How to Decorate a Dorm Room

As we pulled onto the college campus, I couldn't help but be amazed that a building with an exterior as classic and charming as this.....

Could be hiding dozens of rooms that look like this......

Downright scary. Like a cell with carpet, really.

A 184 sf. cell.

Here are the dimensions for my daughter's dorm room. 

(They do provide you with a little info online before you arrive.  I noticed the dorm was built the year I was born - 1969.  What a young building.)

Not only is the room ugly and teensy-tiny, but the college of choice also has rules.  Nope, not really any rules about alcohol or boys, just rules about what you can and cannot do to the furniture and walls while decorating your cell.  For starters, you are 'stuck' with the furniture. My daughter's university does not allow any furniture or trash cans to leave the room. You have to decorate around those large wooden pieces of furniture!  The girls are also prohibited from nailing or painting the furniture or walls.  No paint, no nails.

So, from that point forward, we began transforming the 16'x12' space.

I now have a list of suggestions for those of you trying to make a dorm room livable.  (I am now an expert). 

Suggestion # 1 - Use lots of color! 
Either one main color, or a variety of fun colors.  Just something to draw the eye away from the ugly furniture and plain white walls.

 My daughter "facebooked" her new roommate (from another state) and they decided to use lots of Turquoise. We found a turquoise futon with free shipping at  ....

They also decided bright green would be a nice contrast.

(Ikea rug)

Along with some pink....

Ikea Pillow

Suggestion #2 - Add some fluff
Use lots of pillows and linens.  We added several fun pillows to the sofa and the bed, as well as an extra comforter across the foot of her bed.  None of the pillows were really necessary - just eyecatching. 

I made a couple for her new aqua futon....

(I shared a tutorial for the rosettes, here.)

We also bought a few pillows at TJ Maxx.  Of course.

Suggestion #3 - Hang a few things.  
Bright, fun things.  Paintings, curtains, photographs, art, vinyl decals, fluffy tissue paper things that your little brother carries up the stairs for you.... 

You may be wondering how we can 'hang a few things' if puncturing the wall is not allowed.  We found these nifty command hooks and determined that they were not listed as banned items in the dorm manual. 

They are perfect for hanging light-weight paintings, etc.  My daughter swears that the guy on the infommercial just pulls them right off without leaving a mark once he is done using this Commando Hook.  We shall see.

(The large pink "e" is a bulletin board made by a friend.  She painted a ceiling tile!  What a great idea!)

My daughter asked if she could take one of my paintings.  She hung it after I left - right over her bed.  Do you know how that makes me tear up?

Also, I made a bright pink curtain that we hung with a shower curtain rod (the tension-mount kind that does not require puncturing a wall).  I noticed in the latest set of photos that the curtain is nowhere to be found.  Apparently it was removed from the window after I left.

Oh, well.

And here is another idea - an idea that we did not attempt.

A headboard for the dorm bed

Foam board and burlap - pretty simple.

I found the next photo of cute headboards on the internet.  They are made from posterboard!  How easy and inexpensive!.....

Just tape the posterboard to the wall.!

Also - I intend to make slipcovers for the ugly chairs.  That is next on my list.  Maybe out of simple white dropcloth.  With a monogram.

They will probably remove them after I sew them, install them, and leave.

But that is okay - I am glad my daughter is comfortable with her own opinions and ideas.

Dorm rooms can be ugly, but with a little color, some fluff, and a few things to hang, it can be quite a cheerful corner of the world!


Check out my Pinterest dorm room board for more dorm room ideas.

Joining Metamorphosis Monday and DIY Project Parade and The Girl Creative and Serenity Now


I can remember my dorm room and trying to decorate it with all of those crazy rules! My bed was way over dressed like I always seem to be... but I loved it!

Tiffany {Living Savvy}
TSL said…
you're just the bestest - and best wishes to precious daughter
gena said…
Hoping your daughter's school year is as sweet, cozy and colorful as her new dorm room !

the cul-de-sac said…
Great ideas! Dorm room decorating sure has come a long way!
Fantastic touches - I simply adore the colors you have used. Wishing your daughter a fabulous school year. Beautiful job! Hope you have a wonderful week. ~ Stephanie Lynn
Anonymous said…
Beautiful! 3M command products were encouraged by my daughter's college. I have used them for Christmas dcorations myself. If you have any difficulty removing them, stop pulling, as it will rip dry wall and/or paint. Use a hand held hair dryer to warm up the adhesive, and then pull again, gently. If you still have trouble, repeat the hair dryer treatment, and then use a piece of dental floss back and forth to gently loosen the adhesive.

Those girls must have the best looking room on campus! Love, love, love the colors!

Blogless Peggy,
Trish, I love that futon and what cute ideas to make the room livable instead of cell like.
Barbara said…
Omg, my son loved going to school here. He graduated last yr. with a job 6 months before he graduated.
Enjoy this time, it goes so fast!

His room was not as put together as your daughter's, but they didn't seem to care, typical man.
Laura said…
I give dorm rooms any sort of pass for decorating or cleanliness. They serve as bedroom/livingroom/kitchen/study. They are just cluttered and ugly most of the time. But you did an incredible job to make it look bright and cheery.
Sjn said…
home sweet home, in-between trips back home to visit you that is! Wishing her a great freshman year! You hang in there too Mom, it's tough when they leave the nest. You gave her wings and I know you're very proud of her!
Sara said…
A dorm room? Oh how BEAUTIFUL! I am going to pin this right away! And I would love it if you would link this up to my brand new turquoise linky party!! ;)
I can tell you that none of my dorm rooms ever looked this fabulous! How beautiful!

I just found your site through a blog party and am happy to be a new follower. I would love for you to link your post up at my Savvy HomeMade blog party at
Jamie Miles said…
Stop it. Too cute. You need to come next door and help me.
Emily said…
I remember trying to decorate my dorm room! You did a great job.
Jessalyn said…
What an amazing transformation! I wish I had a mom like you to help spruce up my dorm room back when I was in college.

Go Jackets!
Lucy May said…
Wonderful job on the dorm room! Sounds like we were doing the same thing last weekend! I posted pics of Maddie's first dorm room on my blog, "Lucy's lampshade". We used lots of different patterned fabrics in tropical colors.
Tanya Anurag said…
You made that tiny room so beautiful. Nice choice of stuff used for decorating. Pinning pictures.

We have a link-up party going on - Tea Time Thursdays @ Kreative Korner. I would really appreciate if you'd link up some of your awesome posts there. Hope to see you at the party.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for sharing this! It brings back memories of 30 years ago when I "painted" my dorm room with construction paper. I should have listened to those decorator instincts years ago! I love your ideas!!