Dorm Room Décor Begins with a Smartly Designed Approach

By Tess Wittler

Preparing to send your student off to college can be exciting, nerve-wracking and expensive. On top of the tuition, room and board and all of the ancillary fees, you have to think about “decorating” your son or daughter’s room to set them up in an environment that will serve as their home-away-from-home for the next school year.

Dorm Room Décor – The Approach

Just like a great home starts with a great design, so does your approach to college dorm room décor. While you can find dozens of articles online for creative ideas on how to decorate a dorm room, your approach toward this task is actually more important than the items that make up the décor.

Here are some questions to ask before making the first dorm room décor purchase:

What’s the dorm room like? Every dorm room is different. Will your student have a roommate (or more than one roommate)? How big are the rooms? Will there be a bathroom inside the dorm area, such as found in a quad setup, or is the bathroom a communal one? Will your student have access to a kitchenette?

Other things to think about:

  • Bed size – Many dorm room beds are Twin XL that can bunk. If your student will be on the top bunk, consider getting a bedside shelf, like this one, where they can place a phone, drink, eyeglasses, etc.
  • The flooring – Most dorm room floors are tiled, which makes the rooms colder and harder on the feet. A small area rug can help warm up the room.
  • A fan – Most dormitories are controlled with an HVAC system that is automatically set by the university, and windows usually do not open.
  • Command strips – Use these to hang up everything and avoid added fees for damage caused by nails and other fasteners.
  • Extra storage – Dorm rooms never have enough, so think about under-the-bed storage bins and/or plastic drawer storage units.
  • Kitchen essentials – Buy plates, glasses and utensils for eating quick bites when the cafeteria is closed, and perhaps a few kitchen hand towels, dish soap and a sponge, too
  • Extra toiletries – Get those that might be needed occasionally, such as bandages, aspirin, and something to treat sore muscles, such as Icy Hot or a heating pad.

What are the school’s rules, particularly with small appliances? Every school has a different set of rules spelling out what you can, and cannot, bring. While most allow at least one refrigerator and a microwave inside the dorm room, they may not allow two, so it’s smart to coordinate with roommates. Additionally, check the size limit of any small appliances that are allowed in the dorm room.

How long do you intend these purchases to last? Most colleges require first-year students to live on campus, but after that initial year, your son or daughter will have more options. Many will choose to move off campus and live in a modern student housing facility with great amenities.Decorating a dorm room can be much different than decorating an apartment or room within a sorority or fraternity house, so if your student is already hinting at moving off-campus when allowed, keep that in mind when you decorate. Some items, like a mini refrigerator, may only be used short term until your child has a full-sized fridge in their apartment.

Can the purchases be adapted over time? Also consider if the purchase can be used no matter where your student lives. For example, desk lamps, bath towels and storage bins/caddies can be utilized by your student through their college years and beyond.

How easy is the move-in process? Is your school out of state or local? If you school is far away, it may be easier to have items shipped to your school – which many universities offer – or to a friend/family member who may live in the area. Many national stores also offer the option of ordering college décor items in advance online for pick-up at your college town’s store.

By approaching dorm room décor with some of these items in mind, you can have fun helping prepare your student for living at college, while also making lasting memories.

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