With so many great examples of gorgeous dorms, it's hard to imagine how dorm design can perplex so many -- but it does. Trying to make the most of small, cramped, bare spaces really overwhelms some of you. Perhaps it's because the furniture is rarely in the best arrangement when you first see it. Or maybe it's that everything looks the same. Whatever the issue, lots of people want to know how to take that stark, drab, and utilitarian and turn it into something fabulous.
My son is in his 4th year of college. Which means that not counting my own dorms back in the day, I've got 4 consecutive years worth of experience decorating the modern dorm, fraternity house, and apartment bedroom. I've learned all sorts of tricks too. For less than $200, I can show most anyone how to transform a plain-Jane dorm into a stylish and functional space.
STEP ONE: Before you buy the first item for your room, you need to establish a theme. Whether that be a particular color combination, a favorite sports team, or whatever -- decide on the theme first!
STEP TWO: Know what the room looks like. What are its dimensions? What furniture pieces will be in the room? How large are the windows and doors? How high are the ceilings? What size bed you have. Is it a twin, twin XL, full or full XL? Be sure you know that because it makes a big difference.
Above all, ASK QUESTIONS. Call the dorm directly and to gather information. Tour rooms when you are on campus. Look at photos; the school website AND from people who lived there in previous years. Once you have gathered information and really know your room's possibilities and limitations, you can use room planning software to create a great design.
STEP THREE: Find your bedding. Aside from a small fridge or television, your bedding is likely to be the single most expensive purchase for your room. So start early so you can get the best deals. Use coupons if possible and combine them with sale prices. You'll be shocked at how easily you can get a $100 bedding set for about $50.
To further stretch your dollar, look for COMPLETE bedding sets. Get a set that at a minimum includes a comforter or coverlet, sham(s), and bedskirt. Really great buys may also include items like matching sheets, pillows, or curtains/valances. The more you can get in a single package, the less you'll have to purchase separately.
STEP FOUR: Gather the character. Decide what additional elements you need in the room. Things like lighting, storage, window coverings, art, etc. Start purchasing or making those items. Look around the house for things you already have. For the items you don't have, scour the sale racks, garage sales, Craigslist, or wherever you can get stuff for a discount. Try to match your color scheme or get things that can be inexpensively altered with fabric or paint.
STEP FIVE. Be flexible and RELAX! Move-in day is stressful no matter how many times you've done it. Try to not let the crowds and chaos sour your mood or creativity. Expect there to be hiccups in your design plan and make the best of it.
Now that you know the steps to executing an affordable dorm room design, let me show you how we created a really great look for under $200. . .
For our "step one", my son requested a grey & orange scheme with subtle University of Tennessee elements. Once that was decided, I started planning and shopping -- hunting for the best deals. I also studied online photos of the model apartment and called the complex four different times to ask about ceiling height, particular pieces of furniture, etc.
When we first walked in we were greeted with this. Pretty bleak, huh? There was a full XL bed, a chest of drawers, a desk, and a chair. And remember when I warned you to be flexible on moving day because there will always be a hiccup in your plan? Our hiccup was that high platform bed. We were expecting a normal box springs and mattress set.
Next we put the bed together. I found a simple grey bedding set which included a comforter, shams, bed skirt, and two throw pillows. The best thing about it though is that it was super affordable. Just $60 for the entire set! We introduced the second color in the design scheme with orange throw pillows and sheets.
What really pumped up the bedding style is the padded headboard. Using a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby, I was able to get enough fabric to cover the headboard (which I made from plywood) and make a small pillow for just $14. The entire project cost just $35.
The black end table was another
The lamp, hatbox, and state flag in UT colors were free finds from around the house. The hatbox was black and the lamp, navy blue. Again, with the magic of spray paint, we transformed those items to match the design scheme.
The curtains were added to soften and lighten the look of the room. Guys tend to want to pick out really dark things -- especially when it comes to bedding and window treatments. If we'd hung grey curtains, the room would've seemed dark and small. Instead we went with white, trimmed in orange. We saved money by using two flat, twin-size sheets -- just $4/ea at Walmart. We customized them with strips of ribbon sewn on the inner edge of each sheet.
By far, my favorite element in the room is the Smokey silhouette pallet art. That was so much fun to create and probably one of the easiest projects ever. Just $9 to make, but it packs a huge punch of charm.
Take a look at how much the entire look cost . . .
For under $200 we added incredible style without sacrificing space, light, or organization. It was so easy. With just a little planning and some smart shopping, anyone can have a great looking room at a truly affordable price.