If I could go back in time to be as cool as Zoey Johnson in Grown-ish is as a freshman in college, I'd do it. She's smart, opinionated, and has a great sense of personal style. Her friends are serving up drama hot and fresh in each episode, and she manages it all from the comfort of her fairly chic dorm room.
Now dorm rooms have always meant twin beds with mattresses that have Seen. Some. Stuff. There are unattractive but durable desks, nightstands, and varying iterations of dark neutral wall-to-wall carpet. Thus, personal style becomes even more important to distract from all of that.
The easiest way to make a chic impact is with bedding. Big, bold, colorful patterns are a must. Mixing a comforter or duvet against patterned sheets is a great starting point—throw in some pillows to finish the look, and some add bolster pillows for an easy transition to a seating area for friends.
Dorm room lighting is notoriously terrible. Not quite as bad as dressing room lighting, but pretty damn close. It's important to bring in ambient lighting via table and floor lamps to downplay the overhead light. Embrace interestingly shaped bases with clean, crisp drum shades. Drape a few strands of string lights around the room. Round café bulbs feel a bit more sophisticated, but star-shaped ones are more whimsical. Either way, your study sessions are going to be lit (pun fully intended).
If you're able to put up window treatments, try simple white draperies with a colorful border (super easy to DIY!). They'll filter any natural light you may be lucky enough to receive, and they make the ceilings seem taller if you hang them correctly—aim for halfway between the top of the window frame and the ceiling. If your windows are low on the wall, put the brackets about 8-10" down from the ceiling.
Wall decor is a must! Zoey has a black shadow box near her bed. That's a great way to showcase a rotating display of items. Framed tack boards are another inexpensive way to do that. Frame your posters to make them look more polished and intentional. Instead of hanging a million Polaroid photos on your wall, get one or two really good photos blown up and stretched on canvases. It's actually not terribly expensive and can be done at places like CVS and Walmart. Now you have artwork no one else has. You're queen of the cool kids table.
A couple other easy adjustments to make: switch out your desk chair for a modern roller chair with some extra cushioning and use aesthetically attractive desk accessories. Late nights hitting the books shouldn't mean butt cramps and boring binders.
Get the look
- Curtains: Anthropologie Pom Tassel Curtain, from $78
- Table lamp: Project 62 Montreal Wren Table Lamp, sale $37.99
- Desk chair: Adjustable Office Desk Chair, $69.99
- Duvet & shams: West Elm Crystal Geo Duvet & Shams, $29 – $149
- Sheets: West Elm Organic Hand Drawn Stripe Sheet Set, sale $9.99 – $119
- String lights: Room Essentials Paper Star String Lights, sale $14.24
- Message board: Felt Memo Board, $19.99
- Shadow box: Target 12x15 Shadow Box, $24.99
- Desk organizer: Container Store Acrylic Organizer, $14.99