Students may have trouble visualizing a cinderblock-walled dorm room as “home,” but there are ways to spruce it up without breaking the bank. Here are some tips from interior decorators and home goods experts on how students can personalize their new space.
College students don’t have a lot of square footage to work with, so when it comes to storage, they should think up. The latest trend in storage is stackable: from shoe racks to storage compartments that can be attached to flat walls, says Dave Nielsen, Overstock.com’s senior vice president of merchandising.
“These are more secure and structured than in the past—now compartments can click and attach to each other and you can stack them more easily.”
For students with small closet space, Jennifer DesJardin, principal at Motif Design Solutions, recommends checking out stores like Ikea and Target for modular closet kits with simple assembly and relatively-low prices.
“These kits can be moved around easily for reconfiguration as a student's needs change, and there are many options such as shoe shelves, drawers, shelving for sweaters, books, etc,” she says. “It is a great way to increase capacity in a typical closet with a single bar for hanging items because you can utilize more of the vertical space in the closet by adding storage pieces in an otherwise unused area above or below the hanging clothes.”
For items like microwaves and coffee makers, staples in students’ culinary skills, DesJardin suggests installing shelving with an 18-22" depth, which will be much more functional and provide adequate space for the appliances without taking up prime desk or table real estate.
“Don't be afraid to drill a 1-2" hole in the back of the shelving unit for appliance cords,” she says. “Use a circular hole saw with a drill and it will look very finished and professionally done, which will allow for cords behind the shelving, concealing them and making the area more pleasing to look at.” Be sure to check with the college’s rules and regulations when it comes to electronics in the dorm and making holes in the wall.
“When considering things they will need for college, people think about office supplies and school supplies, but a handy kit is also in order,” says Jan Willadsen, president of Willadsen Design. “Home improvement stores can provide one-stop shopping for a variety of items you might not have considered.”
Willadsen recommends every college student have a starter tool kit with a screw driver, small hammer, duct tape and a tape measure for assembling furniture or hanging hooks if allowed.
Transform any boring room with a few colorful bedding items, recommends Nielsen. Students can even coordinate colors with their roommate to brighten up the space even more.
“We’re really seeing that the hot colors for back to school this year are yellow, orange, gray, metallics, and a lot of graphic prints,” Nielsen says.
Hunt through garage sales, thrift stores, and discounted furniture shops for items to give a dorm room a unique, vintage feel.
“An old piece of furniture can easily be spray painted for less than $25 and when it is finished, it looks new,” says DesJardin. “Looking for items at a Goodwill in an affluent area will be sure to provide some unexpected treasures for any room.”
Creativity can be a student’s best friend when working with a small budget, says DesJardin. Transform older things with a few supplies and a little DIY time for a fraction of the cost of buying something new.
“Gluing a strip of $2 colorful sizing trim around the edges of an otherwise boring and pedestrian lamp shade can turn it into an inspired design element or covering a seat on an old chair or wrapping a bulletin board with a colorful fabric can add a punch of unexpected pizzazz,” she says. “The more energy and thought a student is willing to invest in being creative with the elements in their room, the more it will be enjoyed.”
While a small dorm room should be functional, it doesn't have to be boring or unattractive. Here are expert decorating tips on how to create a unique space while sticking to a budget.