Do up your dorm: A college grad’s tips to spice up your seemingly lifeless new living space

Cassie Neiden

The best part about your new “home away from home” is being able to make it your own. If you are living in the dorms, there isn’t much space to work with. And chances are you’ll be sharing that cramped space with at least one other person. Not to worry, however. There are plenty of tips to maximize this space to make it your own cozy oasis. From out-of-the-box DIY ideas to products that will simplify your life, I’ve compiled a list of creative ideas and must-have products to help you transition from dorm drag to HGTV dream.

Let’s start with the basics:

Damage Free Hooks

Unfortunately, there’s this strict no-holes-in-the-walls rule. But there’s this ingenious invention called 3M Command Strips which, if you don’t know what they are already, can be your biggest decor blessing.  Stick one of these babies on your wall and you can hang everything from keys to towels to picture frames without the hook or strip showing and without puncturing the wall. For starters, I suggest the 12-pack Small and Medium Picture Strips ($7.49).

Keep it Functional

This sleek and stylish (and gender-neutral) Multifunctional Wall Décor– Write, Post, Hang ($29.99) from Target, will keep your necessities in sight and priorities in order. Ditch the typical dry-erase board and opt for black and white with its sleek and stylish chalkboard, use the corkboard for important documents and hang your keys and lanyard on the hooks.

Invest in a Rug

There’s no better way to make a statement and set the tone in a room than adding an area rug. And bonus, they’re super comfy to put your feet on after a cold, snowy day of trudging up and down our school’s hilly campus. To brighten things up a little, try Target’s 5’x7’ Room Essentials Circles Area Rug ($59.49).

Use Mirrors

In addition to your Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and/or Ryan Gosling posters, utilize some of your wall space for mirrors. They’ll open up the room and make it appear larger and plus, it’s one more reflective surface you can utilize while you and your roomie struggle to frantically get ready for your 7:45 a.m. exam.

Layouts and DIY Projects:

Loft Your Bed

If you have the option, having your bed up high is a must. Sticking that desk underneath your bed gives you much more room to work with, and also provides a more asymmetrical layout, like ones found on Pinterest.

If both of you decide to sleep closer to the stars, add a curtain under your mattress to get a comfy, canopy look.

Create Your Own Headboard

A major disadvantage about dorm beds is that they’re simple and basic. And they all look the exact same. But yours doesn’t have to. Create your own headboard using plywood, quilt batting, a fabric of your choice (P.S. Find one at JoAnn’s Fabrics. There’s a store in Hudson and it’s huge!), and a staple gun. Check out the photos on The Old Post Road blog. Here’s how to do it:

1. Measure the width between the railings (add two or three inches to that measurement so the headboard doesn’t split between the rails).

2. Ask someone at Home Depot or Lowe’s to cut your plywood for you.

3. Cover batting all over one side of the plywood, fold it over and staple it on the back. Layer it a few times and keep it even.

4. Measure the fabric to cover all of the batting and staple it onto the back.


Use Tea Cans as Pencil Holders

The mini-grocery mart in Eastway has a wide variety of teas. Use one of the empty cans, attach a strong magnet to the back and attach it to your fridge to add a little flair.

Get Planting

Instead of getting a goldfish, try investing in another form of life. Terrariums are a way you can add style and a bit of green to your space. The type of jar you use depends on the kind of plant, but most of them are easy to create. If you want to go super low-maintenance, try this cactus terrarium:

Use tongue depressors or pasta tongs to place these prickly pants into a hexagonal candy jar filled with fairly dry sand. Make sure to place it near a window and make sure it’s not over-watered. (If it is, condensation will appear on the jar. If it does, remove the lid. That’s it.) Foolproof! 


Happy decorating to you all! And if you are still searching for DIY dorm décor, just head to Pinterest. Just make sure you have no exams the next day as the “College DIY” search is a both completely inspiring and time-sucking black hole of ideas that’ll have you surfing for hours!

Cassie Neidan is a recent graduate of Kent State’s journalism program.