Try These Design Hacks In Your College Dorm (And Avoid Breaking Housing Rules) | Architectural Summary


Decorating college dorms has come a long way in style since Pottery Barn Teen launched rugby striped sheets and mini locker side tables in 2003. But now kitsch fads are being replaced with cool decor that suitable for endless dorm design possibilities. And, yes, bean bag chairs are still a must-have. Savvy online retailers like Room 422, Dormify, and Society6 are giving students a first step into managing their own room (okay, probably a room they’ll have to share, but all the more reason to hone those design skills) . If you’re a college freshman, check out the college’s housing webpage before you jump into planning a dorm. Often this new home will have certain rules about what you can and cannot bring. Candles, for example, are a big no-no, so don’t waste your money on a beautiful candle vase. Instead, opt for a diffuser like Pura, with scents from the new Nest Wellness Collection like Blue Cypress & Snow and Autumn Plum, to keep college jitters at bay.

You don’t have to bend the rules, just cut back and improvise. “If your child has a direct interest [in design], get a floor plan of the room and see what they allow,” says Lj Savarie of Winnetka, Illinois-based Savarie Interiors. Even the basics can feel “couture” if you personalize it, says Savarie, and she knows a dorm room well, having already sent three kids to college. Laura Park also recommends using bedding instead of basic XL sheets. Here, 15 ideas for transforming a college dorm room with chic outlines for dorm room rules.

Interior designer Lj Savarie recommends framed art to dress up a dorm room wall.

Photo: Savarie Interiors

Rule 1: Do not use nails, glue, wall hooks or double-sided tape which can damage the walls.

A dorm design does: Command strips are Savarie’s go-to for dorm decor solutions, and some strips even hold 20 pounds. Janet Thomasson, mom of three and owner of Thomasson Interiors in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is a fan of Mix Tiles, a ready-made frame with customizable photos that easily attaches and detaches from walls. A full-size leaning mirror is another trick Thomasson uses to turn an underused wall into functional decor.

Rule 2: Do not paint the dorm walls, ceiling, floor and furniture.

A dorm design does: Removable wallpaper comes in a myriad of options from dense florals to abstract rainbows, and it promises to add style to any dorm room without a permanent imprint. Making your own accent space should take no more than two hours. This self-adhesive wallpaper DIY journal will show you how.

Peel and stick wallpaper, like this Opalhouse designed with Jungalow in Diskus Plaid, is easy to install in small spaces.

Photo: Marc Vaughn

Rule 3: Do not swap dorm furniture.

A dorm design does: Make the most of furniture and think about how you can artfully hide less than stellar pieces. Thomasson Interiors designer Serena Schupler, a mother of four, had a blast designing dorm rooms with her daughter last fall. “One of the first things Alex and I did was raise his bed and dress it up with an extra-long bed skirt to hide storage and a mini-fridge, creating a more sophisticated space. “, she says. Savarie loves a custom headboard for her full residential customers and thinks it can be just as impactful in a dreary dorm room. Room 422 offers foam versions that attach to the wall with Velcro. Or you can opt for a Leah Deux headboard shaped pillow.

Another strategy for adding personality is to go to a local home improvement store with measurements for a dorm room desk and buy a piece of glass to make a cover. “Students can place their favorite photos below and a decorative lamp on top for a truly personalized touch,” says Schupler. You can also place a piece of patterned fabric or a sample wallpaper (even cold wrapping paper can work) for a bright study spot.


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