9 ideas to bring fun and comfort back to the dorms

January 10 |

WHOO! SPRING SEMESTER! Time to party hard and go to class and study a lot and…trudge out of your last lab so tired you want to sleep forever…back home to your 10×10 cinderblock den with communal showers…and constant fire alarms. Okay, living in dormitories can get boring — even frustrating. I'm thinking back on those days and pulling out the cozy ways my roommate and I made our dorm a fun place to relax, even when schedules got tough: after she pulled another all-nighter at the hotel front desk or when I got done with my soul-crushing, puppy-killing job.

Source: weheartit.com via Taylor on Pinterest

Ohhhh I love this. Needed: one adjustable shower rod. One set cheapo fabric shades. White cardstock for stars. Tape or safety pins. Instant homework nest.

This is from a story of a team of suitemates who made do with taped-up decor. Get the right tape and you won't do ANY damage.

Source: sewsweetstitches.blogspot.com via Mandy on Pinterest

Never underestimate the ability of hanging poofs to brighten a space. My wedding swore by it.

We got pets:

Gecko in a Cup
Okay, so The Handbook said pets were a no. Still, we got permission from the RA to have two little geckoes — they're cheap to keep (eating a few crickets every couple weeks) and the dorm staff was okay with having them on board since they wouldn't be able to survive, were they to escape. Friley Hall got damn, damn cold.

If you can't swing lizards, try bettas:

Eles não deixam o Tesouro em paz…

Ours felt like a part of the family.

Bunting love!

Hoo! Boy! I would have done this in a heartbeat, had I thought of it. I love cozy little nests.

Smells go a long way towards making a space feel good again.

Money's tight in dorms, and art costs money. Print some photos (or gather up saved ones — or even torn-out pages from Nat Geo) and make your own frames. Hanging them up will make a space feel VERY yours.

Last, add just a touch of awesome by switching out hardware:

Just remember to stash the originals somewhere safe!

  1. I put up a post-it mural on the wall above my headboard. It was a simple heart (though I'm sure other Homies could rock something way more complicated)with an inspirational quote on each note. Easy to make and relatively cheap.

    Sidenote: I wish The Empire was around for my college days.

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  2. My roommate and I gave names to different areas of our room. The small sink by the door was the 'Bathroom'. The weird section with a mini fridge and microwave was the 'Kitchen'. The TV was the 'Living Room'. That's as far as we went with decorating though. She went home every weekend, and I was out with friends most of the time. One of the RAs in our dorm hung CDs all over his walls. As the ceilings were 11 feet high or so, it looked like a crazy disco nightmare. I don't think he was allowed to keep it that way though.
    Also, a sidenote: if you have friends or family that are moving into dorms and you want to give them a gift, be sure the gift is allowed in the dorm. One of my friends who lived off campus gave me a candle. Candles weren't allowed, so I didn't get to use it ever.

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    • Did you live with me? My roommate and I had the same thing – kitchen, garage, library, office, greenhouse, bar, etc. We also named all of our plants.

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    • Agreed re: the gift thing. I HATED confiscating gifted contraband when I was an RA…I felt like the Grinch!

      Pretty much any dorm room can be refreshed by just adding color, the brighter the better. I balanced out the white walls, gray carpet, and white/gray furniture with LOTS of purple.

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  3. You forgot the floor! Rugs, especially small and colorful ones, can be very cheap and fantastic decorations. I had a candy striped one in a rainbow of warm tones in my dorm and later my apartment. Rugs are extremely important for rented spaces because they do double-duty to decorate and protect the floors from wear and tear and clumsy roommates who dump hot candle wax all over the carpet.

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    • OOOOH yes. We had a big purple fuzzy one. Ridiculous and COZY AS HELL.

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  4. Those shower curtain rods have been my best friends in temporary dwelling. At my last apartment, the shower had a glass door, but I used one of these rods to put a curtain up anyway because the bathroom was so sterile looking otherwise. I had a double door closet there as well, but I took them off and put a curtain across it to give me more room and break up the white walls.
    At my current place, I've put a curtain on my closet again (this one didn't even come with a door), under my bathroom counter (making "cabinets" where the shelves were exposed), and to separate the back corner of my sunroom used for storage from the part of it that is patio-tea-party space.

