What to get to make your dorm room your own

Tim Bedison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Tim Bedison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Jean Patteson, MCT

Eat. Sleep. Study. That’s college life in a nutshell — with time out for play, of course.

Getting your dorm room ready for those activities takes planning, especially if you’re working with a tight budget. Before you spend the first dollar, check your school’s regulations. Kent State, for instance, does not allow residents to paint their walls or use nails for hanging.

Ask what furniture is provided. Beds and desks are standard issue. Most of the Kent State dorms have microwaves and refrigerators. Also get in touch with your roommate and decide who is bringing what.

It is pointless buying things that are already there, can be shared or aren’t allowed, says Lauren Rachel Flanagan, spokeswoman for Bed Bath & Beyond.

Once that’s sorted out, turn your attention to the bed, which likely is single and extra-long with a thin, lumpy mattress.

Give your bed the V.I.P. treatment. It is the biggest, most obvious item in the room.

And it is easy to turn it into a striking design statement with inexpensive linens.

“One of the challenges students face with dorm living is making the space their own. Students can personalize dorms with fashionable bedding sets in fresh, colorful patterns for girls and simple plaids and color block styles for guys,” says Lynette Cvikota, vice-president of design for Kohl’s Department Stores.

But most importantly, your brain functions better on a good night’s sleep. Your bed must be comfortable and your room dark.

Add blinds or heavier curtains if exterior or security lighting brighten the room, and consider replacing an old mattress with the best new one you can afford, advises Gabriella Eitingon, a spokeswoman for IKEA Orlando, Fla.

Mattresses with springs offer excellent ventilation, while foam and latex models cushion movements and contour the body well, Eitingon says. If you can’t afford a new mattress, a cushy pillow top is an inexpensive option.

For your pillow, choose between light, soft down or synthetic materials, which are better for allergy sufferers. Pillow height is another consideration. Do you sleep on your side? A high pillow is best. Back sleepers need a medium-height pillow and stomach sleepers a low one.

In colder places, like Ohio, you may need a heavy blanket. If you prefer a comforter, there are many different weights to choose from. And buy a couple of covers; while one is in the wash, use the other to change up the look of your bed.

Consider a loft style for your bed, which frees up floor space below for a desk, bookcase or bureau. Or simply attach bed lifts to the legs of a regular bed to gain extra storage space underneath.

Finding a place for everything in a tiny dorm room is always a challenge. Look for furnishings with built-in storage space, over-the-door hooks and double-hand closet rods, all available in stores that carry home furnishings.

When you pack for college, pack light. Take only the clothes you know you will wear, and leave out-of-season gear behind.

And before you purchase your furnishings and decor items, check whether the store has a service that allows you to shop near home but pick up your items at a store near your college. It’s the smart way to avoid rental-truck costs.

– Jean Patteson, The Orlando Sentinel