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August 6, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 1

DIY Dorm Style

By Rachael Ellen More Blogs by This Author

College dorms can cramp your style. Not only are you sharing a space, but most universities have restrictions and regulations that squash your creativity. Despite all the drab, your dorm is a blank canvas, ready to be spiced up and personalized this semester. To transform the starch white into cheery and bright, you’ll need some great accessories and sparks of inspiration. What are we waiting for? Here are some hot tips for a dapper dorm!

White Walls

As if sticking you in a room with a stranger wasn’t enough, many colleges keep their dorms gleaming a sterile, bland white (sigh). For people who love showing off their style, plain dorm rooms are a pain in the butt. Not only do dorms have many rules and regulations involving what you can take to school with you, they also crack down on what materials can go onto your walls. No paint, nails, or duct tape is allowed to come near the starch white walls, leaving you with only a few decor options.


Now, I know what you’re thinking, decals are known to stick and stay put, how could these be used for a dorm? Decals have come a long way from their inception, and many companies are now offering decals specifically for dorm rooms with a guaranteed non-damaging vinyl, which is easily removed and reusable. Before you take it to school, however, I would suggest giving it a try on your walls at home (I understand that these companies are guaranteeing that their product will work a certain way, but I  guarantee that your university will send you a big fat bill if you’ve done any damage to the paint or the drywall in their dormitories).  Trust me on this one, reader, it’s better to test your decals on a small portion of your wall at home before you begin covering your dorm room walls.


Not necessarily a new trend, but posters are always a great addition to the walls of your dorm. Whether it’s a band that you love or a movie that you’re obsessed with, posters add some visual interest to a space that’s otherwise lacking. Your local Walgreens photo center will develop pictures into posters for you ranging in price from $10 to $30. (Finally, you can display that embarrassing picture of your roommate in a 24in  by 36 in poster.)


You have unlimited wall space available, people; go crazy! You’re walls are the ultimate display place for huge picture collages of family and friends! Using double sided tape, you can arrange your pictures into designs like peace signs and words. Who really needs a frame anyway?

Bulletin Boards

Displaying pictures is a great way to personalize your space and to keep it cozy. A bulletin board is the perfect solution to show off your favorite pictures and memories while keeping your desk space clean. You can buy customized bulletin boards at Target, Meijer, or Hobby Lobby, but you can just as easily customize your own. A cute fabric stapled to a plain piece of cork board is a simple addition that resembles the department store’s at a fraction of the cost. Not too shabby, huh? Another great option is as simple as applying paint  in a pattern or stencil directly onto the cork board. La touche finale? Some push pins to keep all your photos securely in place.

Focal Point

You’re bed is one of the most crucial pieces of furniture in your dorm room. For a college student, a bed’s function goes further than a crash pad. Beds are the couches, desks, dinner tables, and trampolines of the dorm room.(Okay, trampoline might take it a little far, but somebody out there will know what I’m talking about.) The bed is the focal point, the headquarters of the dorm room. To accentuate it’s importance, the bed needs to make a statement to set the tone for the rest of the room. Choosing a bedspread that incorporates a color or pattern that you love is a great place to start. You can use your new bedspread as a diving board into the rest of the design of your space, adding accessories and organizers that complement the colors you’re dedicated to. For excess comfort, throw pillows are an easy addition that mix different patterns and textures that your bedspread only accented. Bed Bath & Beyond does a great job mixing bedding, shams, and sheets into packages already prepared for school with throw pillow departments. Everything you need in one spot!

Another great addition to your bed is a customized headboard, easily made using plywood, your choice of fabric, and some foam (check out my DIY about headboards for more ideas and details).


A desk lamp is a no brainer for the late night study sessions. But,  to create a dorm thats all about you, adding different types of lighting can make a world of difference. String lights add a type of ambiance when strung around the posts of a loft bed, and a free standing lamp casts a warm glow over a study nook. Whatever lighting you decide on, be sure to tweak  it with a fun shade or cool stem piece to keep the theme of your dorm continuous and custom.


The organization of the dorm room has evolved to utilize every single square inch of space possible. The big ticket items, like closets and dressers, are provided by most universities, leaving the small stuff to you. Purchasing bins, carts, and shoe dividers is a great start to making college life a little easier. Many of the organizers available come in cute colors, but if you want them to match seamlessly with the rest of your pieces, you can easily paint them with plastic spray paint (found at your local hardware store). If painting isn’t your forte, inserting and adhering squares of scrapbooking paper on the inside of the cart drawers can add a pop of color. Mixing and matching the paper even adds a fun edge!

College may seem daunting. Each day is jam packed with new experiences and people. Taking the time to create a personalized dorm room will help alleviate the stressed hussle and bussle. Don’t let your dorm down, make a statement.

What are some tips you would offer to the incoming college freshman? What products changed your college experience? Leave a comment or question below, we’d love to hear what you’d have to say!

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  • Gotta put this out there: 3M Command tabs are AWESOME. I used to live in a dorm, now I live in a studio apartment which is just as small and almost as restrictive. Command Tabs are awesome for hanging posters, bulletin boards, hooks for hanging other things... you name it!

    Also, a classy pressurized shower-rod placed in a small nook can be used to hang a faux curtain and add texture and style to a space too!

  • Dave,
    Command Tabs are probably the greatest thing since sliced bread! I am thrilled that you share my same appreciation for the Command Tabs!
    As for the pressurized shower-rod?
    That is genius. I think I'll have to swing by the store on my way home to pick one of those up!

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