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  5. My first year of school I lived in dorms in which I lived in a tiny little room with one girl I did not get along with at all. I survived by means of making a "fort" out of a colorful tapestry and loaded my little space with pillows. It made a nice cozy place for me to sleep and work.

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  6. I don't have a "what I did" story to add to the mix, as my college was very specific that the dorm rooms remained uniform (i.e. jail-like) but this was just a great article. I like the poor college student deco on the cheap though!

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  7. I love the DIY frames. I think I know what I'm doing this weekend!!!

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  8. One of the best gifts I was given while at uni was a tie-dyed throw, about the size of a single bed sheet (or one dorm room wall) which I would put up on whichever wall looked the most bare. It's relatively light and so easy to put up without risking damage to the wall (I normally used those sticky pads that just peel away when you're done with them) and instantly transformed the room.

    Turns out it works on generic white rental flats too, it's in my otherwise featureless hallway right now.

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  9. You can also buy cheap frames at thrift stores (under $5, usually there are a bunch that are $1) and make art to fill them.

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  10. YES to using curtains for things other than window coverings!

    Before starting college I snagged a pair of old sheer curtains from my parents. When I shared a dorm room with lofted beds, I strung the curtains up under my bed. I never really closed them, but they added some softness to the room and really helped my desk/reading area feel more private and cozy.

    Later, when I had a slightly-taller-than-usual bed in my on-campus apartment, the curtains helped hide the random stuff I stored under the bed.

    And after college when I lived in an old house in a bedroom that had been a kitchen in a former life, I tacked up those curtains over the cabinets-turned-open-shelving, again to add some softness.

    Ah, one of those curtains is still alive and well as a drapey valance thing in my office at work. They've served me well!

    I actually once wrote about these curtains: http://newlittleoldhouse.tumblr.com/post/9403924044/homes-of-yore

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  11. I always used to put the long side of the bed up against the wall, and put the pillows/cushions up against the wall during the day. Instant bed –> sofa transformation! Made it a much more welcoming space during the day, particularly for people to come and hang out. Sometimes those rooms with only a desk chair feel like there's nowhere to sit and have a cup of tea and a natter.

    It helps that I'm the kind of anal person who will definitely rearrange the cushions the moment she gets up each morning, but still… worked for me!

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  12. Great ideas! I've always wanted to hang stars over my bed, maybe at our new apartment…

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  13. Pet newts don't need a noisy aquarium filter and since they eat "newt food" pellets, they can be classified as "non-meat-eating fish". I never once had an RA that said I couldn't have them.

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  14. Best way to dress up a dorm room (similar to what some people have mentioned) is to put drapy fabric on the walls. I opften found ways to tie fabric to things even when we weren't allowed to use nails or even thumbtacks. Sarongs are the best for this – so light-weight, and so colorful! Makes the whole room bohemian and cozy, despite the ucky brown tile floor (rugs, yay!) and the boring white walls.

    (And I totally wish I had asked about newts. We smuggled hamsters in, but it was fairly disastrous…)

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  15. I am so doing the homework nook now. It fits perfectly. We even have a randomass extra shower rod in a bathroom that serves no purpose that I could use.
    My roomie and I also print out inspiration quotes (mostly brotips but those count) and post them around the room. We also have a bonsai sand pit in mini form and are preparing a bonsai potato soon.

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  16. I'm an RD, and while I don't take great joy in being a "fun ruiner," there are just two things I want to mention. I've been at two different institutions and both had the same rules: nothing on the ceiling, and no tapestries on the wall as they're huge fire hazards. I just wanted to mention that as much as I love the hanging poofs, they wouldn't at all fly at either my the schools I've been at, and I've seen several suggestions about fabric on walls. Trust me, I know about the cinderblock-I live in an apartment in a residence hall and my apartment is about 80-90% white cinderblock (I had to damn near buy stock in Command Strips), but there's no sense breaking the rules if you're in a situation where you'll potentially get fined for breaking a rule from the housing manual.

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  17. My roommate and I had a quote tree, picture in the link.(http://tinyurl.com/quotetree)

    She wrote 'Please write on me.' on a few flash cards then added a few fun facts and quotes to get it started. We'd have guests add quotes, keeping a stack of flash cards, a jar of sharpie markers and stickie tac behind the TV. It could have taken on any shape but took on the shape of a tree.
    It was a great way to bond and have reminders of friends in the living room.

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