Dorm Design

Dorm Design
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By Paula Last Courier Staff

You don’t need to be Sarah Richardson to give your dorm room a fab face lift. It’s not that there aren’t design challenges for students; there’s the tight budget, and don’t forget the 3M law of wall hangings. But none of this has to cramp your décor style. The first rule of dorm room decorating is to print out a copy of the Residence Handbook guidelines.

Second, take them with you when you forage for fabric finds and hunt for design deals. Because if that fabulously priced fabric that would make a nice set of curtains isn’t fire-retardant, it needs to stay at the store. What should you look for?

Well if the U.S. Product Safety Commission, Office of Compliance, Children’s Sleepwear Regulations 1, 16 C.F.T Parts 1615 & 1616 says that a blend of 80 per cent cotton and 20 per cent polyester is a good standard for children’s sleepwear, it should be good enough for your residence room.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to get creative. So take that crappy ‘before’ shot of your room and starting planning. Since you can’t paint the walls or change the furniture, fabrics and textiles are your new BFFs. Bedding, linens, towels, shower curtains, pillows, and throw rugs can make a world of difference. (Remember: 80% cotton, 20% polyester).

If you have enough space for a small end table or chair that would cheer up nicely with a coat of paint, by all means. (Just don’t use spray paint or anything else toxic indoors. You’re welcome). And of course, a few pieces of nice artwork can completely change the feel of a room while giving you something pretty to look at. (Tip: buy your artwork first, and your 3M Command strips second).

Storage: Dorm room storage is all about raising that bed, so I see a set of Rack Risers in your future. To make it pretty, find attractive storage containers for under your bed, or cover your box spring with two sheets so that your suitcases stay hidden.

Hooks should be doable, but they’ll need to be over the door or an all out coat rack – keep them off the walls. With winter approaching, you’re going to need a space to keep scarves and mittens handy, and out of season shoes out of the way. Hanging closet shelves can be a great solution. And if the top shelf of your closet is piled full of stuff that will come down in a heap the next time your closet door is slammed, procure a few clear plastic crates (yes, milk crates are fair game) and use them as bins that can be pulled down in a jiffy.

Organize: Okay it’s November people and if you don’t have your crap together, now is the time to do it. Make a giant calendar/message board with magnetic blackboard paint and a large piece of MDF from Home Depot (they will cut it to size). This will be too heavy to hang, so have it cut big enough to lean against the wall. This magnetic blackboard will be multipurpose-tastic as you can draw a calendar, post pictures, display your fridge magnet collection, or surprise your roommate with a happy birthday message.

To tame electronic gadget clutter but it keep it handy, buy a bunch of baskets and trays for your USB keys, cell phone, iPad, and external hard drive. Baskets are cheapest when thrifted so check the Salvation Army.

Get Inspired: There’s no shortage of ideas at the other end of your keyboard. A couple excellent blogs are Apartment Therapy and Manhattan Nest (scroll back to the early dorm room years). Google “no sew curtains” if sewing is not your thing rather than settle for something that’s not so pretty. Youtube and the blogosphere is chock full of ideas on how to make improvements on a dime. ‘Home to Go’ is a fave show from HGTV with projects that you can take with you to your first apartment when your dorm room days are over.

Get Thrifty: I know that Target is making its way north of the border, but try to resist the temptation and stick with Craigslist, Value Village, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the dollar store for finds like picture frames that can be repainted and a set of cute baskets (but DON’T shop bed sheets or mattresses, duh).

Tip: If you’re looking for something specific like a mid century modern lamp, get Craigslist finds delivered to your inbox by saving this search string as a Google alert: (lamp and (MCM or “mid-century modern”))


There’s no reason your dorm room can’t be your home away from home.

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