When you move into your first post-college apartment, you may realize that those covetable items that looked so cute in your dorm room (I’m talking about you, furry pink pillow) suddenly look less-than-sophisticated when you bring them into your real grown-up home. Luckily, you don’t have to give up what you love for the sake of a well-designed space—just take favorite elements from your dorm and present them in a more elegant way. Here are the top five trends to ditch, along with ways to rework them for post-grad life.
If your dorm room had: A giant photo collage
Upgrade to: A colorful gallery wall
Just because you’re a bona fide adult now doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with photos of your loved ones. The trick is to curate them in a way that shows off your elevated sense of style. Rather than using every single image, print out a few favorites in different sizes, or crop into different areas of the same photo, as shown in the gallery wall below. Keep it cohesive by picking a palette: Buy matching frames or paint several frames the same color. Prevent image-overload by interspersing quotes, patterns, and illustrations throughout the arrangement. For even more ways to display family photos, check out our collection of ideas.
If your dorm room had: A liquor-bottle lineup
Upgrade to: An Ikea-hack bar cart
By senior year, the empty liquor bottle lineup is a ubiquitous dorm decoration, but once you’re in the over-21 set, it’s time to toss the recyclables. That doesn’t mean you can’t dedicate a corner of your new home to your favorite collection: Corral yet-to-be-drunk bottles on a bar cart, along with glasses, napkins, and other get-together essentials. The bar cart hack below by belle vie is the perfect project for cash-strapped grads—it’s actually an Ikea cart turned luxe with a can of gold spray paint and marble contact paper.
If your dorm room had: Unframed posters
Upgrade to: Hanging half frames
In college, everyone knew your favorite bands and movies the second they stepped into your room thanks to the posters tacked up on every wall. Whether you kept some of your favorites or bought new prints, they’ll look much more polished when framed. Check out our favorite sources for inexpensive frames, or make this DIY hanging half-frame from Design Sponge that’s a work of art itself.
If your dorm room had: Plastic cutlery
Upgrade to: Paint-dipped silverware
While it may have been acceptable as an undergrad to use disposable plates and utensils for every meal, your new space deserves a more permanent set. If brand-new flatware is threatening to break your new-grad budget, look for pieces at thrift shops. Complete sets tend to be pricier than individuals utensils, so if you like the eclectic look, hunt for single forks and knives that cost about one buck or less each. Unify the mismatched pieces with a modern pop of color: Tape off the lower portion of each handle and coat them with non-toxic paint, like Pebeo Porcelaine 150, avoiding any areas that could come into contact with your mouth.
If your dorm room had: Lots and lots of string lights
Upgrade to: Twinkle lights in a glass lantern
I'll admit, I'm a sucker for string lights, but when they’re left up year-round, these holiday staples start to look like college throwbacks. Get that same cozy glow by containing wire LED lights within glass cloches, terrariums, or lanterns (like the geometric ones from Anthropologie, below). These delicate strands are much more elegant than the clunky string lights you wrap around the Christmas tree, and they make a whimsical replacement for candles in glass hurricanes.