It might feel a little hopeless to the decoratively inclined. The dorm room. You can’t put any holes in the walls, you can’t paint, and nothing can encroach on your roommate’s half of the walk in closet they’re calling a double.

What’s a girl to do? You could do as most people do and tape up a few posters and call it a day. But hey, you’re not most people and if you’re going to be living, loving, and most of all stressing in this room all year then you’re going to make it your own! So what can you do? Well let’s start with the basics.

1. The bed.

Photo: PB Teen

The bed is important. If your dorm is anything like mine, the bed is by far the biggest piece of furniture in the room. So take some time and find some seriously cool bedding.

Don’t settle for the solid reversible one everyone has, and if you’re really confident don’t go for the first bed in a bag you see at Target either. Find something with a little personality. And then get some sheets with even more personality. And top it off with some of the adorable pillow cases you can find online, or maybe even some you decorate yourself.

If you’re afraid of picking out stuff that clashes, start with your favorite color and start trawling through Pinterest looking for what other people have done with that color. Wedding sites are a great place to find color schemes that work for rooms because they’re nearly always light and won’t make your space feel small and oppressive.

2. The floor.

Photo: My Home Ideas

Nothing warms up a room faster than adding a rug. It instantly transforms it from bare bones to homey. If you want an area rug, you’re going to have to negotiate with your roommate, but something smaller like a runner by the bed or an accent rug by your desk can be done only on one side of the room if dear roomie doesn’t want you touching her space.

If you’ve got a kinder, gentler roommate though, a cheap area rug (or several cheap accent rugs sewn together) and a couple rug pads can make the floor oh so plush and lovely.


3. The lights.


Yeah, your room probably came with a light. But let me guess, it’s an ugly, harsh, blue-tinted ceiling light that brings out all your worst fears about your acne. You have two options, soften the ceiling light or take lighting into your own hands.

Softening a light is really simple, all you’re doing is putting something between the light and the rest of the room. You can buy ready-made lampshades almost anywhere, or you can make your own. Take a cheap paper lantern, decorate it, and hang it over the ceiling light for a simple, cheap, and chic way to give your room some mood lighting. Or drape some gauzy fabric over the light. You’re trying to diffuse it, so anything that just sort of clouds it over will work wonders.

You can also bring in lights of your own. Floor lamps, desk lamps, I personally have a soft spot for whimsical twinkle lights. Do whatever you can to make your room feel bright, without making it feel surgical. You won’t believe what a difference soft lighting can make.

4. The walls.

Ever heard of command hooks? Meet your new best friends. These miracle workers go on strong and come off clean. You can use them to hang anything and everything from the wall without drilling any holes or doing any permanent damage.

You can use the hooks for hanging towels, coats, robes, hats, even a curtain rod from the wall. Or you can use just the strips to stick things directly to the wall like posters or paintings and know that when it’s time to take them down you won’t have to rip the corners off your life-sized image of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

There is a weight limit, so don’t go hanging shelves, but at up to 5lb per hook, command hooks are my personal go-to for making the walls sing.

5. The windows.

Curtains are magic. Okay, so you can’t paint your walls. What can you do? You can hang curtains. Using the command hooks I talked about above, you can hang a curtain rod really easily.

And those curtains don’t just cover up the ugly off-white blinds the room came with, they add yet another splash of color or pattern to a room that is looking pretty great by now. Plus, if you hang long curtains from the ceiling to the floor it actually tricks the eye and makes the ceiling seem higher than it is.

6. The desk.

Photo: Enjoy It

What can you do with the rickety wooden desk the room came with? You can’t paint it, it’s not yours. Well, if it has knobs, you can switch them out for a subtly powerful upgrade. You can get some drop-dead gorgeous drawer pulls online. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s a small improvement.

Don’t forget to put the old drawer pulls somewhere safe so you can switch them back when you leave at the end of the year. Not satisfied with just the hardware? Try using vinyl stickers or washi tape. These can be used on the walls as well. Vinyl stickers are removable and can be pretty cheap. You can use polka dot stickers to give your desk life.

Washi tape can be used for just about everything. Washi tape is basically fabulous masking tape. It comes in infinite varieties of colors and patterns, and it peels right off when you’re done. Washi tape can be used to decorate notebooks, vases, walls, furniture, basically anything that stays still long enough for you to stick tape on it.

So not only can you decorate your desk, you can decorate all the things on your desk too!

7. Have fun!

Photo: HGTV

You’re an adult now, striking out on your own. This is basically your first adult room. The one you can decorate however you want without fear your mom will walk in and freak. Add some personality to your room. Make it yours. Because at the end of the day, that’s what college is all about.

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