9 Fun Ways to Decorate Those Drab Cinder Block Dorm Walls

published Jul 16, 2019
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Credit: Diana Paulson

Cinder block dorm room walls are standard in many college spaces, but they can be drab and cold-looking. They’re not exactly what you want to be staring at when you’re trying to find inspiration for that final paper—or celebrating turning in said paper with your new friends!

Reinvent your walls with these six suggestions that range from hanging shelves to creating your own DIY art pieces. They’re all sure to brighten your space in an instant—but as with anything, it’s a good idea to check with your school or RA before you purchase any items to hang on walls!

Credit: Courtesy of Urban Outfitters


If you have a lot of cinder blocked wall space, consider hanging shelves like this simple one from Urban Outfitters for more dimension. It’s a clever way to display smaller items such as decorative bowls, small plants, and mini framed photos or art. Consider using shelves that hang by ropes if you have more space for a bit of extra style. If you’re in a smaller dorm, make up for that lost space with crated and layered shelves.

In terms of what to put on the shelves, the options are endless! Try some mini artwork pieces like a bee drawing or an inspirational quote. If you have a green thumb, add some greenery with artificial succulents from Walmart for less than $15. 

The best way to hang shelves and avoid creating holes or removing paint is by using Command Hooks. Be sure they can hold not only the weight of a shelf, but also the weight of the items. You can find great deals on Command Hooks at places like Target.

Credit: Courtesy of Umbra

Strings of many things

To combat early homesickness, display pictures of friends, family, or pets from back home to remind yourself of your support system.

Display your photos on either a pre-made option like this one from Target or make your own DIY photo line—photograph strings are a cute alternative. To make your own photo string, you will need colorful twine and a package of mini clothespins. To display either the pre-made or homemade single-string photo displays, you may need to use visible Command Hooks.

Credit: Courtesy of Room Essentials Target


Dorm rooms usually have fluorescent lights that can be harsh and overbearing. Try stringing lights across your walls for a twinkly alternative. Choose between either basic white string lights like these from Walmart or something more eclectic like mini rainbows. No matter your choice, string lights will add a soothing ambiance to your room.

To successfully hang string lights, invest in Command Clear Small Decorative Hooks made specifically for hanging indoor lights. 

Credit: Courtesy of SophiaandRoseCo

Flowers or Woven Garlands

If you’re into the boho vibe, drape flower strings and/or a woven garland across your walls to achieve a free-spirited atmosphere and dimension to your wall decorations. When hanging either of these items, definitely use Command Hooks similar to the other string products above. The hooks will be visible, but since they’re clear they won’t take away from the aesthetic.

Credit: Courtesy of Picomodi


If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to cover most of your wall space, hang a tapestry. Tapestries like this one have a variety of designs and sizes from which you can choose. Paying more money for a tapestry can be worth it, especially since it gives you a lot of surface area bang for your buck.

Some tapestries have corners that are easily hookable and some don’t have any built-in way to hang them. Check what type of corners your tapestry has when you buy one. If it has corner strings, try using Command Hooks. If there’s no such corner on your tapestry or the hooks prove to be difficult, use Command Strips, which will velcro your tapestry to the wall. 

Credit: Courtesy of Urban Outfitters


Add small mirrors like this one to do double dorm duty—they’re practical for getting ready, plus they provide wall decor. Mirrors like this one from Denny Design add some flair and life to your space. 

Mirrors will be the most difficult to hang due to their weight. But don’t despair! They just require a little more creativity. Consider tying string around the mounting hook on the back of the mirror and hang it via the string on the wall using heavy-holding Command Hooks.

Credit: Courtesy of anyeva

Classic posters and artwork

Another way to fill up your wall space fast and on a budget is through posters and artwork like this one from Society 6. They’ll let your tastes in movies, art, or music shine through.

If you’re looking for a more defined look, frames may be the way to go. Places like Society6 offer the option for your selected artwork to be framed through the site. If you want an item that doesn’t have a framing option, know that it’ll most likely be more once you account for the cost of the frame. Cheap frames can be found at places like Joann Fabrics. And when hanging framed art, use Command Picture Hanging Strips

If you don’t want such a formal display, don’t worry about just putting the posters directly on the walls. Posters and artwork that are unframed can be hung using painter’s tape, which can be removed without having to worry about paint being taken off the walls.  

Credit: Stephanie Mirah

DIY Artwork

If you want to save money or put your creative skills to the test, consider creating your own art for your walls. For my freshman year dorm room, I painted inspirational quotes on blank canvases using acrylic paints

To achieve something for which I could be proud, I used a shading pencil technique to transfer the letters of the quote I wanted to use smoothly onto a canvas. I then patiently painted each of the letters I stenciled onto the canvas to create a cool personalized art piece. 

Another DIY artwork option is to frame sentimental items. Since I currently attend a university in Washington, D.C., I went to an antique store and bought two old D.C. postcards. I then framed the postcards and hung them on my walls in double glass frames so that both the front and back of the postcard could be admired. That way I can admire the art and the actual correspondence!

Most DIY projects can be hung using either Command Strips or Command Hooks.

DIY work can be a little taxing if you’re not an artist, but I think it’s worth it because then you will have a fun story behind it. Overall, I also recommend weaving some of these individual suggestions together to create your own personalized, special space!

Want more dorm ideas, inspiration, and stories? Head over to Dorm Therapy HQ!