Posts filed under 'dorm room'

Drab to Fab: Dorm Decor Basics

Cinderblock getting you down? I can’t say I miss the prison-style walls of my old dorm room, but I did have a great time dressing them up on the cheap, and I’ve still got the room-design bug… I scan the aisles of stores like Ross, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshall’s (the “Big Four” of bargain shopping!) every week scouting out deals (I usually don’t buy anything but I get tons of ideas for DIY projects).

If your dorm room needs some kick and you don’t know where to start, check out these design basics to get you started. And don’t think we’re stuck bargain shopping–it wouldn’t be SCL without some DIY links. šŸ™‚

Lighting is terrible in most dorm rooms, so bring your own to pep up the space. I like to have good strong lighting for study time (“task lighting” like a desk lamp), something a little softer for just hanging out, and something super low (Christmas lights or a low-watt lamp) for relaxing. The light level in your room can be an amazing mood-altering tool, and you can find lamps for as little as $10 at stores like Wal*Mart, Target, or–my all-time dorm fav–Ikea. And (as you will note in the DIY) I am a believer that a little romance can go a long way–DIY a chandelier to hang over your bed (or to give to your girlfriend for Valentine’s day, boys!).

DIY: (But be careful!)

Mirrors are a key element in any dorm room. They throw light around to brighten up sometimes dingy dorm lighting and look amazingly chic (a great stand in for artwork). Plus you get the added bonus of having somewhere to check out your hair. Target has some super cute over-the-door mirrors for $15 (of scrimp a little and opt for their $5 version), or you can thrift around for some (or ask you relatives–who knows what you’ll get).

  • I admit, I am not handy enough to make a mirror… and I don’t know anyone else who is, either. šŸ™‚

Artwork doesn’t have to be expensive!

DIY by grabbing some canvases, paint, and brushes for under $20 at an art store (if your local one has coupons or discount days, wait for those! Our Michael’s does a 40% off one item coupon once a week!). You can even just grab some canvas fabric (a few bucks at a hardware store), a grass mat from the beach, or even some cardboard to paint on. Frame fabric or wrapping paper for a graphic punch. Even easier (and free-er) go old-school and do a photo or magazine collage on your wall.

Not artsy? Shop thrift stores for funky frames and vintage books or album covers (cool + cheap), or scan the Big Four for pre-fab artwork at a big discount.

Bed, couch, study zone: your XL Twin has a lot of functions in such a small space, so dress it to work for all of them. Pile throw pillows on to turn it into a “couch” (day-bed style) during the day, then toss them in the closet and crawl under some fluffy blankets at day’s end.


Inspiration is what keeps me going when I look at my white white white apartment walls. Get your own here:


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2 comments February 8th, 2010

Reader Dorm Design: Marissa’s Room

ReaderĀ Marissa linked to some pics of her electrically gorgeous dorm room from my recent post on amazing DIY dorm decor. I loved it so much I asked if she would let me feature it, and lucky for us she was game.

So, let’s talk about what I LOVE about Marissa’s space:

1. Color Crazy. I think you’d have to agree, there are no holds barred when it comes to color in Marissa’s space–but she (her side has the striped bed) and her roomie stick with a pr consistent palette of greens, blues, pinks, and oranges. It’s just enough to spice up those white white white walls–a big pick-me-up during long hours of studying.

2. Twinkle Twinkle. I adore the spunky, sassy lighting Marissa has going on. The pink + orange goes with her palette, and helps raise the height of the room by redirecting your eye upward. They give the space warmth AND make it feel bigger.

3. Dorm Zen. You know I love me some Dorm Zen, and Marissa’s collection of plant life (real and faux) along the top of her desk help to ground her busy study center.

4. Texture. This room abounds with texture–from the woven rug to the unusual shapes of the hanging lanterns. I love the quilting on the comforter, and the matte finish of the fabric against the glossy sheen of magazine pages…

5. Personality. And speaking of magazines, did you guys check out this amazing inspiration wall? Marissa covered up the blah white paint with photos that inspire her, in essence wallpapering her dreams and goals right over her bed–talk about a great (and cute!) motivator. All kinds of other personal touches–from stuffed animals to photos and cards–show she’s made herself at home.

A big thanks to Marissa for sharing her space with us!

Want to see your dorm room featured on Surviving College Life? Leave a comment, or shoot me an email at jamie(at) šŸ™‚

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3 comments October 6th, 2009

Dorm DIY: Hip, Fab Dorm Decor

Everybody getting settled in okay?

If those cinderblock walls are getting you down–never fear! I’ve got some more great DIY ideas to spruce up your dorm room!


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Add comment September 23rd, 2009

Cheap, Amazing Dorm Room DIY

Dorm decorating can be a seriously daunting task–at first glance it doesn’t seem there’s much you can do with a white cinderblock wall and some painter’s tape or rubber cement. But once you start thinking outside of the box you might be surprised how amazing–and cheap–a little DIY dorm decor can be.

