When you're given concrete walls, tile floors, generic furniture, and fluorescent lighting, it can be hard to figure out how to make your room feel like a home. But there are some secrets that can transform any dorm room, no matter how dour, into a place you want to be...
These images won't all be of dorm rooms, but they will hopefully give you some student housing-applicable design ideas.
Spend some time thinking about bedding. Bedding is probably the easiest way to make a visual impact in a dorm room, since the bed will occupy so much floor space. Therefore, if you start your plan here, it may be easier to figure out what your overall style is going to be. Consider whether you want to go bold with color, busy with pattern, or simple with neutrals. Or maybe you want a mixture, so that when you pull back that white comforter, hot pink sheets are all you see.
Use textiles. The bed isn't the only place in a dorm room where textiles can come in handy. Standard-issue furniture can also be turned up a notch with fabric. Drape a cool blanket over the headboard or cover your ugly, mottled desk with a pretty tablecloth. You can't paint or toss the school's stuff, but you can cover it with something better.
Have more pillows than you think you need. If you keep a bunch of pillows around, your bed can double as a sofa when friends come hang out. They also offer another opportunity to add color and pattern to a boxy, bland dorm room, and when you aren't using them, they're easy to squoosh into a storage bag.
Think beyond the average poster. The stereotype of dorm rooms decked out in music or movie posters is a stereotype for a reason — And if they make you happy, then by all means, that's the most important thing. But don't forget that thanks to Etsy and public domain images, there's a whole range of other stuff you could be putting on your walls. Art isn't out of reach, even for a college budget, nor are more creative options, like the confetti wall above or the butterfly decals below.
The walls in my dorm were made out of concrete so there was no way I was going to break the rules about hanging artwork, even if I wanted to. I quickly learned that double-stick tape was my best friend — washi tape and vinyl decals are other good options. Just because you can't nail or screw anything into the wall doesn't mean that you have to live with blandness all year long.
Make the most of lighting. If you're sharing a room and there's only one overhead light, it can pretty quickly lead to bickering. Having multiple lighting options will not only make for better ambiance, it will also give you more options when you and your roommate are on different schedules. The old college standby are fairy lights, but there are plenty of other ways to go. Think about floor lamps, desk lamps, and plug lights. In college, I even used Command strips to hang a lightweight (plastic) sconce from IKEA above my bed.
Think of every surface as a chance to decorate. You won't have your own washer and dryer, but you could still borrow the idea of using washi tape to make stripes on your cube fridge, or using double-stick tape to line the back of your wardrobe with decorative paper. Putting a pretty spin on everyday stuff can go a long way toward making your room feel unique.
Get a rug. Seriously. Do it. It will cover up the awful institutional flooring, and it's so much more comfortable than cold tile or linoleum. Plus, it's another chance to add some personality. On my limited budget, I thought I was clever to use a shaggy bathmat as a bedside rug. There are probably better options, but I will say that even that $5 bathmat made a huge difference.
Have fun. If you're like me, this will be your first chance to decorate entirely on your own. The space and the furniture may not be the stuff that dreams are made of , but look at it as a chance to learn more about your style, yourself, and your creative abilities.