Dorm Therapy

A College Senior Made a Standard-Issue Dorm Room Actually Look Stylish

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Credit: Elaina Zayac

Name: Elaina
Location: University of Hartford
Type of home: Dorm room
Size: 120 square feet
Time lived in: 2 months, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Going into my senior year of college, I tasked myself with the design challenge of making my dorm room a happy, bright, and organized refuge that didn’t feel so much like a little white box, like most dorms. I lived in apartment style campus housing ,y sophomore and junior years, with a kitchen, living room, bathrooms and bedrooms, but I decided to downsize back to a single, 120 square foot dorm room senior year to challenge my design capabilities.

Credit: Elaina Zayac

I was able to create different “zones” in my room that consist of my kitchen/food prep zone, desk zone that doubles as a makeup vanity, my bed, and my tiny closet that needed to store and organize literally all of my belongings. I created a coffee bar made out of birch plywood that was custom designed and built with the help of my dad to fit my mini fridge, microwave, and a large basket to store food. I scored my mini fridge for free (a wonderful find by my boyfriend) and gave it a facelift with Robin’s Egg Blue paint. I love how perfectly the coffee bar fits below the open shelving that came with the room! My desk/vanity area also received a makeover, with marble contact paper to cover the ugly, fake wood grain veneer. The mirror was inexpensive and thrifted, just needing a good coat of white paint.

Credit: Elaina Zayac

My room is quite minimalist, which I feel is important in making a dorm room feel larger and less crowded with “stuff”. The color scheme is bright and cheerful, with hues of coral, blue and white. Globe string lights hung along one wall are softer than the harsh fluorescent lighting provided with the room, which I rarely use.

Credit: Elaina Zayac

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite area of my tiny room is my desk/vanity. It feels way too glamorous to be in a dorm room! The way it’s styled is how it is on a daily basis, with some of my favorite items set out like jewelry handed down by grandma and great-grandma and favorite nail polishes. I make sure to often have fresh flowers to add that extra touch of glamour. The mirror is special to me because it holds the memory of refinishing and painting it with my dad, as does my coffee bar and mini fridge. It’s the DIY projects that truly make the space feel special.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Happy and Bright Minimalist

Credit: Elaina Zayac

Any advice for creating a home you love? Creating a home (or in my case, dorm) that you love is so important to your overall happiness. No matter where you live or what you can afford, with some creativity, you have the ability to transform your space into something that makes you happy and comfortable. If you have any special items, like old photographs, jewelry, artwork, your favorite high heels, or even just a cute vase you bought last week, DISPLAY it! Make it a focal point, make it stand out. Put these items somewhere visible where you can look at them everyday and smile.

Credit: Elaina Zayac

Try your hand at some DIY projects. Old furniture pieces can have incredible stories and just need some new life breathed into them. Being able to personalize a piece to the exact color or finish you’re looking for is something you can’t do with basic, mass-produced items. My last tip is to be organized. Simple as that. Clearly, I have learned a thing or two about organizing living in such a small space! Visual chaos will clutter your mind and make you enjoy your home less.

This submission’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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