About three years ago, I got my official roommate and residential college assignment. As someone who had looked forward to decorating my room for years, I knew the coordinators had done a good job when my roommate sent over swatches of the colors she planned on using. After that, it was a scramble to try and find room dimensions, buy items on Amazon and finally make a last minute dash to the nearest Target.
If you’ve been too busy to plan your dorm decor or think you don’t care at all what your room might end up like, I’m going to tell you right now: A dorm room without decoration truly looks like a prison cell. When you have people over for crawl st--- um, late night chats, it’s nice to show off your room and have a cozy place to chill. Even if you use your room only for sleeping, coming back home after a stressful day to a comforting and personal space--a space that’s yours--is not something to sneeze at. The key is to use simple design concepts to transform your new space into a refuge by somewhat color coordinating, working with what you have and adding personal touches.
This is not as hard as it might seem. Choose a color that you like, and then choose its complement. Aim to buy most of your stuff with these colors, adding in neutrals (slate gray, white, black, beige) for balance.
Here’s how I did it: I have an old marsala and dark blue comforter that I love and knew I wanted to bring to college. To complement it, I bought slate gray sheets off Amazon for $20 and a blue mountain tapestry (gray, blue, white) to hang above it. On my desk, I put a bamboo scroll (neutral wood accent) and matched it with a sepia brain diagram (typical freshman pre-med move). Bonus: I live in Duncan College, so these colors go well with the beigey-brick walls and the gray stone floor and ceilings.
Color coordinating is important because it makes your room look more cohesive as a unit and tricks people into thinking that you have your life together – when, in reality, all you did was choose to buy things in the same color-ish.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE POSITIVES
So you got placed in the old dorm instead of new dorm, and you’re ready to give up hope. Luckily, each college has different pros to their rooming style (you can find all room styles here). You can also apply these tips to any off-campus housing that matches these profiles.
Duncan, McMurtry, Baker New, Will Rice, Wiess, Jones, Brown
A lot of rooms at Rice feature large windows on one side of the room. Keeping the blinds up on nice days adds a lot to your room and is a good replacement for ceiling or floor lights. Cool toned colors work well in these rooms, as do large tapestries on walls adjacent to the windows.
Tiled or Stone Floor
(some of) Sid Rich, Duncan, McMurtry, Hanszen, Brown, Baker New, Will Rice New, Jones
These floors make for really easy cleaning, but can be cold underfoot and contribute to the ~prison cell vibes~. Investing in a rug will not only make your room appear bigger, it also is comfortable underfoot and if kept clean, a great place to sit with friends. Try to find rugs that are neutrally colored (these tend to be cheaper as well).
Will Rice Old, (some of) Baker Old
The warm tones of hardwood floors complement well with warmer colors, so add pops of mustard yellow or orange. Rugs with less traditional colors and bolder patterns fit well here, as does warm ambient lighting – which can be achieved with bulbs like these.
Popcorn or Brick Walls
Literally all of the colleges
These walls are deceptively difficult to stick things to, and you’re not allowed to punch nails into the wall. Your solution? Command strips of all kinds. If you’re feeling creative, use command hooks to dangle photos, dried leaves, mobiles or anything you want. This adds a more dynamic look to your wall.
ADD PERSONAL TOUCHES
Adding your personality into your decorations is what makes your room stand out. Beyond color choices, tapestries, rugs and big-ticket items, you can use remaining real estate to build in details.
- Have an artist friend whose works you love? Commission them to make a piece to hang up in your room, so you can 1) support your artist friends and 2) have a unique piece to cover your walls.
- Highlight what you care about. Whether this is your really shiny new gaming PC or your collection of movie posters, make sure what you care about has a front-and-center role in the room.
- Bring in the plants! Even busy college students can remember to water a succulent once every two weeks, or plant lavender to add a nice scent to the room.
- Create a gallery wall using old frames from Goodwill or Ross. Print off images that you’ve taken or like (be sure to not steal art!) and arrange them in a group to cover space and add interesting content to your walls. If you’re not into framing, using washi tape or command strips to prop them up works as well.
- Hang up letters à la party style over your doorway or your bed.
- Go beyond christmas lights! Fairy lights, industrial bulbs, floor lighting and more add a warm wash to your room.
Still not convinced? I’m shocked you’ve made it all the way here, but remember this: interior decoration is a bit intimidating, but a worthwhile investment for a good start to the school year. Incorporating even one of these tips makes a monumental difference in your personal style, and what is college for if not for personal growth and development? Add something to your walls, and you’re basically already on the way to being a functional adult. I’m proud of you.
This piece was originally published as a part of On a Tangent, a design column written by Christina Tan. It was republished as a part of the 2019 O-Week Issue.