and late night cramming sessions, surrounding oneself with the photos of people that matter can make all the difference in the world. And just look at these cute photo displays!
In the end, have fun with your décor!!! This is the time to take some design chances! Use colors that you love, make your surroundings enjoyable and most of all, enjoy this part of life while is lasts!
Tomorrow I’ll post some of the inspiration for my sister’s dorm!