Most college dorm rooms are small, cramped, and devoid of style. A blank slate to decorate and make your own, but only if you play by the rules. Most dorms won’t allow you to paint, nail, or attach anything permanent to the walls, floor, or ceiling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t decorate — you just have to be smart about it. Here are some economical ways to help you trick out your dorm room and make it your own.
1. Hang a photo mural on your wall. A printable wall mural will make your college dorm room feel much larger without the cost of paint or wallpaper. This is a great way to cover an entire wall quickly and easily, without damaging the paint. All you need is a high resolution photo you like on a flash drive and a copy shop that can blow it up to wall size for you. Whether you print your photo mural on fabric or paper, you can attach it to the wall using painter’s tape or double sided tape with removable adhesive. When it’s time to move or change out your décor, simply remove your mural from the wall, roll it up and store it for later use.
2. Make a custom doormat from old tee shirts. All you need is a flat doormat, 5 to 6 favorite tee shirts you don’t mind cutting up, a hot glue gun and some glue. Cut your tee shirts into 2 inch wide strips starting from the bottom. Cut these strips into four sections and tie a knot in the center of each section. Place a strip of hot glue along the edge of your doormat and place the knotted sections a quarter inch apart in the hot glue. Make another row of hot glue underneath the first row one inch below the first row and continue to add glue and knotted shirt sections until the doormat is covered.
3. Frame your photos and wall decorations with washi tape. To give your favorite photos some pizzazz and bring them all together, use washi tape to frame them on your wall. This tape won’t damage your walls and is easily removable, so you can change out your photos any time you want to showcase something new.
4. Don’t decorate all at once. Since you won’t know what your roommate thinks is cool in the way of room décor, start with just a few of your favorite things and decorate as time goes on. Purchase the things you know you’ll need right away then wait to check out your space before you buy more. There’s no rule that says your dorm room has to be fully furnished by the end of move-in day.
5. Shop garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores for unique items. Why go generic and get the same desk lamp everyone else has when you can find something unique for cheaper than retail? Finding cute items that speak to you at the thrift store will save you money and pretty much guarantees your room will be unique. Hit up the garage sales in the rich neighborhoods around town and you can grab up some quality items at great savings and shop the thrift stores on their half off days to score big. Don’t forget to ask about student discounts!
6. Hang a tapestry to warm up the room. If you’re not into doing a photo mural, a tapestry is another way to cover an entire wall with color and design, which is always more fun than staring at a boring cinderblock wall. Can’t find a tapestry you like? Make your own with a white sheet and some dye. Tie dying a sheet is fun and easy, and you can choose to either cover your wall or use as your bedspread.
7. Use soft lighting. Overhead fluorescent dorm lights are harsh, so using fairy lights and adding a few lights with lower wattage bulbs, colored lampshades, or even tinted light bulbs is a great way to soften the room while still having enough light to study by. Use washi tape, two sided tape, or command hooks to hang your lights securely without damaging your dorm room walls.
8. Add plants for a touch of nature. Soften your room with plants to bring some life and color to your dorm. Don’t have a green thumb? Consider succulents or other low maintenance plants that require little light, such as coleus, pothos, or ivy plants.
9. Get throw rugs for your floors. Throw rugs are a wonderful way to give a room color and make it feel more inviting and warm. College dorm rooms usually have bare, cold floor, or old rugs that probably never get washed. Nobody wants to walk on those! Cover them up with a colorful area rug you can pick up at a carpet warehouse in the remnant section.
10. Use wall decals for decoration. Wall decals are a great way to add pops of color and design to your walls, and they’re made to remove easily without causing damage. You can choose a theme, go for solid colors you can mix and match, or even get decals you can write on to leave yourself reminders, inspirational messages, or communicate with your roommate.
11. Choose multi-functional items. A shoe organizer that hangs on the back of your door can be for more than just shoes. Use those pockets to hold your health and beauty care items like shampoo and conditioner bottles, your hair dryer, curling iron, makeup, and hair accessories. Milk crates are another great multi-purpose storage idea. Use them for shoes under your bed, stand them upright for binders and folders, use them to keep your books together, or store your dishes inside and put your coffee maker on top. Choose one color for a cohesive look or pick up several different colors to mix and match around your room for pops of color.
It goes without saying that most college students don’t have a lot of money to spend on decorating their dorm rooms, but still want to put their own stamp on their college living space. Using one or more of the above tips will help you make your space your own without spending a lot of money and won’t leave you with a bill for messing up your dorm room walls.