When you move into your college dorm, you’ll probably want to add some personal touches to make your room more appealing. You might already be browsing your Instagram and Pinterest feeds, searching for some fun ideas.
The question is: how do you decorate your room without breaking your bank account?
In this post, IvyPanda experts will share fantastic ideas and handy lifehacks to help you turn your temporary housing into a place that feels like home.
💡 11 DYI Dorm Decor Ideas
Dorm room walls are like a blank slate for your imagination. But before you start choosing wallpaper or picking out a paint color, check the dorm rules. Some institutions do not allow paint, nails, or tacks on the walls.
Let’s look at some fun, easy ways to decorate your room.
🧱 Forget about Boring Walls
If you don’t like monochrome walls, add some color or variety! Try one (or two or three!) of the ideas we’ll go into detail about in this section.
These stickers are easy to apply on any surface, from furniture to walls. They are cheap and easy to apply. Moreover, they can be quickly and easily removed from the wall, so you can change your dorm room decorations as many times as you want!
Where can you find the decals?
There are several places to buy wall stickers:
- Buy on Amazon. The price of the decal can vary depending on its size, but most start at just one or two dollars.
- Purchase decals on Etsy. Etsy is a marketplace where artists from all over the world sell their crafts. If you can’t find a decal that fits your needs, you can contact a seller and make a custom order.
- Do it yourself. You can create custom decal designs to decorate your room just like you want it. The video below shows how you can easily create wall stickers in just a few minutes.
Here’s what you should know before applying a decal to the wall:
- Review the wall surface. The type of paint or wallpaper on the wall will directly impact the decal removal process. Oil-based enamel paint or gloss latex paint will make it difficult to peel wall decals off. In contrast, flat latex paint is great for quickly and easily removing decals.
- Think about how long you want the sticker on the wall. Will it be part of a temporary festive décor, e.g., for Halloween or St. Patrick Day? Or do you plan to have it up for years? The longer it remains on the wall, the harder it will be to remove.
If you’re considering removing a decal, use heat to peel it off
Use Chalkboard Stickers for Messages
If you are not allowed to use tacks or nails on the wall to hang a message board or pin your notes, you can always use chalkboard or whiteboard stickers.
Chalkboard wall stickers are similar to the decals we talked about earlier. All you have to do is apply them to the wall or any other surface.
These stickers are available in various shapes and sizes. You can also buy a roll and cut out whatever shape you’d like.
Try Washi Tape
Washi tape is an outstanding tool to decorate your room that doesn’t require a huge investment of your time or money.
You might think that this tape is only for scrapbooking and wouldn’t work on a wall. However, keep reading, because below, we will show you some examples of how you can decorate your dorm walls with Washi tape.
Grid removable wallpaper
One of washi tape’s biggest advantages is that it can be easily removed from a surface without any harm.
To create a wall design with washi tape, you will need:
- an image, pattern, or sketch;
- washi tape;
- self-adhesive masking tape; and
Here’s how to do it:
- Choose a design for your walls. Perhaps a rainbows, or diamonds, or any other pattern. You can take a look around Pinterest for inspiration.
- Visit your local craft store or check for sales on Amazon to buy washi tape.
- Apply the masking tape on the wall where the design begins and ends.
- Carefully apply washi tape on the wall in the shape of the design you have chosen. Repeat if necessary.
Check out the video below to see the process in action.
DIY Photo Frames
If you miss your loved ones, you may want to surround yourself with their photos. But there could be a couple of problems. First, there’s probably limited space on your desk for framed pictures. And second, you might not be able to use nails or tacks to hang pictures on the wall.
Here’s a great solution: Use washi tape to create frames on the wall!
This method is similar to the washi wallpaper design:
- Select the pictures you want to hang on the wall. These can be photos of your family and friends, places you want to visit or have already visited, motivational quotes, etc.
- Decide where your photos will be located.
- Apply them on the wall using washi tape as a sticky frame.
Try Self-Adhesive Wallpapers
Another great, cheap option to completely transform your dorm room is to use self-adhesive wallpaper. This can be applied to any surface you’d like, and a great variety of designs means you can let your imagination go wild!
