Dorm decor hacks for a stylish semester

Pinterest boards, Tumblr tags, extreme room makeover videos and overflowing online Bed Bath and Beyond carts are truly the bane of dorm decorating. They set unrealistic expectations of what you can do on a budget. Plus, they’re typically unreasonable for college students who are going to be moving every nine months.

When decorating your dorm, practicality needs to come first, then style. Luckily, there are easy ways to make your room everything your heart desires without breaking the bank or your back by move out day.

Going into my third and final year of university, I’ve learned about the thin balance of keeping things cute and keeping things easy. I’ve gone from walk-in closets to no space at all, full size beds to twin XLs and paying for laundry to ensuite washer and dryer. I’ve learned to adjust.

Here are some of my dorm decor tips featuring my on-campus humble abode for the year:


Photo by Mohammd F Emran

Maximizing closet space is a must. If you have a dresser, push it to the side to make room for spare items, like an iron, or longer pieces of clothing. Keep plastic bins filled with off-season items under your bed. Trust me, you’ll want clear plastic bins instead of something cute because the contents are visible.

Also, keep foldable clothing items in closed drawers so you can use any shelving for miscellaneous items. You can buy small bins or shelf dividers to keep things even more organized. Lastly, use the top of your dresser as a place for cute personal items or your everyday beauty essentials so they are in arm’s reach.

Pro tip: For awkward corners that serve no real purpose, try catty-cornering a picture.


Photo by Mohammd F Emran

To keep yourself from staring at blank walls during late night study sessions, fill them with cute and practical items. You’ll want a full body mirror, but skip making large holes in the wall by propping it up with decorative storage. Decorative bins will not only look nice, but you can keep things like spare school supplies or electronics in them.

A unique way to bring a pop of color into your room is to toss a rug on the wall. Yes, a rug… on the wall. It’s better than your basic tapestry. Choose one that is lightweight and matches your theme. Hold it up with small nails. Also, be sure to warm up your room with another area rug – this time, on the floor.

Pro tip: If you happen to put a hole or two in your wall, fill them in with toothpaste at the end of your stay.


Photo by Mohammd F Emran

I can tell you that your bed is most likely going to be the focal point of your dorm. It’s where you’ll sleep, watch movies and gossip with friends. So, make sure it’s comfortable. Having lots of plush pillows will make it so that everyone who comes to hang has something to lean on. Instead of buying multiple throw pillows, buy a few and just swap out pillow covers for a different look depending on your mood. This’ll also help you spice up your room over the years, as you’ll probably keep the same decor throughout your college career.

Pro tip: University buildings tend to be super chilly. Be sure to have a spare blanket or two that can move from bed to desk to class.


Photo by Mohammd F Emran

Second to your bed, your desk is where you will spend the most time. It’s a place where some of your best (and most definitely, your worst) work will come. Keep it inspirational with easy-to-grab supplies and lots of personal mementos. Also, DIYs are essential for dorm decor. Pick a word or phrase that is relevant to you – I chose “write” because I’m a writer, obvi – and, using Mod Podge as a glue and sealant, cover wooden letters with patterned tissue paper.

Another quick DIY simply involves recycled juice bottles and a couple fake flowers. Toss the flowers in the clean juice bottles to bring some life (that doesn’t require water or adequate sunlight) to the room. How do you keep them on the wall? 3M Command Strips. Know ’em, buy ’em, love ’em.

Pro tip: If your Command Strips won’t stick, it may be due to humidity. Consider waiting another day to ventilate your room, or pick up a dehumidifier.