Wall Paper?

If you’re not into the traditional posters-and-Christmas-lights dorm look, why not paper your walls with something a little more exciting? Cute wrapping paper and a staple gun can paper your walls in no time, inexpensiveĀ fabric can be cute and temporary, or why not make a polaroid wallpaper (like theĀ amazing room above, found viaĀ Apartment Therapy.)

Do Over

Want the chic look of brand new decor on a serious budget? Grab a thrift-store find or a hand-me-down and some paint and get cracking. We repainted a 1979’s desk from wood-color to black, swapped out the brass hardware for some sleep silver handles, and voila, we had a modern looking desk for only about $20.

Or check out this amazing transformation (spotted viaĀ YoungHouseLove). ThatĀ cute turquoise lamp was once a nasty brass throwback, but a little spray paint and it’s reborn. Without DIYing, it would probably run you $40+, but I recently saw a similar lamp at Goodwill for $7. Add in painting accoutraments, and you could probably get the whole thing done for $14!

This works with pretty much anything, too. My sweetie and I have reupholstered our old couches, sewed up a slip cover for a freebie chair and redone other wood furniture with sandpaper and paint. You can even repaint old photo frames for a new look on the cheap.

Want More?

Check out my previous post onĀ college dorm decor on the cheap, which has links to DIY ideas and tutorials (or peruse the wholeĀ dorm category for more ideas on making your dorm your own).

And check out sites likeĀ Young House Love, my latest DIY decor obsession, for all kinds of price-range appropriate oraganization, storage, and decor ideas. I love how they transformed this don’t-paint-or-hang-anything apartment sunroom into a chic, gorgeous bedroom with only $200 (and a trip to Ikea!). I am in LOVE!

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8 comments August 26th, 2009

Your First Place: Move-in Day Necessities

So Wednesday was the “big day” for me and my sweetie–we finally moved in to our new place, which means I am now writing to you from beautiful North Carolina!

To be a little more specific, I am writing to you from the floor of our new apartment, because our furniture–which was supposed to arrive yesterday–will not be here until next week.


What You Need (The Bare Necessities)

So clearly we had to run a few emergency errands to get the necessities that we hadn’t packed in the car. I wrote a post a while back about what you’d need your first night in the dorms, but I’ve amended the list and added where to go if you forget to pack it anyway. šŸ™‚

  • Wallet, cash, driver’s license & school ID
  • Medication (if applicable)
  • Clothes for 3 days (so you don’t have to do laundry), including underwear, socks, a bathing suit, and a sweatshirt
    • Buy: Ross, Walmart, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a thrift store
  • Good walking shoes (in case you do a tour of campus or a hike or something)
    • Buy: Ross
  • Toilet paper
    • Buy: Walmart or Target
  • Screwdriver (for putting furniture & etc. together) & scissors
    • Buy: Dollar store
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, & shampoo
    • Buy: Dollar store or Walmart (soap was even cheaper than the dollar store!)
  • Towel & washcloth
    • Buy: Walmart, Kohl’s (sale), Target
  • Basic Eating Utensils (fork, spoon, bowl, cup, plate)
    • Buy: Dollar store (metal utensils for 50 cents each!) or thrift store
  • Cell phone, laptop, & chargers (thanks,Ā Christina, for adding this to the list!)
  • Pen & paper
  • First Aid Kit
    • Get a compact Johnson & Johnson one at Target for $1
  • Cooking stuff (utensils, pots, pans… if you don’t want to eat out)
    • Buy: Utensils at the dollar store, pots & pans at a thrift store
  • Snacks
  • Reading material (magazine, book)
    • Buy: Get books for cheap at a thrift store or used book store, or make a friend by borrowing from someone on your floor
  • Pillow & blankets/sheets or sleeping bag

I’m happy to say that I took my own advice and had packed a lot of this stuff. But it was the forgotten items (soap, utensils, bathing suit) that had us running errands so much of the first and second days. So plan ahead! :p

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2 comments July 24th, 2009

Dorm Zen: Container Gardening

As I was poking around the kid’s website atĀ Apartment Therapy, I came across an awesome dorm zen idea–container gardening! I did a little more research on it, and I was really impressed.
Those of us who have only a dorm room or an apartment to work with (and therefore limited gardening space) can still have a little garden. I love the idea of whipping up a small herb garden to make cooking cheaper (have you seen how expensive herbs are, even dried ones?!). Plus as you’ll remember, I’ve found thatĀ plants have a very soothing influence–a nice bonus when you’re studying for finals.

You’ll probably need a little bit of outdoor space–a small patio, balcony, or even a window box will do. Here are some links to get you started:

Has anybody given this a shot? I’m thinking of trying a little herb garden in my apartment! šŸ™‚

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13 comments July 22nd, 2009

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