It was 25 years ago this month that my parents, brother, and I packed the family car and truck with all my stuff and rolled toward Maryville, MO. It seems like a lifetime ago. It was the first time I had ever lived on my own, in a town I had only visited twice before, sharing a small room with a person I did not know. I remember it so vividly, unloading my stuff into a steamy, unairconditioned room, each trip up the stairs to the second floor asking myself over and over: How am I going to live here? Do I have everything I need? Is this place always going to smell like this? Is my roommate going to be decent? Ugh! I had so many doubts, but one thing I was all about was decorating my dorm room. My parents left me with some cash, a bank card and a quick lecture about budgeting. As I walked back to my dorm room after watching them drive away, I saw a sign on a bulletin board that said, “LOFT bed for sale, $50”, with a tear off number at the bottom of the page. I grabbed the number and called immediately. The sellers were happy to get rid of the bed, but they lived across campus and had no way to get it to me. I asked a random truck owner in the parking lot of Hudson Hall to help me out and he did. I put the bed together myself with a small screwdriver. I really wanted that bed and I went without spending money for the next two weeks so I could buy it. Ahh, good times…good times….
It’s August, yall! This is the month all the kiddos go back to school. That’s gotta make you smile. The college age kiddos are my focus today though, more specifically, their dorm rooms. A well decorated dorm room may not be the most important part of the college experience, but it is important to have a comfortable spot to study and relax. So, in a way, a well decorated dorm room can improve grades. I may be reaching here, but maybe, right? We’ll go with it. So, how does one bring an empty, sad, room to life? Well, today I’m going to list the 9 items I believe are necessary to making a dorm room feel cozy, happy, and homey, homie.
#1. Colorful and Comfortable Bedding
I had the best time decorating my dorm room. I bought a gorgeous blue comforter with colorful fish all over it and tie dyed sheets to match. That might not be so cool now but back then, believe me, it was super cool. Anyway, colorful, comfy bedding is essential in giving your blank canvas of a dorm room some life. By bedding, I’m referring to: a comforter, sheets, pillows, throws. You may be able to coordinate bedding with your roommate to really pull the look together, but if not, remember half the room is yours so you can do whatever you want.
Since the focus should be on learning in college, a desk lamp is a must have. If there is decent natural light in your dorm room, a 60-watt lamp is perfect. If you’re lacking natty light (see what I did there?) you should bump the wattage up to 75 or add overhead ambient lighting. LED string lights are another fun way to add some mood lighting to your space.
#3. A Comfortable Chair
This comfy chair I speak of does not need to be a desk chair. If you have a loft bed, the underneath area should have plenty of room, perfect for a chair. Papasan Chairs are a great dorm room option. It will be nice to have somewhere other than your bed to sit.
Look, you don’t want to walk on a cold hard tile floor the entire school year. An area rug is a fantastic way to add some texture and warm the place up. Your room just won’t be complete without a rug.
#5. Storage Options
What I’m referring to here are bins and baskets to put your stuff in. If said bins and baskets are visible you may want to consider coordinating them with the rest of your room décor. Organization is key to keeping a small space livable. You’ll need something to put your personal care items, snacks, school supplies, and various desk items in to keep them out of sight. A laundry basket for the closet is also a pretty good idea.
#6. A Good Mirror
It’s true, mirrors can make a space appear larger than it really is. Function is important in this case also. A full-length mirror can be helpful when getting ready for the day and attaching it to the back of a closet door adds the illusion of space to the room. Boom! A two for one.
#7. Peel and Sticks
There are paint restrictions in some dorm rooms and most dorm room walls are cement. So not only can you not paint the room, but you can’t hang things that would require a nail in the wall either. There are ways around this though. Enter peel and sticks. There are so many options in this area and Etsy is a fabulous place to search. Your local craft store may have some items in stock as well. Command strips are also helpful in this situation. You could even consider hanging a large colorfully patterned scarf or altered sheet to give the walls some umph. Back in my day, posters were the thang. I am a Larry Bird fan from way back and had a 5 ft. poster of Larry hanging on the ceiling above my bed. Once, in the middle of the night, the poster fell off the ceiling and on top of a sleeping me and I freaked out so bad I nearly fell off my loft bed. Lesson here: if you hang a poster on the ceiling above your bed make sure it’s not coming down easily.
#8. Party Goods
Not that kind of party goods, but party goods, you know, the decorative stuff. Hanging lanterns and paper poufs from the ceiling and draping colorful garland across your windows is a festive way to decorate your room on the cheap.
#9. A MESSAGE BOARD
OK, so a message board is not essential, but it’s a great way to keep you motivated or smiling, depending on the message displayed. I’m a big fan of message boards and using them to decorate a space. A chalk board, cork board, or dry erase board, are some other great options.
I’m sure there are a thousand other things that could be considered “essential” to making a dorm room feel comfortable, but these are my high-level favorites. What did I miss? Add your thoughts to the comments section below. You can also check out dormessentials.com for some great ideas. Best of luck to all the college goers out there in your swanky dorm rooms. Have a fabulous school year!!