Self-adhesive wallpapers can be used on furniture and walls. Before you apply them, you need to make sure that the surface of your furniture or wall is clean, smooth, or dry and will stay dry while the wallpaper is on it.
To use the wallpaper, you will need:
- a wallpaper roll (or rolls depending on the area you want to decorate);
- a flexible smoothing tool or dry towel; and
- a tiling knife.
Before you purchase the wallpaper, you should calculate the total area you want to cover and review the type of surface it has. The next step is to choose the design. To apply self-adhesive stickers, you need to press them against the wall with a dry towel or flexible smoothing tool.
🏠 Change the Window
When you are satisfied with the walls, it’s time to take a look at the window. You can change that too! Below, we will give you a few ideas on how to embellish your windows.
- LED string curtains. This is a simple way to make your room look cozy in the evening and at night. LED curtains also can serve as an additional light source.
- Window films. Window films completely change the way your window looks. If the window faces east and the morning sun wakes you up too early, a film might be the best solution for you. It will block strong sunlight along with UV rays while allowing softened sunlight in. Another benefit of window films is that they prevent people outside from looking directly into your room, allowing you to have a little more privacy. Also, most films do not contain any chemical glues.
- Window decals. Similar to the wall stickers we mentioned before, window decals can add some fun to your room. They are cheap, easy to apply, and can be replaced or removed any time you want. You can customize your window with a thematic decal or choose a neutral ornament, shape, or pattern.
- Blackout curtains. Curtains will not only add coziness to the room but can also save you from early morning sunlight. Have you ever woken up too early because of bright sunshine in your face? If so, the blackout curtains might be the answer.
🚪 Door Makeover
The next step in customizing your dorm room is the door décor. Doors don’t offer too options for change, but you can still make them look fun. Or you can use them as an additional pace for storage.
We will talk about organizational storage later. Let’s focus now on how to add some decorations to the door:
Paper décor. This is a simple but fun way to decorate your door. The best part about using paper is that it’s cheap and you can even use note stickers.
Construction paper. You might think that construction paper is only for school and kindergarten. However, you need to take a look at this dorm door:
- Chalkboard Wall Sticker
- Patterned Washi Tape
- Vinyl Decals and Stickers
- LED Window Curtain
- Blackout Curtain
- Window Film Sticker
📦 6 Dorm Storage Ideas
The next important dorm issue we’re going to discuss is the lack of space. Consider yourself lucky if you live in a single room. But what if you have to share a room with one, or two, or even more room-mates? Where can you put all that stuff you brought with you to college?
Typically, dorm rooms are equipped with a bed, desk, and dresser. That’s not a lot, so we’ve prepared a few ideas to organize the limited space you have to live in. Check them out below!
- Use the space under the bed wisely. The space You can purchase wooden or plastic drawers, which start at $20 on Amazon, depending on the size and material. Or, if you love sewing, you can create an under-bed organizer yourself using your old jeans or any other heavy fabric.
- Turn your door into more storage. You can use your door as a place to keep small items that you use every day: brushes, hair clips and bands, cosmetics, sunglasses, and so on. The price for door organizers starts at $8 on Amazon. However, you can make an organizer yourself too. Just watch this video tutorial.
- Try bed organizers. If you sleep with your smartphone, tablet, or other gadgets under your pillow, you need to try a bed organizer. It will save your gadgets from accidental damage and keep them by your side all night long.
- Don’t underestimate bed risers. These small lifters help you increase the height of your bed to give you extra space to store a laundry hamper or mini-fridge. (We’ll get into other electronics later).
- Add some space with a pegboard. Pegboards are great for organizing your things. They’re often used to store handheld tools, but you can use pegboards to keep your desk essentials organized too. There are plenty of containers, clips, and hooks that you can add to the pegboard to store small items like pencils, paper clips, etc. You can also attach the pegboard to your desk using a special connector to avoid making any holes in the furniture.
- Get extra shelving with the dorm desk bookshelf. If you don’t have enough space to store your books, you can invest in a desk bookshelf. They come in various shapes and sizes, so you can definitely choose the one that’s perfect for you.
