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


Clever Idea: Turn a closet into an office!

The office for Harry Stearns Painting is in our living room, which is open to the kitchen and TV room.  That means the over-stuffed file folders, overflowing stacks of paper, calculator, notebooks, binders, scrap paper, computer, printer, phone, papier mache turtle, etc. are out in the open for all to see.  I’ve always dreamed of having a proper office.  But with two kids, a dog, a cat, and a small house, there’s just no room.

…or is there?!

Have a spare closet?  The clever folks at The Family Handyman show how you can turn a spare closet into a compact, efficient office.  If you ask me, the most attractive part of this project is the fact that you can shut the door(s) and hide your office clutter!

Don’t you just love the paint color!?   Image found on The Family Handyman

Office project overview: Features, tools and cost

Image found on The Family Handyman

Is your home office a mess? Do you need a spot to organize your kids’ schoolwork and projects? Or do you just want to get your office stuff out of sight when you have guests? We’ll show you how to solve all these problems by turning a spare closet into a super-organized office.

In this story, we’ll show you how to build and install wall shelf cabinets, a countertop and under-mount drawers, including how to adjust the dimensions to fit these projects in your closet. We’ll also show you an easy way to conceal all those cords that usually dangle down behind the desk. We’ve included a Materials List (See “Additional Information” below.), but you’ll have to adjust the quantities to fit your closet. The project shown here is constructed with birch plywood and boards and cost us about $400.

This is a great project for any intermediate to advanced DIYer. There’s no complicated joinery—the wall shelves and drawers are just wooden boxes that are screwed together. We used a table saw to cut the plywood, a narrow-crown staple gun to attach the shelf backs and drawer bottoms, and an 18-gauge nailer to attach the face frames. If you don’t have these tools, you can use a circular saw and straightedge guide to cut the plywood, and a good old-fashioned hammer and nails. It will just take a little longer.

Click here to read more >>>


(Harry’s wife, unpaid marketing consultant & chief cheerleader)

Paint Chip Crafts

I finally found a way to repurpose all the paint chips scattered around my house and in Harry’s work truck.  Paint chip crafts!  And they’re actually useful and pretty!

Briana Mowrey, a contributor to Design Happens on, blogged five easy projects even a DIY dunce like me can do – found here.

1) Create a paint chip chandelier!

2) Create a table topper with paint chips – just arrange the paint chips on top, then place a pane of glass or plexi on top.

3) Create paint chip bunting using hole punches in various shapes!

4) Create treasure boxes. Just cut, fold & tape.

5) And…my favorite craft idea…create a paint chip work of art.



Rainy Day DIY Idea

It’s another rainy day … and I woke up wondering What can I do besides sitting in front of the TV (although I WILL have to do that this afternoon because collegiate rugby 7 championships are on!)?

I went to one of my favorite online resources, Good Housekeeping.  What can I say?  Men like it, too!

I found an easy 1-hour project, “How to build a shutter side table.”

Found on, photo by Michael Partenio

What you’ll need:

  • 4 wood shutters, all the same size
  • 8 art canvas stretchers
  • 16 screws
  • 1 piece of glass for table top – cut to fit inside beveled edge of canvas frame


  1. Stand all four shutters up and form the table shape; The four shutters together will make a square base.
  2. Grab a friend to hold the shutters in place, then measure the width of one shutter.
  3. Take that square measurement and purchase 8 art stretchers of the same or slightly larger measurement (stretcher measurement can be slightly larger, it just means the top will extend beyond the sides a bit).
  4. Piece the stretchers together to form two square shapes; one for the base, and one for the top of the table.
  5. Standing the shutters up vertically, place the frame on top of the four shutters.
  6. Drill 2 screws (evenly spaced on each side) through the frame and into the top edge of the shutter to hold firm. Repeat on the other three sides.
  7. Turn the shutter over, and repeat the previous step.
  8. Finish the wood stretchers with the same paint or stain as the shutter.
  9. Have a glass store cut a 1/4-inch piece of glass for the tabletop that will fit inside the canvas stretcher’s beveled edge.

How to Paint Furniture (the short-cut way)

A couple of years ago my wife and I sold an old handmade pine book shelf in a yard sale.  We recently ran into the woman who bought it.  She’s a local artist and she was excited to tell us how she had used her painting talent to transform the once drab pine bookcase into a focal point in her entryway.  Now, why didn’t we think of that?!

As a house painter, I focus on painting siding, walls, ceiling and trim.  I tend to forget how easily you can freshen up a space by making over a piece of furniture.

Karla Nathan of Karla’s Cottage offers an easy tutorial on how to paint furniture the short-cut way.

Check out Karla’s before and after photos below.  Read her simple how-to instructions here.  In fact, they’re so easy that I might have to try it on a butler’s desk that’s been sitting in my garage for years!

Found on

BBQ Season – Is your deck ready?

May is National Barbecue Month, but here in New Hampshire the grilling season doesn’t get underway until Memorial Weekend.

Is your deck ready for outdoor entertaining season?

Unless your deck is made of a synthetic material, it requires maintenance.  First on your annual to-do list should be power-washing to remove mildew (a common problem in this area of New Hampshire), leaf and pollen stains, and dirt and debris.  Once the wood has dried, perform any maintenance that’s needed – like re-setting nails/screws, replacing rotted wood, etc.

Once you’ve cleaned your deck and gotten it up to snuff, it may be time to apply a preservative finish – like Sherwin-Williams DeckScapes Deck Stains.  DeckScapes Exterior Acrylic Solid Color Deck Stain provides a long-lasting, mildew-resistant coating for protecting most horizontal exterior wood surfaces.  Custom tinting is available.

DeckScapes stains are ON SALE through July 8 – $29.99 – at your local Sherwin-Williams store!

(Photo found on

Reclaim Crusty Paint

Squeeze more out of your home improvement dollar by reclaiming crusty paint.

You don’t have to toss out old paint just because it contains a few gooey globs or chips. Instead, filter out the bad bits with a disposable paint strainer. Two types of strainers are readily available at home centers and paint and hardware stores: the cone type and the mesh type, which does the job faster but is a bit messier to use. Keep in mind that old acrylic latex paint may not stand up to the elements as well as new paint. So if you have leftover exterior paint that’s more than four years old, play it safe and buy new paint. Better to spend a few bucks now than to scrape peeling paint later.

(Found on