How to Decorate a Dorm

Three Parts:Adding Color and WarmthAdding Stylish FunctionalityKeeping the Practical Stuff in Mind

Lots of college students excitedly push open the door to their first place only to be disappointed with blank white walls and a ton of rules. If your dorm room is drab and uninspiring, there are lots of simple ways you can energize and personalize the space. Even with the restrictions that many dorm rooms have regarding hanging things on the walls, you still have plenty of options for decorating your room.

Part 1
Adding Color and Warmth

  1. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 1
    Think about your color palette. Before you start buying or crafting new items for your dorm room, it's a good idea to have a theme in mind. You will be working with a neutral backdrop, so your accessories will bring all of the color into the room. Make sure your color choices represent your personality and the mood you want to create in your room.[1]
    • For a monochromatic but balanced color palette, choose three or four different shades from the same color family.
    • If you want accent colors, choose one or two colors from a different color family. You can look at a color wheel and choose colors that are across from your primary colors. You can also use the accent colors in your bedding or other fabrics for inspiration.
  2. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 2
    Choose a great bedspread. Your bedspread is often the biggest part of your decor you have control over. Find a pattern or color you like and will not grow out of in a few months.[2]
    • Consider a few different layers of bedding to add visual interest and provide optimal comfort in different seasons.
    • Don't forget fun, coordinating throw pillows for some added comfort and style. You can put matching pillows on your chairs as well.
    • Be sure to check with your college to find out if the beds are regular length or extra long.
  3. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 3
    Add a rug. A throw rug is the perfect way to add some color to your drab dorm room floor, and to add warmth and comfort to your room. Throw rugs are available in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and styles.[3]
  4. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 4
    Consider hanging curtains. Curtains are the perfect way to dress up bare windows, and they're yet another way to add some much needed color to your room.[4]
    • To avoid putting holes in the walls, use a tension rod to hang your curtains or get creative by using adhesive hooks to support the curtain rod.[5]
    • If you're on a budget, consider using shower curtains or buying bundles of fabric and sewing them yourself.
    • You can also buy inexpensive plain white curtains and dress them up yourself by dying them, stenciling them, or decorating them with ribbon.
    • Consider functionality as well. Blackout curtains will keep your room dark and will help keep the warmth in on cold winter nights. Sheer curtains will provide privacy but still allow light to filter into your room.
  5. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 5
    Find fun decals. You may not be able to paint or hang traditional wallpaper in your dorm room, but you still have a lot of options for decorating your walls. Stick-on wall decals are available in a huge variety of styles, and they peel right off of your wall in seconds when it's time to move out. Whether you want to cover an entire wall with a geometric pattern or you want to dress up a wall with an image of your favorite animal or sport, you can find a decal or temporary wallpaper that's right for you.[6]
    • A super cheap alternative to buying decals is to make some yourself using construction paper. Consider cutting out lots of colorful circles and sticking them to your walls with double-sided tape for a fun confetti look.[7]
  6. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 6
    Use washi tape. If you love colorful geometric patterns and are willing to spend a bit of time on a project, you can create a true masterpiece on your walls with colorful washi tape. Just stick it on in whatever pattern you please and peel it off when the school year is over.[8]
    • You can use washi tape on more than just walls! Consider using it on doors, floors, and furniture as well.
  7. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 7
    Decorate with art and photos. Nothing personalizes a space more than photos and artwork, and there are so many different ways you can incorporate these items into your room design. Get creative with arranging your pictures in a way that expresses your individual personality.[9]
    • Create a gallery wall by taping a group of pictures to the wall, either in a grid pattern in a more random arrangement. You can also hang rows of string or wire from your walls and attach your picture to them with clips.
    • If you have one or two photos that you really love, think about having them blown up to poster size.
    • Display your own artwork by hanging clipboards from the wall. This makes it super easy to switch up the pieces you have on display.
    • Store-bought artwork is also an option. Visit thrift shops for great deals.
  8. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 8
    Incorporate plants. Plants add so much cheer to a room, so consider incorporating a few into your design. As an added bonus, they also purify the air.[10]
    • You can display them in decorative pots on the floor or on your desk. If there's no space for that, you could consider buying hanging planters.[11]
    • If you feel like doing a DIY project, attach pipe straps to a piece of wood to hang mason jars as planters. You can decorate the wood in any way you like.[12]
    • Make sure you have enough light to keep your plants alive. Putting them near the window is your best bet.
    • Remember that you will need to water your plants regularly in order to keep them healthy.
    • If live plants aren't for you, artificial plants can look just as good and are totally maintenance free!