- Under Bed Storage Drawer
- 6 Pockets Overdoor Organizer
- Adjustable Bed Risers
- White Pegboard
- IKEA Pegboard Connector
- Cubi Desk Bookcase
🛁 7 Dorm Bathroom Ideas
Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of dorm life is the shared bathroom “down the corridor.” However, you may be lucky enough to have your own bathroom, or to share it with only one or two roommates.
Here, we’ll share a few ideas that will be useful for any bathroom situation you find yourself in:
- Shower caddy. This small container will keep your toiletries together and prevent you from taking up space either in your room (if you share the bathroom with an entire floor) or in your bathroom (if you’re lucky enough to have a private bathroom).
- Shower curtain. Another irreplaceable item for your bathroom that will save you from the unwanted eyes of your roommates. Even if you live alone, a shower curtain will help keep your floor dry. Choose a design that reflects your personality, and don’t forget to clean it on a regular basis!
- Refillable soap dispenser. Using a refillable dispenser will save you money and help you use less plastic. Dispensers are available in various forms and shapes, so you can easily choose the one you like.
- Laundry hamper. This is an essential item you should have in your dorm bathroom (or in your room if you share a bathroom with others). We suggest you take a look at rolling, pop-up hampers since they do not take up much space and can be folded when you have done your laundry.
- Bath mat. What’s more pleasant than wiggling your toes in a soft mat after a warm shower? This small rug will help make your morning feel nice and cozy. There are plenty of mats with quotes or fun prints. Don’t have a private bathroom? You can still use a mat as a bedside rug.
- High-quality flip-flops. Although flip-flops aren’t necessarily dorm room décor, we still recommend that you have a pair or two, especially if you share a bathroom with other students.
- Long bathrobe. If you don’t want to accidentally shock your dorm mates with your naked body while walking from the shower back to your room, you should invest in a long bathrobe.
- Plastic Shower Caddy
- Shower Curtain
- Soap Dispenser
- Collapsible Laundry Hamper
- Bath Mat
- Dorm Shower Flip Flops
- Cotton Terry Bath Robe
🥰 7 Cute Dorm Ideas
Now that we’re done with the essentials to make your dorm living comfortable, let’s take a look at that small stuff to help you feel at home. Below you will find a list of cheap dorm accessories that will make your room look and feel cozy:
- Cute bedding sets. Getting good sleep is important when you study hard. That’s why we suggest you buy a few bedding sets that are cute and soft. You can get printed bedding with popular movie characters or purchase a jersey set, which is comfy like your favorite T-shirt.
- Bedside rug. A warm and cozy rug will save you from stepping onto the cold floor in the morning. You can pick up one of those soft bath mats we mentioned before, or get a gorgeous, furry sheepskin rug.
- Throw blanket. If you’re excited about the popular hygge idea, you will definitely love these thick knitted blankets. If you knit, you can create the item by yourself, or purchase it on Etsy.
- Mattress topper. If you have trouble sleeping on a college mattress, you don’t buy a new one. You can use a memory foam mattress topper. They are available in various sizes and thicknesses.
- Side table. A small side table won’t take up much space in your room, but it will definitely add a bit of comfort. There are plenty of affordable tables that cater to every taste and budget. Also, you can save some money and make one yourself, from a wire basket, for example.
- Flameless candles. A couple of candles can create a comfy and relaxing atmosphere in just a few seconds. But what to do when you can’t use a real flame in the dorm? Here’s a solution: Flameless candles. You will get the same effect without any risk of fire, and, as a bonus, you can control them remotely!
- Canopy. If you share your room with a roommate, you’ll never feel lonely. However, you may want some privacy from time to time, and a dorm canopy can be a great tool to achieve that. If you worry about nails, use 3M command hooks instead. They can be removed easily from the ceiling without any damage to the surface. To create a canopy, you will need three 3M hooks, strings for the curtains, and the curtains themselves (don’t buy ones that are too heavy!). Attach two hooks on the walls at the corner of your bed, and one on the ceiling. Place the strings on the hooks, hang your curtains, and enjoy your privacy!
🖥 9 Tech Dorm Gadgets and Appliances
It’s hard to imagine 21st century dorm living without modern tech gadgets. The IvyPanda team has picked the most useful electronics for you:
- Mini-fridge. It might be small, but it’s still very useful. A mini-fridge can keep your sodas icy and your fruits fresh. Choose wisely, keeping in mind the available space in your room. If your room is on the small side, you can use bed lifters to hide the fridge under your bed.
