10 Dorm Room Decor Tips That won't Break The Rules
Going to college can be scary – it means moving away from home, leaving behind high school friends, and starting a new, more grown-up life. But it also means making new friends, growing more independent and responsible, and figuring out what you want in life. However, whether you stay in a rented apartment, your parent’s house, or a dorm room, one thing should never change – where you sleep, do your homework and hang out should be a homey and cozy place.
In this article, we have compiled 10 easy ideas on how to decorate your dorm room to make it a homey place while not breaking any dorm room rules (we know, they can be strict!). May the decorating begin!
Here are some ground rules to keep in mind before you start decorating:
Settle on style.
You need to decide what kind of style will your room represent. Is it boho, minimalism, classical?
Will there be a theme?
Consider if you want your room to have a theme, for example, nature, plants, Harry Potter, Math or anything else.
Create a mood board.
Once you have decided on the style or a theme, create a mood board to see how it all looks together. You will be able to draw inspiration from it as well as it can help you decide what decors to purchase.
Plans always help execute tasks better. So once you have a style, theme, and mood board, plan what will you tackle first and in what order!
And now on to the decor ideas!
1. Bedding, throws, and pillows
Let’s start easy! One thing where to start when decorating your dorm room is your bed.
Definitely start your bed makeover with pretty bedsheets. Whether you have them from home or you purchased them just for your dorm room, cute bedsheets that make you smile will have a great impact on your sleep as well as on the overall room aesthetic. That’s OK if you cover them with bedcover during the day, however, it will be the best feeling to snuggle in a cloud of beautiful bedsheets at night.
This is a must to keep your room looking chic and put together. This is also a moment when to look at your mood board to choose a bedcover that will go perfectly with your room theme. Regardless of the theme we recommend going for a one-color bedcover (but keep in mind your theme’s color scheme) and then decorating it with colorful and/or printed pillows or throws.
Pillows are the decor element that can let the room theme shine at its finest. Pillows are easy to experiment with as they are not a huge investment financially and it is easy to switch them up to have a completely different look. You can purchase pillows on sales, in second-hand shops, or even make them yourself. Pillows will make your bed area look cozy, warm, and thought of.
Throws as same as pillows are easy to exchange regarding the season or if the room theme changes. They are also useful for midday naps and movie nights with friends or your college sweetheart. And they will make your bed area look just like from Pintereset moodboard – stylish and elegant.
2. Peel and Stick Wallpaper
Peel and stick wallpaper is a renter’s (or dorm room owner’s) dream. It looks amazing and gives the room a definition and fashionable feel. And the best part – it is easy to apply and remove, and it does not leave anything on the walls after removal.
You can choose to do one accent wall and leave other walls as they are, or you can do one accent wall but use more subtle removable wallpaper on other walls.
You can also use removable wallpaper as regular wallpaper and apply a pretty but unobtrusive printed wallpaper to all walls to go for a homey look that goes with your style or theme.
The options are really limitless as well as the prints to choose from. No matter the theme, you can definitely find something that will suit your look. And the fun part, you can change the wallpaper as you grow as a personality! One for freshman year, one for the second year, and one for senior year.
If you choose to do just one thing with your dorm room walls, we highly recommend looking into the peel and stick wallpaper options. You will not regret it!
3. Wall decor – is it possible?
This is a tricky one. Is it even possible to hang something on the walls without damaging them with holes? No one wants to pay the extra charges at the end of the school year for damaging dorm property.
In short words, yes, it is possible. However, it will take some creativity and different tools than you are used to.
Meet your first best friend on your hole-free wall journey. These hooks are made from plastic with adhesive on the back. The adhesive usually won’t damage the wall but we would still recommend checking it yourself on a small, imperceptible area.
Command hooks are best used for heavy object hanging (like mirrors or corkboards) or if you need an extra hook where to hang your coat or towel. For smaller objects, there are other options that might work even better.
You can buy different-looking command hooks, even with a metallic finish or decorative look. They don’t have to be white and ugly, they can also be used as a design element and show-cased properly.
Command or sticky tape strips.
These strips will stick to the object you want to hang and to the wall. They are great to hang pictures, posters, and other small wall decors.
Removing Command hooks and strips.
Applying them is easy – just remove the protective paper layer and stick them where you want them. Removing adhesive products, however, might take some effort.
First of all, don’t just tear them straight off towards yourself. Doing that might actually damage the wall. With Command hooks you want to start by slowly but steadily pushing on the hook from the top, in parallel to the wall. It should slowly come off that way.
With command and sticky tape strips, you also want to start by slowly pulling them down in parallel to the wall. Since the strips have a different structure than hooks, that might not work, so you can try using a blowdryer to heat the adhesive and then pull the strip down. To be even more careful, after using the blowdryer you can use dental floss or fishing line to remove the strips. Just place the string between the wall and the strip and pull it down.
The main thing to remember – do not panic and approach the removal process with a cool mind.
Another option when it comes to hanging something on the walls is mounting putty. It looks like gum (but is not gum!) and you can use it to hang light objects, like postcards, photos, etc. If you use enough mounting putty, you can even hang a frame.
It is really easy to use mounting putty and just as easy to remove. Just remember, that it won’t stick so hard as command strips, so use it for small and lightweight objects.
When hanging frames in your dorm room, remove the glass. That will make them more lightweight and if something happens, and they fall down, the glass won’t break and less damage will be done.
4. Decorating walls
Now that you know how to add decorative elements to your dorm room wall without damaging it, you can have fun with it!
