How to Decorate a College Dorm

I've had a lot of experience decorating various college dorms since I lived in 5 different rooms during my four years in college. Two of those rooms were RA rooms and I saw lots of other residents' rooms as an RA. When you arrive at your dorm for the first time the empty blank walls can be very intimidating. Those four walls can feel more like a jail cell than a bedroom. But you can change that fast with just adding a few important items! Here are my ideas for how to decorate a dorm room easily. 

*Make sure you refer to your college's Housing Regulations to find out what you can and can't have.

1. The Bed

This was my second RA room. It was similar to a studio apartment with its own bathroom and kitchen.

The focal point of any dorm room is going to be the bed since that's what takes up the majority of the room. So if you want to make a statement, do it with your comforter. Choose something that represents you and that you will love looking at everyday. This should also be what determines the color pallet for your dorm so make sure you find one with colors that you can use throughout the room. I personally like to choose one with bright colors. Since the walls are so bare, throwing a bright comfy blanket onto the bed will instantly make you feel a little more at home. Try not to choose something too bland because it will blend into the rest of the room and you really want the bed to be the focal point. And of course choose matching pillow cases if you buy them separately. I'm a huge stuffed animal fan so I threw a few of those on my bed to personalize it even more. And yes, this means that you should make your bed everyday. Trust me, it makes you feel so much better when you walk into your room.

2. The Closet

At my college, every type of dorm room had an open closet. If you have an open closet, don't leave it open! Seeing all that clutter will detract from all the hard work you put into decorating it. So how do you close an open closet? A retractable curtain/shower rod and big curtain panels. This simple set up makes a world of difference. If you buy curtains that match your bed your room will look decorated with just those two items. And you will cover up any mess you create in your closet. It's a win-win. 


Before and After of my dorm senior year

3. The Walls

Most colleges won't allow you to nail things into the walls so sometimes you have to get creative. Command strips/hooks will be your best friend (just read the directions before you use them so you don't damage anything). You can use the strips to hang up posters, hooks for purses or necklaces and for heavier objects like a full length mirror, the velcro command strips work wonders. Usually, you can also use push pins in the walls since they create very small holes. I used push pins to hang up light picture frames, a calendar, and decorative lights. Wall decals are a fairly new product and those are also great to use! They're easy to put up and don't leave any marks when you take them down. Also, if you take care when taking them down, you can put them on wax paper and use them again when you move. I also really like the idea of doing a photo collage with Instagram pictures and you can put those up with regular tape. I never did this myself, but I've seen some pretty cool ones on Pinterest. Cork boards are also cool because you can pin up different types of items like pictures, event tickets, and grades. Make sure you check with your Housing Policies to see if there is a limit on wall decor.

4. The Storage

Since you will basically be living out of one small room, storage is super important. Without proper storage your room will be forever messy. And I don't know about you but messiness stresses me out. If you have to buy storage, you might as well use it to your advantage by purchasing things that can also be decor. I think the first step to buying the proper storage is to be honest with yourself. Seriously sit down and figure out what extra storage you think you will need besides the storage the room comes with. For me, I know I needed extra storage for clothes and shoes. I bought one of those plastic three drawer dressers and two shoe shelves that I could stack on top of each other (I wish I took a picture of my open closet but I never thought I would need it). Another thing I bought which I used for various things was a storage ottoman. I didn't use it too much as an actual ottoman but it blends into the room without looking like a storage container. And they usually come in different colors so it's just another way to add more color to a bland room. A nightstand is also something nice to buy so that you have a place to charge your phone and put drinks on while you're in bed. I chose a more practical nightstand but there are some pretty cute options out there. Make sure you also buy a laundry basket that can stand on its own and is open at the top. You want to make it as easy as possible to put your dirty clothes in the hamper. If you buy a hamper with a top your clothes will probably end up on the floor because laziness ensues you don't want to take that extra step to open the top.

5. The Space

When you first arrive at your new dorm, look around and figure out the best way to arrange the furniture to your advantage. Usually, the twin beds will be able to rise to add storage underneath. My freshman year, I raised my bed almost all the way up and I was able to fit my mini fridge under the bed which freed up a lot of room elsewhere. You also need create spaces for yourself. Make sure you have a distinct sleeping space and work space so that you can study and do homework without being distracted by everything else in your room. I prefer to put my desk at the window so that I'm not facing the TV. Also think about your decorations as you're rearranging. If you have a large poster or tapestry think about how that will look against the furniture. The more balance you create with the shapes in the room the more pleasing it will be.

As you spend more time in college, you will be collecting pictures and other decor. So keep this in mind when you first arrive. Leave some space for you to fill in as you experience new things and make new friends. At the end of the year you will have a blend of who you were when you arrived and how you changed.

Once you're done decorating initially, KEEP IT CLEAN. There's no point in spending so much time decorating if you never have a clean room to really appreciate it. And since the rooms are so small even a little bit of clutter can make the whole room feel like a mess. So clean as you go and make your bed everyday. Before college I hardly ever made my bed or cleaned my room but I started on day one of college. It feels so nice to walk into a clean and beautiful room after a stressful class and relax!



If you have any comments or questions leave them below or contact I would love to help if you need any ideas or recommendations. I moved so many times that I'm basically a pro at decorating. You can see how I used some of the same decorations and the same color scheme in all of my rooms. After four years, I finally got tired of green and now my bedroom in my apartment is dark blue and white. I'll probably post about how I decorated my first apartment too so keep checking if you would like to see that!