- Mini coffee maker. If you can’t imagine life without caffeine, and it seems that coffee runs in your veins, consider purchasing a small, single-serve coffee machine. It won’t take up too much precious space and it will secure your cup of coffee before classes. Don’t forget to clean it on a regular basis.
- Safe locking container. These containers can help you stick to your diet and avoid eating unhealthy food late at night. They are the physical alternative to app blockers on your phone that keep you away from social media and other distractions. You can lock your food or anything else in the container for one minute to ten days, which makes it a nice tool for the ‘No Smartphone for a Day’ challenge.
- Noise-canceling headphones. When you have to complete an essay for tomorrow’s deadline, dorm noise can become a serious distraction to your concentration during the research and writing process. That’s why we suggest you have a pair of active noise-canceling headphones. Warning: Take them off before crossing the street!
- White noise machine. There’s nothing more irritating than noise when you’re trying to sleep. You can’t do anything about the noise outside your room. However, you can create a calming environment inside your room with the help of a white noise machine. Here’s a fun fact that all mothers know: Newborn babies fall asleep faster when they hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner or a hairdryer. We don’t recommend those tools for your dorm room, but a white noise machine will help you get better sleep by playing soothing sounds like rain, ocean, thunder, etc. Choose the sound you like the most, set the timer, and get some rest.
- Work lamp with USB or wireless phone charger. A work lamp is great desk tool for study time. Since there are never enough USB or power sockets to charge your gadgets, the easy solution is to use a lamp that has a charger inside. Choose between lamps with USB charging ports or wireless phone chargers—whatever works for you!
- Power strip. And since we’re on the topic of power sockets, we couldn’t avoid mentioning how useful power strips are. First, power strips enable you to plug in your computer, tablet, and coffee maker at the same time. Second, they protect your electronics against surges and spikes. Third, some devices even have a few USB charging ports. And fourth, they don’t take up much space.
- Steam iron. Ironing is easy when you have a steam iron. It gets rid of creases and wrinkles without the need for a cumbersome ironing board. We recommend a handheld model — most of them protect against leaking water, so you can be sure that your garment won’t be ruined.
- Lint remover. Another essential tool to keep your apparel looking great is a lint remover. If you have ever had to throw out your favorite jersey sweater because of lint, you know how painful that can feel. A lint remover will save your clothes and your money.
- Keurig Single Serve Coffee Maker
- Kitchen Safe Locking Container
- Noice-Cancelling Headphones
- White Noise Machine
- Power Strip Tower
- Handheld Steam Iron
- Lint Remover
- Mini Refrigerator
- Desk Lamp with USB Charging Port
If you want more ideas about gadgets and devices you may need in college, check out the IvyPanda article 12 College Dorm Room Must Haves.
📋 Design Your Room: 5 Dorm Room Planners
Before you start decorating your room or even purchasing the products we mentioned in the previous section, we suggest you plan how you want your dorm room to look and where you want to store all the items you’ll bring with you to college. We picked 5 free dorm room planners to help you plan your space to perfection. Here they are:
This is a free, online room planner that will help you create a room plan using a birds-eye view. Choose the shape of the room and enter its dimensions. Then, start arranging furniture in the virtual space to see how it will look. The app allows you to purchase select items in the Havertys online store, save your dorm room plan, and even share it with your friends.
This is another room planner that’s free and doesn’t require installation on your computer. Living Space’s software allows you to get a clear view of how your future room will look with just a few clicks.
The app helps you design your room with ease. The online software is free but does require registration. The design team recommends using a Google Chrome browser to get the best results.
Forget about pencils and paper. MagicPlan allows you to create a plan for your dorm room using your smartphone camera. Take photos with your smartphone, edit them and add furniture in the app, and get your plan. The app has a few pricing plans, starting from $0/month.
This software is free-to-use and available both on PCs and tablets. The website offers the option to download the desktop edition or use an online cloud version. The service is free; however, you need to register to start planning your dorm room design.
We hope you now have all the creative ideas, helpful tools, and DIY skills you need to make your dorm life cozy and comfortable. Check out the other articles on our blog to make your studies more productive!