Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

Back to school time!  We just moved our youngest into a 2-bedroom apartment for her senior year of college, which she’s furnished in an eclectic collection of “big girl” pieces that will transition perfectly from college life to real world.

I remember oh too well, though, what her freshman dorm room looked like.  A lifeless box with the typical institutional furnishings – sort of like the image below.

For those of you getting ready to move your son or daughter into a college dorm, here are some great DIY dorm room decorating ideas I found on Benjamin Moore’s website >>>

The uninspired space most coeds begin with needs some dorm room decorating ideas. Image found on

Welcome to the dorm, aka your first studio apartment. While some universities have luxed up their campus accommodations, a typical dorm room is still stark and institutional. Common features include white cinderblock walls, clunky wood furnishings, and dark commercial carpet. The dorm room decorating challenge is to transform this style-starved habitat without painting or putting nails in the walls.

Back-to-school retailers offer an abundance of much needed colorful and patterned dress-up distraction. Bedding is often the focus of the room, and is enhanced with a selection of throw pillows. From here, the rest of the décor flows. The WSJ estimates that the 2012 back-to-school spending spree (including electronics) costs over $900 per freshman. A USA Today article confirms the relevance of this pricey rite of passage, “Freshmen are concentrating as never before on decorating dorm rooms as a way to define their post-high school selves.”

Painted boxes plus binder clips equal a DIY storage system. Image found here

While mass retail’s color spectrum embraces popular trends, you don’t have to “show up to the party in the same outfit as everyone else.” Rather, you can incorporate some DIY dorm room decorating ideas that will define you as stylish, creative, and smart. These projects won’t eat up floor space but they will increase storage and functionality, and provide a surface where you can freely paint a favorite color and insert a nail or two or ten!

These dorm room decorating ideas require time to shop or forage for the basic elements, a quart of paint plus a sample pot or two, a couple of throwaway foam brushes, and time to complete the project (hey why not plan a paint social !) It’s also good to have an arsenal of removable adhesive on hand. By thinking outside the box, you’ll bring a unique vibe into your boxy space and perhaps inspire curious coeds along the way.

Here are 6 ways to work around the rules and personalize your dorm room:

Pegboard is a great way to keep desk surface organized. Image found here

White shutters have an easy-going cottage vibe.  Image from here.

Louvers are perfect for tucking photos and such. Image found here

Old drawers, braced together, make a funky bookcase.

A geometric design looks degrees chicer than plain brown corkboard.

A piece of colorful canvas is a lightweight artwork.


Harry Stearns Painting


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