CommunityDorm Room Decorating: Making Your College Kid’s Dorm a Room of Their Own

Dorm Room Decorating: Making Your College Kid’s Dorm a Room of Their Own

My daughter has a real sense of style.  Unfortunately, her dorm room doesn't.  We want her to be comfortable but have obvious limitations on what we can change.  Any tips to decorate her dorm room and spruce up her space without adding to our already sky-high college costs?

The Money Pit Answer

Memories of my college dorm room are quite fresh, despite more years having passed than I care to admit!  You are right to consider the limitations.  You don't own the space that you are improving and colleges rightly have limitations on doing anything that can damage the space for the next student (I remember all the repair work we had to do to fix up holes from darts that missed the dart board!)

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to spruce up the dorm space.  An excellent resource is's popular "Rate My Space" community. The Dorm Room gallery allows users to both showcase their dorm room décor and to share advice on other student's college spaces.

Last year, nationwide spending on dorm décor and college apartment furnishings reached an estimated $5.43 billion, with young adults 18-24 spending an average of $159 each.  Ready to help students ace decorating difficulties and maximize the money they spend, designer Angelo Surmelis - host of the HGTV program "Rate My Space"- offers some expert advice on creative dorm room decorating on a dime.

"Color is one of the easiest ways to make an impact in any room, and dorm rooms are no exception," he said. "Since painting walls is usually out of the question in most dormitories, finding new, inexpensive and creative ways to add color is the key." Surmelis suggests the following ways to add color and pizzazz without ever having to paint:

Get inexpensive canvases and paint them all a single color or a few different complimentary colors. Cover a dorm wall with the canvases for added interest and a great color focal point. They are also easy to repaint if you get tired of the color(s) you used. Group a few canvases together for major impact.

Fabric can have a similar effect while adding texture. Stretching colored or patterned fabric over canvases, cork boards or simple plywood boards cut to custom sizes and shapes will not only give your college dorm room instant color, it will give you an extra design element that can influence bedding, pillow and accessory choices.

Most paint and wallpaper stores have remnant wallpaper that you can purchase quite inexpensively. Frame interesting papers with ornate thrift store or flea market frames to give your dorm room instant style that not only feels personal but chic and unique.

Get stylish by utilizing furniture pieces that can double as storage - like ottomans that open up, beds with pullout drawers and storage in the headboards, as well as vertical storage units.

Use your dorm room walls to their fullest potential. Simple shelving or even cubes (that you can customize with paint or wall paper) can add instant interest while providing storage that keeps surfaces neat and clean. And salvage yards are a great place to find alternative brackets for your shelving - plaster sconces, for instance. 

With these tips, your college kid can have the most stylish dorm room decor without dropping the bomb on your wallet.


1 Answers
SafetyPro answered 6 years ago

When creating large canvas and fabric prints for wall mounting, select fire-retardant treated fabrics. In dorm rooms where melees are known to occur, best be protected by ensuring fire safety by preventing ignition if it comes in contact with a lamp or hot AC adapter.

Another safety consideration is proactive bed bug prevention. Use pillow and mattress covers at move-in.