Dorm sweet dorm: How students turn rooms into a home

Students shared this space before and others will for years after you

There is a three-shelved dresser in one cor­ner, a twin bed in another, and a shared bathroom opposite of the wall. Knowing students shared this space before and that others will for years after you can make it difficult to feel like your own. 

It is important to realize, however, that the space lying between these four quaint walls is all yours for the next 30 weeks of your life. It is where sleep, study, procrastination, celebration and every­thing in between happens. It is the place you will learn to call home. 

The dorm plays an invaluable role in the col­lege experience of many Arizona State University students. With nearly 37 percent of undergraduate students being non-residents and 11 percent being international, as provided by ASU’s Facts at a Glance 2016, the dorms are a home away from home.

“Without the dorms, I wouldn’t have made as many friends as I have now,” says Alayna O’Keefe, a sophomore journalism and mass communication student from Swampscott, Massachusetts. “It made me feel welcome and comfortable going into school and helped me get adjusted to this new lifestyle.”

Although O’Keefe enjoys the dorms of downtown ASU’s Taylor Place, she expressed the underwhelming feeling the room initially pro­vides. At first sight, dorm life may not seem glam­orous. 

Walking into such a small space, the truth quickly sets in: How will everything fit? Between the clothes, textbooks, strict limitations and not to mention, possible damage fees lingering above your head, turning this “box” into a home appears impossible.

Fear not, students and experts found tricks to cheat the system and turn a mundane room into an HGTV-worthy humble abode.

Step One – Storage is key

With dorm room space comes limita­tions. Storage bins, shoe racks and stackable drawers are the epitome of the college dorm. Although they are not the most aesthetically pleasing décor on the market, nothing works better when transporting your life from one place to the next. 

Keeping your belongings hidden in drawers and out of sight helps decrease unnec­essary clutter. Staying organized also opens up your room, allowing you to take advantage of all available space. 

“I raised my bed so I could put laundry and storage bins underneath it where I couldn’t see them. The room feels bigger, I have more space to work with, and people have room to sit and hang out,” says Aly Perkins, a sopho­more public service and public policy major from Orange County, California.

Step Two – It’s the little things in life

Now that you have the essentials, you can move on to the most exciting step – decorat­ing. When you first arrive, the walls are barren, the floor is cold and the ambience is far from home-y. This is your opportunity to make the place yours by putting splashes of your person­ality here and there. 

It is possible to channel your inner interior designer on a college budget no matter what vibe you want to achieve. For those seeking an urban look, clothes racks, hanging shelves and wall grids may be of interest. Not only are these pieces trendy, but they are useful day-to-day.

If you are more of a minimalist, sticking with a light and cohesive color scheme goes a long way, allowing even the simplest décor to bring a room to life. Decoration ideas include a hat wall, yarn art and plants. Items like these give a room a three-dimensional element and add texture in a subtle way. 

For the bohemian boy or girl, having a balance of color and simplicity is essential. Tribal or paisley printed bedspreads and tapes­tries are a necessity. Twinkly lights are another option that both light up a room and mirror the image of stars, turning your room into a night sky. Many are also turning to over-bed canopies as they painlessly hang from the ceil­ing and are often the focal point of a room.

Regardless of the category your dream room falls in, there are a number of ways to personalize it. Keeping a Pinterest board for your dorm allows you to stay inspired through­out the year if you decide to switch things up. Exploring flea and vintage markets and turn­ing to DIYs ensure you will have a room unlike any other as well.

Step Three – Home is where the heart is

In order to make your room feel like home, adorn it in objects that remind you of home. Whether that be a state flag, a home­made blanket or photos of your best friends, having something to physically hold or look at when homesickness sets in creates a sense of comfort and familiarity. 

“Both your dorm and your home are a part of who you are and your experience. If you think about it, you have two homes,” Perkins says. “It’s nice to have bits of who you are and your memories. I brought my own art, hung up lights…little things like that.”

Rachel Morrison, a customer service agent at Roomify, a company that specializes in dorm décor and essentials, believes pictures not only spice up your walls, but are a remedy for homesickness. 

“I put up pictures,” Morrison says. “I may have put up too many. Just to see your friends and family and knowing they are there and supporting you is kind of cool.” 

Helping college students is Roomify’s principal goal. One of the ways it achieves this is by hiring student employees who know what the target audience is looking for firsthand. They understand that college is a huge transi­tion and want to take away unnecessary stress. 

No matter how you decorate your room, there are three items Morrison says you cannot go without: throw pillows, a tapestry and a rug. 

“A rug is literally a life-saver,” Morrison says. “When you get out of bed and your feet hit the floor, it’s a must … a little shag rug goes a long way.”

Inspiration is everywhere. Whether you are a do-it-yourself connoisseur or are seeking guidance from a company like Roomify, there are resources available to make your dorm all you want and more. Stay creative, decorate with your heart, and you will be saying “dorm sweet dorm” in no time.

Reach the reporter at or follow @emily_a_taylor on Twitter.

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