Dear freshmen out there: we feel you. Campus move-in days are full of excitement – and anxiety, too. This counts for double when you’re moving into university (or trade school, or school apartment) housing. After all, you’re dragging textbooks, school supplies, towels and toiletries, and in some cases a pair of weepy-eyed parents through your new school housing…. and into a small, beige box. Four walls, a single window, and only a handful of feet separating each unadorned wall. For the upper collegiate, this can come with its own set of anxieties as you remember, perhaps even fondly, previous years’ homesteading and recall your dorm room being somewhat… lacking.
Fear not! The good news is that some simple décor tweaks can transform your dorm room from shabby into shabby chic and can inspire your studies and creativity. Or, at least, give you something interesting to look at while you’re pulling an all-nighter (hopefully, not too often!). Oftentimes, a pillow, throw blanket, or classic area rug can make a huge difference in your space without breaking the bank.
So, to summarize, let’s talk about these trends! Mix and match, but as you go about your design journey, make sure the result is uniquely yours.
Think About Theming
Fairycore. Retro 90’s babe. Beachy coastal. No matter which style sets your heart aflame, keep it top of mind as you begin to source pieces for your space. For example: if you’re going for pink uptown preppy, match your space from the ground up with rugs, bedsheets, accent lighting, and even ceiling décor. That’s not to say your entire space needs to be monotone – far from it – but the difference between “nice” and “stunning” involves an eye on the bigger picture.
Bite-sized accent furniture is key, here. If you’re already looking online at inspirational shots, take what you see and miniaturize it. Consider this: bedside tables instead of the dining varieties. Mini photo collections instead of photo walls. For a touch of modern and farmhouse, consider this cute, functional entryway table that can pull double duty as extra storage space at the foot of your bed, an open pantry for all of your snacks and dorm-approved appliances, or even as a gathering table when your classmates inevitably crash your pad.
Create Cozy Study Areas
Function first, design second. It may seem cruel, but even the most tastefully appointed dorm rooms won’t keep you happy unless it’s equally joyful to exist in. Prioritize comfort for those long study sessions. Papasan chairs, including comfortable cushions like this one, are space efficient, cozy and striking. Inflatable chairs, as efficient (and as easy to transport) as they seem, are a no-go in terms of squeakiness and dwindling support over time. Instead, consider beanbag chairs with easy-to-clean, removeable covers.
Of course, for those long hours in front of a computer screen (we hate to break it to you, but there WILL be term papers to write as you continue forward in your collegiate career), consider ergonomics. A comfortable keyboard and easy-grip mouse make tapping the keyboard that much more pleasant. Don’t forget to stretch. In fact, desk and chair technology has come a LONG way. Standing desks aren’t just for modern cubicles, anymore. Take this standing desk that’s perfect for dorm rooms, for example – it can stretch from sitting mode (its desktop at normal chair level) to standing mode (with a customizable height that’s perfect for you when you’d like to stand and study) with just the touch of a button. Most include built-in USB charging ports, too, so you won’t need to walk your iPad or cell phone over to the nightstand to enjoy a full charge. As you might already know, standing desks have captured huge attention on Tik Tok, including demonstrations like this short-but-sweet video by user Medstudebt.
Here’s some great news: it doesn’t take a lot of space – or money! – to transform the look of a dorm room (compared to a 2-bedroom apartment, for example). You can switch up your entire pillow collection for pennies on the dollar. And DO switch up your pillow collection. A unifying theme, like coastal or earth tones, will draw the eye and spread a sense of peace throughout your space. You can convert your bed into a friendly seating solution with one pillow set, or lay out a blanket and some matching cushions for a fun, in-dorm picnic.
It’s tempting to à la carte your pillow purchases, but look a little deeper for ready-made sets that take the guesswork out of matching. If you’re searching for some cushions that can do double duty for indoor lounging and outdoor study sessions, this adorable matching pillow collection is a smart bet for your money. If you’re looking to add some sophistication to your space, pair tall pillows with square in complementary designs.
For better or for worse (hopefully the former!), many college students will find themselves with a roommate for at least their beginning years away. Before you dive into your Bohemian lifestyle while they unpack the lace and fine china, take the time to talk. Great things can come from discordant notes, and a negotiated union of styles can offer a dramatic effect!
Catch Up to Throws
Whether you spread it over your bed or hang it on the wall as a tapestry, never underestimate the potential of a good throw blanket! Reversable throws like this one let you take your space from earthy to chic by simply flipping your blanket upside down. If you picture yourself sitting under a maple tree in the quad, an indoor/outdoor blanket can be the perfect fit, too. Just remember to keep your purchases small – there’s no use for a throw blanket that’s larger than your floor space. Take some measurements beforehand and spare yourself a headache!
Fairy lights: you know you love them. Forgo the harsh light-switch florescent bulbs that most dorm rooms have built in, and build yourself a custom, incandescent or LED lighting solution with a few hooks (think wall-safe Command Hooks™, of course) and a spare outlet in your power strip. Desktop table lights come in all shapes and sizes, and definitely save your eyeballs during late-night study sessions. Colored bulbs may be appealing, but go easy. Trial a few lost-cost, colored bulbs and see if you like the lighting effects in your space before you commit to your new glow-up.
Mix Posters, Photos & Art
You’ve seen the sit-coms where the defining feature of a dorm room is cheap and peeling posters. Said college students have a point, however: a poster is a bright, colorful (and affordable) way to add some personality and flair to an initially drab space. However, before you grab an armful of gummy poster strips, keep the big picture in mind. Posters can quickly cheapen your space and create an effect that makes you area look like… well, a dorm room. The key to a cohesive look here is to remember to mix and match mediums. Add texture to your wall with wood grain hangings, framed photos (think photo walls with fun flair that’s personal to you), and metal garland and other string ornamentation that explores horizontal space instead of tall, vertical posters.
This is where smart lighting comes in to play, too (you DID read the previous section about incorporating creative lighting, right?) A string of fairy lights can also illuminate your visionary wall space and create a feeling of depth to an otherwise flat area. For sports-minded individuals, this is the perfect place for pendants, too – get hanging and celebrate the home team in style.
Add Your Own Kitchen Area
“What’s that?” you ask? A kitchen in my modestly sized dorm room? Sure, space may be limited, but most college kids can agree on the value of a well-stocked mini-fridge! And for those willing to peek beyond the veil of basic necessity, a world of convenience awaits: microwaves for quick snacks, hot pad + kettles for tea time, coffee makers for burning the midnight oil – the list goes on. Rather than stack appliances together, consider framing them in a lovely (but compact) kitchen area. An essential element to this area should include a bold, stylized Vera Bradley rug like this one that visually separates your kitchenette from the rest of dorm.
Additionally, if dining room coffee isn’t cutting it when it comes to getting you up and out to class on time, consider making your own coffee nook! Just a few essential pieces can do the trick, including an affordable sliding barn door TV stand. A place for coffee or tea – or even a space for whipping up a few snacks – is a great way to make that dorm space your own. Don’t believe us? This strikingly chic coffee setup by Instagram user @LAPlans shows what a few elements and creativity can accomplish!
Most Importantly: Be You
If you’ve been following along, you understand how easy it is to get swept up in design. Above all else, remember this: your dorm room is your own, so give it a heaping dose of flair while staying true to your interests and personality. After all, this is your time to shine! And if you’re searching for more inspiration, indoors and beyond, you can’t go wrong by following our Twin Star Home blog (always fresh, always updated)! Best of luck in your academic pursuits, in the year ahead and beyond. You’ve got this!