A Five-Hour Dorm Room Transformation
It’s not often that you get invited back to your college, given a very small budget and a camera crew and asked to design a fabulous dorm room for an incoming 2018 student. It’s flattering to say the least, but challenging at best. But, heck, I LOVED my college (go Oberlin!) and spent a good deal of time when I was there transforming rooms to make them livable and cool and to fit all my crap into them, which wasn’t easy.
My first year I had a roommate and kept it minimal. My second year I was given permission to move into a large janitor’s closet by myself, thus losing the roommate. For this small space, I built a loft bed and made a mattress (a bad one, I might add) out of straw and an old duvet cover. My last two years? I moved off campus and went all out on my rooms, which were in funky old houses.
But what did I do just a few weeks ago in Oberlin? I used five of my small space tenets, rummaged through the hardware store, the Ben Franklin, AND Target, and I came up with a lovely easy room for a new student. And BTW it’s definitely more feminine on purpose, but I’ve got no judgments and I’d totally sleep there.
The Five Small Space Rules
(which are applicable to Dorm Rooms)
1. Add Softness! Dorm rooms are hard, prison-like spaces due to the liberal use of cinderblock and having to be so durable. Adding textiles in the form of rugs, pillows, tapestries, and bedding will soften and warm the space tremendously.
2. Add Lights! Lighting is not only practical, but it also adds warmth and liveliness to an empty, drab room. How many? Three lights (at least!) to any room, and keep them all at eye level and below—the lower and closer to where YOU are the better. Twinkle lights are awesome in a dorm room. Use them a lot.
3. Bed is Main. With only a little space, your bed is the main event, so this is the place to make most cozy and big—at least to the eye. After a long day of struggling to keep up with your homework, a lovely bed is what you want to welcome you home. It is your retreat space, so bring nice bedding from home, insert a plush mattress pad to deal with the awful mattress, and build yourself a headboard whenever possible. It’s fun and easy.
4. Add Plants! Plants are the easiest way to bring extra life into a dorm room that might feel stale. Small pots on your windowsill or a small tree on your floor—any which way you do it, you’ll appreciate the difference it makes in the FEELING of your room.
5. Create Sacred Space. This is perhaps the easiest to do, but the hardest to explain. A room can be cozy, pretty, handsome, useful and/or organized, but it won’t be YOURS until you put something that is uniquely YOU into it. For this I look to something that is deeply personal and it usually consists of a photograph, piece of artwork, object or religious item that has deep personal meaning. It speaks to your highest and biggest self, and it is there to center you should you ever get stressed out. Call it an altar; call it a sacred space; it’s the smallest thing usually that does the biggest job.
So, I’ve put the before pic above. This room is right next to my old dorm, Burton, and it is just as small and drab as it looks. We didn’t have to do anything fancy with the camera to get it this depressing. BUT, check out the “after.” In only five hours (and with Nicole helping me), I think I was able to make it really nice and cozy, but also a bit funky so that it would appeal to a new generation of Obies.
Do let me know!
- Bedding sold out – similar: Better Homes & Gardens Mixed Pattern Charcoal Comforter Set Twin/Twin XL – $47
- Mainstays Microfiber Sheet Set – $8.44, Walmart
- Peace Sign Throw Pillow – Room Essentials – $9.99, Target
- Better Homes & Gardens Gold Fur Home Decor Pillow – $13, Walmart
- Mainstays Long Hair Faux Fur Backrest Pillow, Blush – $14.88, Walmart
- Stripe Faux Mohair Throw Blanket – Project 62 – $29.99, Target
- Plush Pillow Standard/Queen White – Room Essentials – $3.79, Target
- Devine Color Speckled Dot Peel & Stick Wallpaper – Black – $29.99, Target
- Hand Made Cotton Wall Hanging Cream – Project 62 – $24.99, Target
- New View 16”x16” White Letter Board with Black Trim – $15.99, Target
- LED Neon Good Vibes Wall Sign – Room Essentials – $24.99, Target
- Donut Kill My Vibe – $3, Walmart
- Lory Pouf – Opalhouse – $49.99, Target
- Style Co-op Metallic Embroidered Pouf in Silver – $59.99, Bed Bath & Beyond
- Marble Top Round Table – Project 62 – $75.99, Target
- Wood Crate – $11.45, Walmart
- 3-Tier Metal Utility Cart – Made By Design – $30, Target
- Rug sold out – similar: Safavieh Hudson Amias Geometric Shag Area Rug – $117, Walmart
- Modular Vanity Organizer With Magnetic Strip White – Threshold – $22.99, Target
- Better Homes and Gardens Gold Organizer – $15, Walmart
- Canvas Notebook – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $7.99, Target
- Note Lined Paper Pad – White – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $9.99, Target
- Blank Journal White with Blue Dots – West Emory – $4.99, Target
- Easel Drawing Pad – Blue/Gold/White – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $6.99, Target
- Swingline Vintage Plier Stapler – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $15.99, Target
- Magnetic Metal Page Clips – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $3.99, Target
- Cast Metal Tape Dispenser – Black – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $13.99, Target
- Wall Grid, Gold – Threshold – $9.99, Target
- Ubrands Fashion Push Pins – 54ct – $2.99, Target
- Linen Bulletin Board – West Emory – $19.99, Target
- 24ct Pencil Set White with Blue Dots – West Emory – $6.99, Target
- 4ct Magnetic Photo Clips – Locker Style – $2.99, Target
- Embossed Ceramic Single Image Frame – Opalhouse – $14.99, Target
- Analog Alarm Clock Silver – Crosley – $14.99, Target
- DIY Lightbox Novelty LED Table Lamp Black – Room Essentials – $18.99, Target
- Vornado Small Vintage Air Circulator Fan in Chrome – $79.99, Bed Bath & Beyond
- Faux Cactus Plant in White Pot Small – Project 62 – $14.99, Target
- Wall calendar sold out – similar: 2018-2019 Watercolor Calendar – $29.95, Paper Source
- Trinket dish sold out – similar: Watermelon Trinket Dish – $7.99, Sur la Table
- Tabletop Trinket Tray – $7.22, Walmart
- Desk mirror sold out – similar: Freestanding Bath Magnifying Makeup Mirror – Elegant Home Fashions – $9.89, Target
- Murphy Task Lamp – Threshold – $24.99, Target
- Rounded Retro LED Task Lamp with USB – Room Essentials – $24.99, Target
- Edison Bulb Accent Table Lamp White – Room Essentials – $16.99, Target
- 20ct String Lights G40 Clear Bulbs – White Wire – Room Essentials – $9.99, Target
- Wire LED Lights 6.5ft Gold – Locker Style – $5.99, Target
- Round Woven Basket – Project 62 – $19.99, Target
- Storage bins sold out – similar: Home Basics Quatrefoil Patterned Storage Bin in Metallic Silver – $5, Bed Bath & Beyond
- Faux Leather Storage Bin – Brown – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $27.99, Target
- Storage Box – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $10.99, Target
- Magazine File Holder – Hearth & Hand with Magnolia – $12.99, Target