A Small, Stylish Studio Apartment Doesn’t Feel the Least Bit ‘Dorm-y’

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Credit: Geneve Lau
I absolutely love living rooms. I’m actually so excited to move to a studio after I graduate so my living room and bedroom can be all the same room. I decided to splurge senior year and get a couch cover for the couch since I knew I’d be spending a lot of time at home, and it has made all the difference! I would say I do some side hustles in influencer work, so most of the throw pillows and blankets were gifted by OCM! The maps in the corner are actually pages from the Boston Public Library Leventhal Map Center that were gifted to me after a tour for one of my classes a few semesters ago. Some pages in that particular book were water damaged so they took the book apart and were giving out the maps individually. The living room is also the home to all of the new friends I’ve acquired this year due to COVID — my plants!

Name: Geneve Lau and roommates
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Type of home: 2-bedroom apartment in a student apartment building on BU’s campus
Size of Geneve’s bedroom: 250 square feet
Time lived in: Renting about a year

Credit: Geneve Lau
The beautiful focal wall is all credited to my roommate, who also made the floral arrangement for our dining table. I feel so grateful to be able to see a sprawling view right outside of my window every day when I wake up!

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I had actually lived in this building before, but had moved out at the end of December because I was initially supposed to go abroad this semester. When COVID-19 changed that, I moved back on campus into a new unit. I threw away my duvet so I had a fresh start, and throughout my years in college, I’ve collected various decor pieces. This is a two-bedroom apartment, and this TikTok video gives a better look at my bedroom in particular (I’ve gotten a few new decor pieces since then, give or take)! The building is a student apartment building on BU’s campus, but I tried to make it not as “dorm-y” if that makes sense. 

Credit: Geneve Lau
Granted how tiny the bedrooms are in this building, I knew I wanted something to open the space up some more. This round mirror was a gem of a find from one of my (very frequent!) Marshalls trips. The best part was that it was only $40! In addition to making the room feel less crammed, it’s also very functional. The marble contact paper has been the #1 hack since my freshman year to make the school-issued desks look less dorm-like. My theory is that if you create a space that you actually want to be in, you’ll study harder!

Moving into a new space gave me a way to put what I already owned into new areas and completely redesign my space. As a person who usually opts for a lot of color, I chose to keep things relatively neutral with white, black, and gray, and accent with gold and rose gold. I love being able to add pops of color here and there and the neutral palette helps keep me calm.

Credit: Geneve Lau
Just like contact paper, wallpaper is another way to totally change up the look of the room to look less like a dorm. This building has a lot of these corners that jut out, and adding the brick wallpaper, gives that corner so much character and really ties the room together in my opinion! The framed maps are simple yet give the corner some more personality, and the hanging eucalyptus was actually supposed to only be there for the holidays, but I liked how it looked so much after it dried that I decided to keep it! The hanging macrame was solely to fill up that white wall, but I’ve fallen in love with how it ties the whole room together! It’s also been a great background for all of the Zoom meetings I’ve been in this year. I lived in this building last year as well, and it always bothered me that I didn’t have anything big enough to put on that wall, and hated how it looked blank. You can’t see it, but in that tiny space behind the bed, I’ve fit this marble and gold C-shaped table that I got using one of those special discount Amazon codes from TikTok. It is the perfect place to put my water when I’m sitting in my chair (next photo) and also any books that I’m currently reading!

What is your favorite room and why? Albeit tiny (I always joke around that I live in a shoebox) my bedroom is my favorite space to spend time. I think because I have moved around so much in my college career, I’ve really been able to designate a home for everything I own and keep my desk as a very productive space and my bed a space for relaxation and unwinding.

Credit: Geneve Lau
This chair has been an absolute lifesaver this year. Due to the pandemic, I’ve been doing most of my classes remotely and sitting at the same seat all day is quite literally soul-sucking. Within the first two weeks of the semester, I knew I needed to use that empty space to put in a comfier seating option. I found this chair on Facebook Marketplace for $45, reserved a Zipcar, and picked it up! It fits perfectly in that corner (seriously, it’s as if it were made for it). Underneath the C-shaped table, I have a basket with a blanket that I use when I’m sitting there either working at my internship or on a Zoom call. The Idaho pillow was a piece I bought my freshman year to remind me of my home state while I’m 2,000+ miles away in Boston!

Although I like to move around inside the apartment, I always find myself feeling grounded and at ease when I’m back in my own room.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Eclectic, relaxing, sentimental

Credit: Geneve Lau
I’ve always wanted a headboard, so for my senior year I decided to just go for it! If there’s any one hack I would recommend to elevate your college dorm, it is a headboard. It makes it feel so much more like a home. I got mine off of Facebook Marketplace (do you see a pattern here?) and it was only $40, not used since the woman used it for staging a home. While it serves a decorative purpose, it’s also functional because I love to sit up against it drinking my chamomile tea and looking out at the Charles River and skyline at night before I fall asleep. Also, highly recommend getting satin bedding if you want to feel like royalty every night. Treat yourself, you deserve it!

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I found the cutest bicycle shaped planter in the dollar section at Target! It was only $7. I thought it served a better purpose holding the various pencils, pens, and markers that I need, so it’s now a pen holder.

Credit: Geneve Lau
This vintage art deco lady lamp was a Facebook Marketplace find. I paid $10 for it, and found out that similar pieces value for $100-$1,000 online! Although I don’t use it as a lamp, I like how classy it looks as a centerpiece on the desk, and maybe in my future apartment, after I graduate, I’ll use it as a lamp! 

The floating shelves help clear up space off my desk while also making my stapler and tape look more like pieces of decor rather than office supplies. The poem is a personalized poem from a poet I saw on Newbury Street two summers ago, and I paired it with a film photo of New York City I took a few years ago since it’s where I’ll be headed to after graduation in May!

Any advice for creating a home you love? Purchase things that you can see yourself using over and over again. I bought the macrame hanging three years ago and have had it hanging in every new place I move into. I just recently bought a new oil diffuser that looks like a rock salt lamp — I was too obsessed with the dual function. I’m also all about including things that have sentimental meaning. I love astrological signs so there’s no shortage of Capricorn decor in my space.

Credit: Geneve Lau
The plexiglass song is the newest addition to this corner! It’s from @thecanvasdon on Instagram. “Reckless” has been my Spotify #1 for the past two years, so I felt justified getting it as a piece of art! The hanging pendant light was kind of my way of going against the stereotypical Christmas lights that every college student likes to put up. I considered getting a shade, but I love the look of the Edison bulb on its own! The “Hustle” neon sign is probably the one thing in my room that all my friends say encompasses me. It was an absolute steal I found for $25 on Bed Bath & Beyond’s site about three years ago and it’s been with me since then! The film camera is vintage and my dad’s from the '80s, I just got it as a Christmas gift this year. The white pampas is from CB2; I like that it’s in line with the trend but also a little unique that it doesn’t look like all of the ones you see on Pinterest. The ceramic shell is actually supposed to be a light, the pearl has its own switch. I just use it for decoration, and it actually shattered in the mail but I loved it so much and it was the last one that I didn’t want to return it.

Lastly, let your space be a reflection of who you are as a person. As a Capricorn, there is nothing I love more than productivity, hence the big neon “Hustle” sign I came across spontaneously on Bed, Bath, & Beyond’s site two years ago (ON SALE!) and the “Goal Digger” desk plaque. Oh and lastly, lighting really changes everything. The swag light with the Edison bulb completely illuminates the space that would otherwise be so dark.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.