How to Decorate a College Dorm Room

For most college freshmen, moving into a college dorm will be the first experience of living away from home. As exciting as this is, it is also going to be a little traumatic, and it is important to make your new room feel as much like home as possible. This does not mean recreating the look of your parents’ house; after all, this is also your first chance to decide how you want your place to look. However, feeling comfortable and happy in your lodgings will make adjusting to the college experience much easier.

There are three main things to bear in mind when decorating your dorm room. Firstly, of course, it has to look good. You want to feel happy there, and you want others to be impressed. In the first week, when everyone is getting to know each other, people will be constantly popping their heads around your door to see who and what is on the other side. It’s your first chance to stand out from the crowd. And when you’ve had one of those days where it all seems like too much to handle, you need to be able to walk into your room, shut the door and feel good about what you see. 

Secondly, your room needs to be practical. Dorm rooms are usually small, and sometimes shared, and students are messy, messy creatures. When decorating your room, you need to think of ways to minimise the disorder; make sure that you have enough storage, and that it is laid out in a way that is easy to tidy.

The third consideration should be cost. Yes, it’s your first time away and you’re excited, but it is not a good idea to spend lots of money on decorating your room. You are not going to live here forever, and the likelihood is that things are going to get dirty, damaged or destroyed. Bear that in mind when you are shopping. It is possible to make your room look amazing without spending a fortune.

It’s a good idea to start thinking about your room before you leave home. Pick a colour scheme to work with. You don’t have to stick obsessively to it, but it’s a way to get a handle on the situation. Buying some new bed sheets is a good start; you can then pick out a couple of the colours on these for other objects in your room. 

Now, think about what you need. It’s nice to go shopping for the essentials with a parent, as they’ll feel better about you going away when they know that you’re prepared. A laundry basket is a must, as is a waste paper bin. It might be a good idea to buy some cheap, colourful plastic trays for your desk as well, to try and keep your notes in some semblance of order. Clothes hangers are always helpful. A funky lamp and a bright floor rug should round things off. 

Once the practicalities are out of the way, it’s time to get creative. At your fresher’s fair, you’ll find hundreds of cheap posters. Try not to get carried away, maybe one big poster for your door, and a couple of smaller works to dot around the room. In the first weeks of college, you’ll be stopped on every street corner by promoters handing out flyers for events. Take them, even if you’re not interested in whatever they’re promoting. A lot of them will have great graphics and artwork and you can make a really striking wall display with them. It’s the same with the photographs that you’ll have brought from home. Rather than putting them up individually around the walls, try making a design with them, a big cluster or a bold asymmetric shape.

Your room will probably have really horrible, fireproof, institution style curtains and severely ugly furniture. It’s worth visiting your local market, where you can usually find a stall selling fairly cheap material. A few metres will be enough to cover up the worst of it and make your room look less like a hospital waiting room. For the girls, scarves and pashminas can also be used as tablecloths and throws.

When decorating your room, it’s important to remember that less is most definitely more. As already mentioned, dorm rooms tend towards the small side, and filling it with objects can give it a cramped, stifled feel. You need to be able to relax in here, and also, dare I say it, study. Whatever theme you choose, the key factor should be comfort. You need to feel safe here. Remember that you are starting a massive adventure, and you need a refuge for when it all gets a bit much.