10 Ways to Decorate Your Dorm Room on a Budget

Single Dorm

This was what my single looked like first semester of sophomore year, complete with tapestry, dream-catcher and fancy lighting.

As younger students pack their backpacks, older students pack their belongings, stuffing clothes in suitcases, toiletries in bins and office supplies in containers. Instead of boarding the school bus, waving to their parents from the windows, they travel to a place of four-story buildings and white cathedrals, kissing their parents goodbye and knowing that they won’t see them, in most cases, for another four months.

The transition from high school to college can be tough. In order to make it easier, here are some tips for helping make college students feel more at home within the white, concrete walls of a dorm room by decorating on a student budget.

    • Creatively display your favorite photos on the wall. Choose pictures of your friends and family, venture to the nearest CVS, and print out the photos. Instead of merely taping them to the wall of your dorm room, create a collage by pasting the pictures on a poster board. Tack the poster board to the wall above your bed or your desk.
    • Make your own tapestry. In a dorm room, the white walls can be a little blinding, no matter how many posters or photo collages you stick to the walls. Tapestries are a great way to bring some color into your dorm. Instead of buying a tapestry, which can cost up to $50, find some old, white sheets and tie-dye them. Tack up the tapestry above your bed, and voila: no white wall.
    • Add more lighting to the room, but stay away from candles. The overhead fluorescent lights in most dorm rooms can induce headaches, especially after long hours of studying. Substitute these strong lights with mood lighting for when you want to work, but don’t want to squint. Having a desk lamp and a lamp on the nightstand is key. However, do not use candles or incense; instead, find a battery-operated candle in your favorite color at HomeGoods. For extra credit, go through your parents’ Christmas supplies and snag a few lines of Christmas lights. Use Mod Podge to stick them to the wall, outlining your bed or desk.
    • Put posters up the right way. The biggest mistake you can make when putting up posters is to use tape. When taking the poster down, the tape will most likely ruin the poster. Instead, use tacks or Mod Podge. Also, stay away from decals, which are not posters, but peel-and-stick vinyl stickers. Most schools do not allow them, as they easily damage the walls.
    • Make your bed the focal point of the room. The bed is the most likely going to be the biggest piece of furniture in a dorm room. Do not skimp on a comforter and duvet cover, because these will be practical during the winter months, and decorative during the spring months. Find throw pillows that match your 8 x 10 area rug or the colors on your tapestry.
    • Add a little green to your room. Plants make for great conversation starters and liven up your room. Keep an aloe plant by the window, and break off a leaf whenever your skin is feeling dry, or water a cactus plant every other day, and watch the leaves rise. If you don’t want to buy a plant, pick flowers outside of your house or dorm room, and throw them into a vase.
    • Be smart with your storage. After unpacking, you’re going to find you have a lot of empty bins or suitcases. Don’t hide them in the closet or stick them in the corner. Instead, lift your bed using bed risers and hide everything under there. It’s like they never existed!
    • Dry-erase everything. Having a dry-erase board on your door means that hall-mates can leave fun messages or pictures. Having a dry-erase calendar in your room means that, every month, you can personalize your own calendar. Also, a dry-erase board lasts longer than a year.
    • There are many uses for a fridge.  A fridge doesn’t have to just hold your food. It can also serve as a bedside table for your contacts and your alarm clock. By moving your fridge beside your bed, you’re saving space and killing two birds with one stone.
Double Dorm Room

This was my dorm room first semester of freshman year, complete with Ikea bedspread, beautiful prints, and that fridge in the corner!

  • Keep it simple. Don’t overdo it with the decorations. You want to feel comfortable, not overwhelmed. Therefore, do everything you can to make your dorm room feel more like home. Cuddle up with your sister’s hand-me-down quilt. Hang your grandmother’s dream-catcher above your bed. And display a photo of your parents where you can see them every day. You might not believe it now, but in a few months, you’re going to miss them.


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