Saturday, October 1, 2011

How to Recreate an Ugly Dorm Room

If you've been to college, chances are you're familiar with the horrible dorm rooms that most students are forced to live in. If you, like me, are one of those unfortunate students, then you know how hard it is to fix up a tiny room that you have to share with another person and two sets of ugly furniture in a way that actually makes it look nice and homey. After several years of doing this, I've accumulated some wisdom in this area. Here are my tips on how to make your dorm room comfy and pretty.

First off, this is what my dorm room this semester looked like when I moved in:

Lovely, I know. All that's missing is bars on the window. However, I picked this dorm because of one reason and one reason only: the rooms had exposed brick walls. I think that's a gorgeous aesthetic--especially when compared to the normal whitewashed cinderblock in most dorms.

This is what my room looks like now, along with my tips:

First of all, I'm only showing my side of the room and not my roommate's (mainly to respect her privacy). That's an important thing to think about, by the way: you'll most likely have a roommate, and you both will have to compromise about everything, including how your room looks. I was lucky enough that my roommate was okay with us using my rug that I'd hand-painted over the summer (I'll include a tutorial for that one day soon):

Sadly, what with two desks, two dressers, two beds, and two closets, there simply wasn't much room left over for my cheap but comfy butterfly chair that I got from Kohl's. It's just sort of awkwardly sitting next to my bed, taking up room. So here's another tip: Make sure you only bring what you know will fit. Dorm rooms are seriously TINY. You can always get more stuff from home later.

This brings me to my next point: Use the space that you do have wisely. Here's a picture of my desk:

As you can see in this somewhat messy photo (oops), I use my desk to store a lot of different things. My favorite books that I brought from home and books for my classes; perfume and a jewelry box; nail polish; folders and important papers; my Mac (of course); drawing and art supplies; and even some art and framed photos. It can be hard making it not look cluttered, like it does now since it's the end of a long, busy week, since this is the surface that I use the most in my room. Usually, though, it's really not hard to make it look a little more organized and aesthetically pleasing--trust me.

One easy (and cheap) way to organize your belongings is to get a bunch of those sticky hooks and put them all over your room for hanging things up. Here, I used them to hang up one of my framed pieces of art and my most-used purse, right next to the door for easy access.
It's not the prettiest way to hang things, but it is really easy and useful. Definitely invest in some of those.

Speaking of art, the best way to make your dorm room look more grown up and classy is to hang up a few well-chosen posters or prints. I have framed photographs, drawings and paintings of my own, and framed prints hanging up all over my room to add some visual interest. Posters are another popular way to go, especially in college. I would just recommend that you steer away from the ever-popular cliche posters that every college freshman has in their dorms, usually with someone like Marilyn Monroe or Bob Marley on them. Pick something that is unique and that really says something about who you are.
Personally, I love taking Polaroids, so I hung my small collection up on my closet door to make it look less boring. Also notice how I used those cheap hooks again to hang a mirror and my necklaces.

Another important reason for decorating your room with art is that, well, a lot of things in dorm rooms can be downright disgusting and you'll just have to be creative to deal with it. Take a look at my desk chair, for example:
I know. It made me want to puke too.

For me, there wasn't anything I could do about this horrible chair (it has a rocking feature too, which is the most annoying thing ever). Usually you're just stuck with the furniture that the dorm comes with. So in this case, I used a bit of ingenuity to make my chair prettier and comfier: I draped it with blankets. 
Simple and easy--and it looks so much better now, right?

You'll also want to make your bed look nice, as it's pretty much the focal point of the room and you'll be spending a lot of time there. I decorated the wall next to mine with art that I made, and I added a comfy throw and a small decorate pillow that I made out of an old purse. Also of importance is the bedspread that you choose.
Mine is just a simple white down comforter that I got from Kmart for $15. I personally prefer the look of white beds because it always looks so peaceful and inviting. If you go for color, though, make sure to remember once again that you will have a roommate. You don't want your two sides of the room to clash horribly, so sometimes it's a good idea to compare color schemes (although you don't have to go matchy-matchy, either). My roommate's bedspread is bright orange, and her sheets are hot pink. Maybe this doesn't go with the overall aesthetic of most of my side, but I do think it looks really cool with my black and white rug. So like I said before: compromise, be creative to fix the things you can control, and overall, don't sweat the small things that you can't. It's a dorm room; they're supposed to be kinda crappy. Isn't that part of the fun?

Extra tips for decorating your room:

  • Lighting is super, super important to think about, since most dorms have really awful fluorescent lighting. Definitely invest in a cheap floor lamp (mine was $10 from Target) and also a desk lamp is a good idea, for when your roommate's sleeping and you need to study.
  • Curtains go a long way to making your room look "finished" and homey. (I'm still trying to figure out how to get mine up.)
  • Twinkle lights (or Christmas lights) are a great way to give your room a magical, pretty look year-round. 
  • Get a foam mattress pad for your bed--it'll make the ancient dorm mattress way comfier, trust me.

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