Freshman 15: Making a Dorm Room Homey


If you’re headed to college this fall, you may be beginning to look at more bedding than you thought possible, trying to create a color scheme and planning your home away from home for next year. I had so much fun planning my dorm room, and making my room feel like home was one aspect that helped make my transition to college smooth. 

Dorm rooms by design are generic, allowing them to be transformed with each new resident into a unique and personal space. As I planned my space I did my best to make my dorm feel like a cozy corner that I would look forward to coming home to rather than simply a plain cube that I only used to sleep and hold all my belongings. Decorating the room to reflect my bright style made me love the space that much more.  

As you plan for your new room, keep in mind that you have to work with the furniture the university provides and that the small space will likely serve multiple functions. Here are a few elements that really helped me transition the beige cube into my colorful home. 

Consider the focal point.
Dorm rooms are small and the largest element in the room will be your bed. So, it is likely to be the first thing most people see (including you!). It deserves some attention. Selecting bedding you love will be a welcome site even if you do not make your bed daily. I knew I wanted a white comforter with accent pillows in hot pink, Caribbean blue and seafoam green. I worked with this color scheme throughout the room and stuck with it. While I do admit the number of throw pillows I laid on my bed may be a bit excessive for some, I never got tired of seeing them when I walked through the door. Who doesn't love getting into bed with a plethora of pillows? They added so much color to the room and were comfortable to lay back on while taking a quick break or nap.

I also added a headboard, which completed the look of the bed and made it feel more like an actual bed than a mattress laying on a bed frame. I matched the fabric of the headboard to the hot pink in my accent pillows. In the next few weeks, I will share a post on how I made my upholstered headboard. If you are not interested in making a headboard, several companies sell them. I also had a headboard pillow from Leigh Deux, which was so comfortable and added even more color. I loved that I could move it with me, too. If I was sitting on the floor working with friends I could put it against the wall and have a comfortable back rest. 

 desk hutch | memo board (c/o) | Evelyn Henson print (similar) | bracelet holder

Gamma Phi banner | rug | ottoman | pineapple lamp (similar)

Make sure the space functions.
How your room will function will be equally important to how it looks. As I planned my room, I mentally created stations for designated activities. Having specific places where I did each part of my routine was key to making the room feel like a home rather than just a place I kept all my belongings. I had a place to sleep and relax, a place to study and a place to get ready. These "stations" helped my room feel organized and make sure that everything had a spot.

Having a specific space for everything helped me avoid clutter. I was fortunate to have enough room to add a 3’-by-3’ storage cubby organizer. I used the cubbies to hold clothes as well as makeup and hair supplies. Keeping all the extra items inside a cubby made it possible to have less out and therefore made the room feel less crowded. I also added a desk hutch which gave me both utility space and display space. I was able to raise my bed and hide lots of storage underneath including the university-provided dresser. I then added 3 curtain panels which covered the storage, but provided easy access. As you plan your room, definitely think about the best way to use the available space and how to cover storage in order to create the illusion of more space.

 curtains | picture frames | cork board (similar)

Do not forget the details!
As you plan your room, think about specific details that will help make the space feel more comfortable. For instance, start with the floor. I added a white shaggy rug that made a big difference in the room. Not only did it take up a huge amount of floor space and cover up the neutral brown carpet, but it added a cozy and warm flooring when I walked in or sat on the ground.

Next consider your walls. Each school will have rules about how you adhere items to the wall. Nails and push pins are probably out unless there is a cork strip. Just check with your schools housing website. I had great success with Command strips. I personalized my walls by adding framed photos and prints. For me, using white frames helped make the space feel more like my room at home and provided some consistency so the display did not feel too busy. Other items to consider are cork boards and memo boards where you can change your displays easily and often. I also had colorful canvases in one area to help brighten up a corner of the room.

As you are thinking about your walls, do not forget a mirror. I had an inexpensive full length mirror near my closet and another smaller mirror near my makeup station. 

You will most likely have a large window and may want to consider adding a room darkening curtain. I had pretty solid blinds on my window, so I just added a white sheer curtain to soften the look.

Last but not least, the only light in your room is likely to be on the ceiling. The final touch that I felt converted my dorm to a room was the lamps I added to my bedside table and desk. The overhead lighting was harsh, so turning on the lamps and opening the blinds during the daytime was much more pleasant. While at night I would turn on the overhead light when studying, other times I kept it off and just left on my lamps. Having the alternative to the bright, fluorescent light was a welcome change that kept my room from feeling almost like a classroom or other public building. 

While all these items weren't necessary in the functionality of my dorm room, I do feel like they helped take my space from feeling like an institutional dorm to a homey room. I definitely will be using the "stations" set up next year in my room since that was a key element in the room’s organization. Having such a welcoming place to call my "home away from home" not only provided the comfort I needed to fuel up for the next day, but was the perfect balance of relaxation and practicality. 

I hope you have lot of fun planning your dorm room! Do you have any tips for making a dorm room feel like home?



  1. This is such a good list! And your dorm is so so cute!

    1. Thank you, Katie! I really appreciate the kind words, and I am so glad you found the post helpful.

  2. Your room looks straight out of a magazine, I love all the pops of color!!
    xo, Sydney