Here are ideas of what you can do.
Create a gallery wall.
This is a place where you can compile all of your favorite pictures. Print them out or use cutouts from magazines. You can also check thrift stores for old cards or small artwork. The gallery wall can be made from personal pictures as well as from other images that bring you joy and inspiration.
Don’t be scared to experiment and use diverse objects for the gallery wall. Add some surprising elements like figurines, magnets, records, or small wall hangings. Just remember to arrange all this art on the wall in a way that is appealing to the eye.
Woven wall hanging is perfect for a boho room style. You can buy it but you can also create one! It is an easy DIY project, that will look fantastic in your boho dorm room.
If you are someone who enjoys wearing hats, you can store them as a wall decoration. Just use command hooks and hang your hats on them.
Paper flowers are no longer a decoration just for the classroom. You can buy a flower creation kit and have beautiful paper flowers displayed on a wall. It is perfect for spring decorations when everything starts to bloom.
Depending on your dorm rules, you might be able to bring some furniture and use that instead of the initial dorm room furnishings. If you have that option, use it!
That way you can choose a stylish-looking desk for doing your homework, a cute bed frame, standing shelves that have both proper storage and looks good, etc. Even if you are not allowed to remove any furniture, if the space allows, you can always add something – for example, a shoe rack or standing shelves for dishes or books.
However, if you don’t have the option to use your own furniture or add anything else, no worries, with the right decor, you can make any room homey and hide all the ugly dorm room features with beautiful, tasteful decorations.
6. Boxes, containers, and baskets
It is amazing what you can store in a box or a basket. Starting with clothes and ending with books. And everything else in between. You can buy boxes and baskets in big storage shops or buy them second-hand from thrift stores or the Facebook marketplace.
Boxes, containers, and baskets are not only good for organization, they also can be used as decors. And of course, a tidy place always looks cozier and cuter than a messy one.
Small boxes and containers.
Small containers are perfect for desk organization. You can have one for stationery, one for chords, one for face and/or hand creams, one for make-up, one for tea or cutlery, etc. Anything that roams freely on your desk, bed, or sill, you can group in a small box or container by category.
These are great for storing bigger things. For example, your technology, like headphones and hard drive, or books and notebooks. If you have shelves, you can use medium boxes as drawers to hide the unnecessary mess.
Big boxes and containers.
If there is free space under your bed, use it for storage! Depending on your room size and arrangement, you can store there things you don’t use often. Or do just the opposite! Use it as additional closet space and store there your clothing and other items. If you do that, just make sure you can easily access anything that is stored under the bed.
Contrary to boxes, baskets firstly feel like decorative elements, then like organizational items. Baskets are perfect for gym equipment storage, for storing your creative projects, or even books. You can also use tiny baskets for storing small things that float around your surfaces. Just make sure the baskets you choose go well with your room theme and remember that round baskets will take up more space than squared ones.
If your dorm room already has a curtain rod, that’s amazing! If not, you can definitely ask your dorm room manager can you install one, and even though it requires drilling, the manager might be OK with that.
Why is it important?
Curtains serve not only as a practical element that helps you have some privacy and have a good day's sleep after a night out, but they also can be the element that brings the room together. Any room with curtains looks homier!
Since curtains sometimes can be on the pricey side, and as a student most likely you don’t have the most excessive budget, check thrift stores for fabric or even curtains, as well as fabric store’s sale section. You might find there what you are looking for!
When choosing curtains make sure they go with your room theme and other elements you have already installed, like the removable wallpaper or bedding. It is best to choose curtains with a simple pattern that will go well together with the majority of the room decor.
8. Floor decor
There is nothing cozier than a cute, fluffy rug. Floor decor is perfect for a dorm room as it gives all the feels, but doesn’t require any additional installation like, for example, wall hangings.
There is one thing to keep in mind though, you will need a vacuum cleaner to keep your rug clean and free of dirt and other crumbs on daily basis. There might be a vacuum cleaner available at your dorm for common use or you can invest in a hand vacuum that should be enough for a dorm room-sized rug. You can also use it to clean your car and other small areas, so it might come in handy not just for vacuuming the rug.
Have fun decorating the floor! You can layer rugs, choose different patterns and fabrics, and experiment with shapes. As always though, keep in mind your room theme and mood board. You want all your room decor to have a coherent look.
Bring on the plants! Greenery will make your room look so much more alive and fresh. You don’t have to have a lot of plants, just add greenery here and there. If you are afraid you might not be able to take care of the plants, just go for fake ones. Nowadays there are some amazing fake plant options that will look even better than real ones. Real plants, however, will add the additional benefit of releasing oxygen and pumping that into your room, so if you think you could take care of some real plant babies, go for it!
10. Light elements – lamps and fairy lights
Nothing sets the mood like the right lighting. You might have a ceiling lamp installed, and most likely you are not allowed to touch it, but you can always add more light elements.
Definitely have a desk lamp. You will need it to have good lighting when you are studying. Your eyes will thank you!
You can also invest in a bedside lamp. You can use it when watching a movie or having a more calm feeling in the environment.
Fairy lights make everything better. Have them hung all around the room or placed on shelves. You can choose battery-powered fairy lights, so you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet.
Don’t wait too long until you make your dorm room your own. It is your home for the next few years after all! But don’t worry if you cannot fully decorate your room in one take, that’s normal too. Just make sure you are keeping your eyes open for the decor you want, and adding it one by one.