If you have ever stepped foot in a college dorm room, then you know how bland it is, and you have probably thought, “This place could use some freshening up.” However, there are some problems… you cannot knock out walls, you cannot paint the room a different color, (for most residence halls) you cannot even put nails in the wall, and you don not have the biggest budget. I know this because I am in college, so, I want to give you some tips on making your dorm room feel like home on a small budget. But before I do, I want to acknowledge that not everyone is lucky enough like me (I have a whole room to myself), most college students are living with at least one other roommate, but that does not mean you cannot make it feel like home. If you have a roommate, just discuss the decor decisions with them, find things that are a compromise between both of your desires and things that are unique to each of you.
Alright, here we go! Here are some tips on making your dorm room feel like home.
1. Focal Point
If you ask any designer, they will tell that having a focal point in your home is a must have (it’s one of the most basic design principles). In a home, the focal point is usually the fireplace, but in a dorm room there is not a focal point already built in the room. So, how do you remedy this problem? You create one. Before I tell you about the focal point that I created for my dorm room, let me say that the focal point can be modified, even moved. The best way to help decide the focal point is to ask friends to come into your room and to ask them this question, “Where do you automatically look when you enter the room?”
Alright. How did I create a focal point in my dorm room? I had a table custom made (Hint: I had the table made so it is multi-purpose. It is also a storage trunk and it is low enough to be used both as an ottoman and desk). Here is what it looks like unfinished:
Here is some of the thought processing I had when I stained and painted this table: I wanted this to match the color of the brown carpet of my dorm room, so it kind of would blend in with the carpet. If it is made to blend with the floor, how is it the focal point? The focal point of this really comes from the color contrast of the table. I painted the “x” on the front and back and the middle vertical piece on the sides white. I also made it to where it kind of looks like an old trunk that was restored by purposely making and leaving imperfections. Here is what it looks finished and in my dorm room:
2. Natural and Warm Lights.
Most dorm rooms do not have the best light sources. And if you get lucky like I was, all of the wall outlets are on one side of the room. So, how do you get a homie feel in a dorm room that has a bright LED light and limited wall outlets? First, do not block out the sun. Natural light is the first source of making a home feel like a home. Allow as much sun in the room as you possibly can. I am blessed to have a decent sized window in my dorm room, and I take advantage of it… as soon as I get dressed, I pull the blinds up even on cloudy days (there is still natural light on cloudy days) and I close the blinds when I go to bed.
When it comes to artificial light, I chose a warm light bulb with an expansive distance since I could only have lamps on one side of the room. The floor lamps in the picture below are the only lights that I have on all the time. When I was choosing my floor lamps, I actually tried to recreate the feeling I got when I would sit in my high school choir teacher’s office (she never turned the ceiling light, but she had multiple desk lamps on at all times which made it feel warm and inviting, and a great place to take a nap).
Harmony is another basic principle of design. And no, I am not talking about the harmony of a song… although I do listen to music a lot when I decorate. In interior design, harmony essentially means to match things. What looks the same? Harmony can be achieved in many different forms. It can be done through color, patterns, furniture, lighting, and etc. In my dorm room, I created harmony mostly through color.
I used the same picture frame on the table decor that I used for my wall pictures, and I used the same two floor lamps.
4. What is Home?
Now, the answer to this question is different to everyone. This question is not about what the facts are behind what makes a home, but rather the question is, “What makes me feel at home?” If you can answer this question, it will help you establish a plan to configuring your dorm room in a way that makes you feel like you never left the home you grew up in. Unfortunately, I had to compromise some things. Home to me means that there is a kitchen and living room with an open floor plan, bedroom, and bathroom. My dorm room does not have a kitchen, so I had to create my own kitchen using small appliances which was an easy thing to accomplish. However, I had to compromise when it came to my idea of home having an open floor plan that connects the kitchen and living room. Because of the location of the sink, I wanted to hide the cords of my appliances, and I wanted to create additional seating in case I every had a movie night in my room, I decided to put my bed in the middle of my room which my futon sits in front to achieve all the goals I wanted to have in my dorm room. Here’s what it looks like:
Those are the tips that are like the “necessaries” to making your dorm room feel like home, but I want to give you a bonus tip.
1. Develop a decorating style/theme
I feel like I am contradicting myself because one of the first things that we do as designers is establish a client’s preferred decorating style. Do they like a contemporary home, a traditional home, or a gothic home? But I don’t think this is a necessary for a dorm room because for most college dorm rooms, there is an eclectic style due to budgeting reasons. However, if you say, “I want my room to have an Art Deco style,” then you will be able to better establish a focal point and establish harmony because you will know colors, decor, and furniture that will fit the style of Art Deco. And that’s what I did. I wanted my room to have a nautical/ship feeling, so I used colors and decor that represented the sea and and ships. I even created an ocean in a mason jar that sits in tray that’s on my table.
There is no doubt that you will probably have to spend some money to make your dorm room feel like home, but the good news is that you do not have to spend a lot to make your dorm room feel like home. Now that I have said that, you’re probably wondering how much I spent on my dorm room? I don’t remember the exact amount but I believe I spent somewhere between $300-$450. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it wasn’t spent all at one time and most of it was the expense of staining and painting my table and new floor lamps. The good news is that I could have achieved the same design goals with less money, but I was willing to spend a large amount to achieve my design goals, so I did (I even had to cut myself off). How much you spend on achieving your design goals for your dorm room is solely your decision.
I hope these tips help you feel more at home while you’re at college, especially if you’re a freshman in college because a new life away from your family can be difficult. If you have any questions about making your dorm room feel like home, leave a comment and I will answer any and all questions.