By Lauren Joffe for The Real College Guide
Unless you’re going for the sparse jail cell look, you’ll need some sort of style to lighten up your living space. Not enrolled in Interior Design 101? No problem. Here, the intro-level guide to doing it right.
If the last thing you decorated was the back of your history notebook, deciding how to deck out your new digs can be daunting — especially because your new room will reflect the new you. Luckily, you don’t have to be majoring in interior design to decorate a dorm room. Here, what you do need to do:
Step One: Pick a Color Scheme
Choosing a color palette is key to making your dorm decor look cohesive. Most schools won’t allow you to paint the walls (and that can get messy anyway), so you’ll have to use your bedding and accessories to carry out your scheme. Starting with a neutral color and then working in a hint of something bolder is always a safe option. Remember, this could be a four-year investment, so exercise caution by not going with anything like fire-engine red or mustard yellow, which might be fun at first but can become harsh on the eyes down the road.
Step Two: Make Your Bed
Once you’ve chosen a color family, hit up your local Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond (both have just-for-college selections at reasonable prices) to scout out suitable bedding. Sometimes comforters found at these retailers can be overdesigned and juvenile, so do yourself a favor and skip the race car sheets. Instead, try buying a white down comforter with a colorful duvet cover. (Bonus: You can remove the duvet for well-needed washing to freshen up your room and erase any spills or stains. Plus, you won’t need to invest in a new comforter if your tastes change — just replace the duvet.) Add extra flair and comfort to your bed with throw pillows in different patterns and textures.
Step Three: Get (Your Walls) Plastered
Dorm room walls are infamously stale in both color and texture. Leave ‘em bare, and you’ll end up feeling trapped in an asylum-like box. The remedy? Spruce up your walls with posters, tarps or artwork of your choosing. If you’re feeling ambitious, buy some old, classic vinyl record albums (think Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti or Abbey Road by The Beatles) and mount them on the wall to occupy barren space and add immediate energy. For the less motivated, invest in a large tapestry from Urban Outfitters or a flea market to hang on your wall. This will pick up your color scheme, add pizzazz and warm up your room all at once. (Hint: Before moving in, find out what kind of walls you’ll be dealing with — cinderblock, stucco, drywall? — so you can pack asap whatever hooks, nails or adhesive you’ll need to hang stuff.)
Step Four: Keep the Old
Moving out of your childhood home doesn’t mean you’ll need to leave behind remnants of your old life. And a new style doesn’t mean nixing all your old stuff, especially when they make you feel at home. Leave your stuffed animals where they belong (at home) and instead pack up pics of your far-away friends and fam. You can get prints made at Kinko’s and create collages, which are great for filling awkwardly shaped areas around your room (like that patch of wall between two windows, and so forth).
Step Five: Fill in the Blanks
Once you’ve knocked out the four steps above, buy some unique accessories to make your place feel more homey. (Hint: Unless your school is in a cool city, scope out your accessories before you get to campus. Filling your room with crap from the school store won’t do much for creating a unique look.) Here are some ideas for what to look for:
- An interesting night stand or stool
- Curtains (Urban Outfitters makes funky silk-printed curtains.)
- A throw rug (You can get away with buying a bathroom-size mat, which will probably fill your entire floor.)
- Unique neon desk lamp or floor lamp
- Fabric storage-space boxes (Anthropologie makes ‘em.)
- Desk accessories (Urban Outfitters has cool recycled-newspaper pencil holders.)
- A strand or two of Christmas lights
- Plants (real or fake)
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