How to furnish and decorate a dorm room

08/01/2014 12:00 AM

08/02/2014 4:19 PM

Today, creating a dorm-away-from-home requires little more than a simple college try. Many university dormitories are often more akin to collegiate cells, with white walls and institutional furniture design that doesn’t always make the grade.

But now, manufacturers, designers and retailers are making it easier to adorn a dorm, despite residential rules that often forbid painting or nailing walls. Students can bring a bit of home into the dorms, says Stephanie Hayman, spokeswoman for Dormify, an online store that offers dorm accessories and design advice with offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.

“College is usually the first time an individual lives away from home, and a person’s dorm room should be a personalized place to relax, study and hang out with friends,” Hayman says. “A dorm room can really be a person’s first home-away-from-home, and its look often gives an initial impression that reflects who you are.”

The key to room-and-board bliss starts with communication between roommates before move-in weekend. Even if your roommate’s style is a bit country, while you’re a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, Hayman says you should be able to agree on the most elemental level.

“If nothing else, pick a single unifying color for your room, so it can look cohesive and put-together,” she says. “On the other end of the spectrum, roommates sometimes purchase decorative items together: two reversible comforters, each bed with a different side showing and coordinated pillows.”

Style doesn’t have to be costly, but you need to have a plan to make a space come together. Hayman also says to coordinate who will bring the futon, minifridge and television. “Don’t bring in large items unless they can be used by roommates and have a place in the space,” Hayman says. “Most dorm rooms come with furniture, so you don’t need to overthink that. It’s what you do with the existing furniture that transforms a room.”

When it comes to dorm rooms, bringing in bigger items isn’t better. While the floor’s square footage doesn’t change, you can maximize the space you have by thinking vertically. “Use Dormify’s bed risers (set of four, $19.99), to create storage space underneath the bed,” Hayman says. “Or, loft your beds to put seating or a storage unit below the beds.”

Good dorm design begins from the ground up. “A rug unifies a color theme and sets the stage for what’s happening in the room,” Hayman says. “It also helps to warm the space underfoot and absorbs sound, which is important when living in the dorms.”

Many bath and bedding retailers are offering coordinated collections for the school set with free shipping or delivery directly to a dorm room. Coeds can choose from themed room collections that range from nautical to bohemian with metallic to floral accents. “While most girls are focused on how the room looks, we find that most boys are about comfort first,” Hayman says.

Achieve both a good look and a good nook by placing the long side of standard-issue bed against the wall, so it can also be used as seating when piled with pillows. Solve storage problems and gain more living space by stowing the standard stand-alone dresser inside the closet.

While furniture and walls are in neutral tones, the colors of pillows and draperies enliven and soften the space. Use washi tape — brightly colored paper tape that removes without residue — to hang posters or artwork. Large graphic decals or temporary peel-and-stick wallpaper that adheres to walls like contact paper can become an instant focal point Also, bring life into the space by having small pots of flowers.

Shed real light on homework by not relying on an overhead fluorescent for reading. Use desk lamps to not only illuminate your work surface, but to also add a personalized, stylish accent that dresses up any dorm room.

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