Dorm Design

ConferoHow to survive college living in style.

By Christopher Confero   

Last month I talked about how high school students could integrate their personal styles into their wardrobes for the school year. I got great feedback, so I wanted to continue and elevate the conversation for new college students who will be diving into dorm life. Now, I have to admit, I never lived in a dorm. I always had a studio apartment, but it wasn’t much larger than any dorm room. So this month’s article will be written so you can apply my advice to either scenario. You don’t have to break the bank or be a design star to have a unique and stylish dorm or apartment. All it takes is a little ambition, effort, and execution to make sure you enjoy your new college living.

Get Inspired

You’re finally out of the nest! This will be your first time to express who you are as a young adult and create a sense of space with (almost) no rules. Pinterest is an endless fountain of inspiration for college living. You can find DIY tips and tricks, items to purchase, and even see fully finished spaces. Beyond that, many retail stores will also do a great job with displays that will give you direction. Stores such as Target, Ikea, or CB2 (Crate and Barrel’s more modern line) can provide you with stylish solutions that don’t break the bank. Don’t get overwhelmed and either give up or go overboard. Stay calm and focused. You will be much happier—plus you’ll work harder once you’ve personalized your new space.

Make a List

Start with things that you absolutely need for your new college life. Use good judgment and common sense, and make your list in order of importance. Just because you want that turquoise and tangerine side table doesn’t mean it will fit in a small space or that you will like it three months from now. If you are in a dorm, you’ll only need basic items such as sheets, pillows, blankets, mattress protectors, and a few decorative items.

Before you waste any time, find out what is prohibited. Many schools do not allow hot plates, toaster ovens, and space heaters, and they surely won’t let you paint any walls. All of the no-nos should be easily found in an orientation guide. Once you’ve made your dream list of pretty pieces, be realistic. You have to think of function and form. Space is going to be extremely tight in a dorm room. Keep in mind that clothing and textbooks will have to take priority over your pretty new knickknacks.

If you are following in my footsteps and going the apartment route, then you’ll be responsible for the things I just mentioned and the larger items: beds, dressers, sofas, tables, TVs, etc. Here is where you can really bring in some design elements and personal style.

Just like with most dorms, most apartments do not allow you to paint the walls. It’s not something I boast, but in that regard, I always asked for forgiveness rather than permission. I always knew I would never get a security deposit back, and it was totally worth it. No matter if it you decide on all calming neutrals or go bold with a splash of colors, painting the walls is the easiest and cheapest way to personalize your new pad. Lastly, it wasn’t something I was keen on, but if design just isn’t a big deal to you, be sure to ask if there is any furniture that comes with the apartment. There are plenty that come furnished and move-in ready.

Think Ahead

Consider how long you will be in your new place. Will you be living in the space for one semester, which requires a complete move out after just five months, or will you be spending the entire school year on campus? Remember that less you bring in, the easier you’ll have it when it is time to pack  up and move out. If you live on campus, having too much stuff can be problematic if you have a long journey home. Just as I did years ago, college students tend to move frequently, so it makes sense to keep things light and portable. It sounds so nerdy, but I kept a short inventory list of the pieces I had in my apartment. It made it super easy to keep up with things during a move. Sometimes, I would take things with me or I would pass them along to a friend if I’d realized I didn’t want it anymore.

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