The DIY Dorm Décor Guide: Things Not To Do When Decorating


Here we go again…another year at MC, and whether this is your first year or you are a returning for another semester in the Riverdale trenches we all have one thing in common…dorms (or at least similar tiny living spaces). These little spaces can either be just a room where one exists, or a home where one can be tranquil and thrive. While dorm rooms and their decorating is a completely personal thing, there are also definitely some DON’TS for dorm décor that are pretty standard across the board. While some of these may seem a little strange, they definitely will help transform your space from average to extraordinary.

A comfortable dorm in Horan Hall. Photo by Luke Hartman
A comfortable dorm in Horan Hall. Photo by Luke Hartman


1. Don’t make your dorm a moratorium of memories past.                                                    

Yes memories of high school are a great thing and yes reminders of home can be exactly what you need sometimes to get you through a tough situation….but if your dorm is chalked full of all the memorabilia of your past life you are essentially anchoring yourself to your past. College (especially for freshman) is all about reinvention and discovering new things. While a few small or important high school and hometown things are almost an essential to a dorm, doing a whole wall collage of you and your friends in your senior year is not going to make this hard transition any easier. A décor tip to mentally help you be open to new experiences is to keep your décor open as well. If you have a collage from high school, hang a blank corkboard or piece of poster board next to it, and reserve it for odds and ends or pictures from the semester ahead.  This also goes for how you decorate your room. Don’t necessarily feel the need to decorate in your usual favorite color scheme, or with posters of favorite movies. Try something new and explore new interests and tastes. Take the time to physically remind yourself to live in the moment, in the future and not be tanked to the past.

2. Don’t feel limited by décor clichés, small budgets, or miniscule spaces.                     

Every aspect of dorm decorating can be challenging and stressful, and a great way to alleviate this is to think outside the box. Yes of course you could just head to Bed Bath and Beyond and pick up all the stuff they offer and lump yourself with every other basic college student across the country. This is the easy way out and as mentioned previously…it is a way to exist but not necessarily enjoy your dorm. Look past the shelves of mass produced stuff and ask “How can I make that myself, or make it in my own style?” The other problem with this stuff is that it can add up really quick and take a devastating toll on the bank account. REPURPOUSE, REPURPOUSE, REPURPOUSE!!! This is the best way to really make your dorm feel your own. Tear through the nearest thrift shop or garage sale and find something really unique and restore it. Make art pieces that you can call your own and it doesn’t matter if they are hideous as long as you love it. Lastly, look at your dorm as a blank canvas and not the small square box it is. Work with your roommate for the best solution! Two heads are better than one and this way you can come up with a creative and comfortable living situation that maximizes space. “There are more furniture arrangements than one would think,” an article about dorm décor on HGTV said.


3. Don’t refuse to make compromises and be flexible.                                                       

Yes, the R word was mentioned….roommate. The entities we all love to hate. The easiest way to ensure that you are going to have a tranquil and homey space is to go into the decorating process with an open mind and an attitude of flexibility. While you do own half the room you don’t want it to be a design or personal war between the two sides. Make them coherent, even if it means giving up a bit of your personal vision. To the eye, even if everything isn’t exactly how you wanted it, congruency or even consistency will make you feel mentally more stable than two sides that are completely contrasting. Also know that probably all of your dorm dreams and plans are not going to work out. Be ready to have to change things around a few times to get it to how you wanted. It usually turns out that how it ends up is much better than your initial vision.


4. Don’t accept things for what they are.                                                                          

While you need to be ready to compromise also don’t be complacent and do nothing. Challenge the boundaries and transform things in anyway you can. Anything can be reinvented and turned into something else. Walls are your blank canvas. Spice them up with easy stick on decals, or custom art. Literally though you can make the walls your canvas. Put together pieces of poster board and go wild and take collaging or doodling to a whole new level. One would be amazed at how much of a difference just a few changes can make.


5. Don’t be afraid to take risks and be creative.                                                             

Simple as that! Pick a bolder version of your favorite color, and push your comfort zone. Find a loud and funky printed tapestry. Use your walls and height! Your dorm may not be huge in space but you have height. Stack things and go vertical. Tall bookshelves or cabinets can be a lifesaver. Add a hutch over your bed or desk to give you extra storage. This creatively gives you more space and something different that sets your space apart.  Your dorm should be an expression of yourself, and at the end of the day you want to be able to walk through the door and feel instantly relaxed and cozy. Decorate in a way that suits you and don’t stop until you are utterly satisfied. This may take time and you may really have to dig deep into your creative reserves, but it really is so worth it at the end of the day.