Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 3:03 am | Fair 55º


Essential Tips to Make Your Kid’s Dorm Room Feel More Like Home

College preparation turns personal with new ideas for décor — and a few Old School traditions

College students always want to make the most of their cramped dorm rooms. These days, more and more options exist to make them fashion-conscious, too — even on a budget. Click to view larger
College students always want to make the most of their cramped dorm rooms. These days, more and more options exist to make them fashion-conscious, too — even on a budget. ( photo)

The catalogs start arriving as soon as students register for the SAT or ACT.

Whether it is Pottery Barn Teen, Garnet Hill, Lands’ End, Bed Bath & Beyond or IKEA, they begin to pile up and most young people start dog-earing pages, circling items, and leaving the catalogs in strategic locations for parents to stumble upon far in advance of actual letters of acceptance from colleges.

There is a reason for this.

While many dorm rooms are still the depressing, utilitarian and cramped spaces they have been for generations, students today are less tolerant and more proactive regarding this fact.

Many college-bound students see their dorm rooms as their first independent foray into interior design, and a chance to express and reinvent themselves.

The dorm room has become a part of the college dream.

Whether a student is looking to do something entirely new and highly coordinated, or whether dorm décor will involve a bit of practical foraging in parents’ and grandparents’ attics, the list of what a student will need to make a dorm room feel like home remains consistent.

In addition to family discards, many resources exist to help students find items for their dorm rooms. Numerous online businesses have sprung up to help college-bound and interior design-sensitive youth.

One website,, breaks dorm décor into categories such as, “Uptown Girl Room,” “Hippy Chic Room” and “Girly Boss Room.” A student so inclined can order the room soup-to-nuts. allows a student to look for dorm décor based on color, offers a large selection of unique bed linens, and has a hipster, friendly-looking woman with a shag haircut offering, “FREE personalized styling advice.”

But top-to-bottom new décor is not the only way to create a great dorm room. The same rules that apply to how one decorates one’s home, apply to dorm rooms: the best rooms to live in are those that are comfortable, functional, and combine old and new in creative ways.

Whether newly purchased or family hand-me-downs, the items on the following list will help students achieve happy and comfortable new homes away from home:

Storage Containers

Dorm rooms are notoriously short on storage. It’s a good idea for students to think about creating extra storage with under-the-bed storage containers or other attractive containers for items that will not fit into the drawers, closets and shelves provided.

The All-Important Desk

Students are in college to study after all! Most dorms supply desks. Usually they are of the highly durable, faux wood-veneer variety.

Hippy Chic from Click to view larger
Hippy Chic from ( photo)

If this is not to your taste and if your college allows you to move the provided furniture out of your dorm room, consider finding an appealing, small desk. Whether a high-tech new desk or an antique from grandma’s attic, a different desk will instantly transform a dorm room’s appearance.

Table Lamps

Most dorm rooms provide broad overhead lighting, often fluorescent. Consider a compact table lamp or two to provide task lighting for studying and reading.

Floor Lamps

If space allows, a floor lamp is a great alternative to fluorescent overhead lighting in providing overall light to a dorm room.

Area Rug

Most dorm rooms have carpeting that is highly utilitarian in appearance — and has seen better days. A small area rug can instantly transform and individualize a dorm room.

Posters and Photos

This is the area where students can really display their individual style and personal mementos. Put some thought into how you want to display — and protect — your posters, photographs and memorabilia.

As a part of this, it is also important to check school rules. Are nails allowed? Thumbtacks?

Framing items will give a room a more sophisticated look as well as protect special décor items, but mounting posters and photos on foam-core or making a bulletin board will help display and protect items, too. has a diverse selection of art and posters for dorm rooms.


Colleges have different rules about in-room refrigerators. Again, it is important to check your college’s fine print about having refrigerators in your room.

If allowed, and if having one sounds good to you, usually a small refrigerator will do. An extra bonus is that the refrigerators can serve as another small tabletop surface, as well.


While this item is not entirely necessary because colleges provide many places where a student can print, many students find having a personal printer a lifesaver, particularly at 3 a.m. before a paper that cannot be submitted online is due. Additionally, there is still nothing like a real paper proofread.


Students can always use the mirrors provided in shared bathrooms, but having both a full-length back-of-the-door mirror and a hanging, smaller mirror in a dorm room has saved many a student from embarrassing fashion faux pas.


Wet towels will not dry in a giant, damp heap on the floor. ’Nuff said.

Towels and Bed Linens

Fresh towels and bed linens are a treat and say “fresh start” more than anything else. They can also provide color and individualize a dorm room more than any other dorm room purchase.

If there is one thing that might deserve a splurge, it is new bed linens and towels. Most college dorm rooms have twin extra-long beds.

A Power Strip

In today’s age of electronic everything, most students need extra power outlets. A single-fused outlet strip is strongly recommended.

Small Bedside Table

This item goes into the “extra” and space-allowing category but can be a very nice thing to have to hold smaller items, such as a small table lamp, cell phones and a clock.

— Noozhawk contributing writer Hilary Doubleday — mother of a college freshman — can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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