Part 2
Adding Stylish Functionality

  1. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 9
    Buy multipurpose furniture. Versatility is key in a small space, so always look for pieces that serve multiple purposes. For example, cube ottomans can be used for both seating and storage. You may also be able to find a bedside table that has a drawer you can use for clothing.[13]
  2. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 10
    Add lighting. If your dorm room is dark and dreary, it's easy to brighten it up with some additional lighting. Look for desk lamps and floor lamps that go with the theme of your room.[14]
    • Paper lanterns and string lights are also fun ways to add some extra mood lighting.[15]
    • If you have a boring lamp shade, dress it up by stenciling it or gluing some decorative ribbon to it.
  3. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 11
    Display your things. If you have clothing items that you really love, you can use them to decorate your space. Just hang some adhesive hooks on your wall or buy a small display shelf. This will keep you organized and make your room look awesome.[16]
    • This works especially well for things like shoes, scarves, bags, and hats.
  4. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 12
    Create a message board. Every dorm room needs a message board of some sort! It will help keep you organized and give your friends a handy spot to leave you notes. Depending on your needs, you may opt for a cork board, a magnet board, a chalk board, a whiteboard, or some combination of these.[17]
    • For a cheap magnet board, hang cookie sheets on your wall with adhesive tape. If you can't find colorful ones, consider spray painting them to match your decor.[18]
    • Chalk paint can turn any surface into a message board, from a table top to a piece of scrap lumber that you can hang on the wall.
  5. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 13
    Use storage bins as a decoration. You'll need to cram a lot into a small space, so storage bins and baskets will come in super handy. Choose decorative storage containers that match your decor. There are plenty of designs to choose, from wicker baskets to neon-colored plastic bins and patterned fabric containers.[19]
  6. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 14
    Use the space under your bed. You can store a ton of stuff under your bed, which helps you control your clutter and keep your room looking great. If you don't have enough height, buy some bed risers to lift your bed a little higher.[20]
    • Invest in under-the-bed storage containers to keep your storage area neat and tidy.[21]
    • Get an extra-long bed skirt if you want to keep your storage out of view.
  7. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 15
    Organize your closet. It may not sound like a lot of fun, but keeping your closet organized will help you keep your room neat and tidy, and it will make it so much easier to find the things you're looking for!
    • Consider buying hanging closet organizers. The smaller ones are great for storing shoes, while the larger ones give you a place to store folded sweaters and jeans.[22]
    • Slim velvet hangers are great space savers for small closets.
    • Take advantage of any space you have at the top of your closet too. You may be able to stash storage bins up there for off-season clothing or other items that you don't use every day.

Part 3
Keeping the Practical Stuff in Mind

  1. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 16
    Play by the rules. Most dorms have strict rules about hanging decorations with nails and painting the walls, among other things. Always check the rules and regulations before you do anything that might be a violation.
    • Adhesive strips and hooks make it possible to hang nearly anything on your walls without leaving a mark, so don't feel that you are limited in your design options!
    • Some dorms may also prohibit you from hanging anything from the ceiling, even if it doesn't create a hole.
    • Most dorm rooms do not allow you to burn candles or incense, so look for fire-free ways to add a nice scent to your room, like oil diffusers.
    • Fire codes may also limit what you are allowed to hang on your door.[23]
  2. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 17
    Talk to your roommates. If you'll be sharing your room with one or more other students, it's a good idea to start talking to them as soon as possible to determine what each of you is bringing. You can coordinate so that each of you brings one or two large items that will be available for everyone to use.
    • It also helps to talk to your roommates about likes, dislikes, and color preferences. If you come up with a design plan together, your room will look much more cohesive.[24]
    • Be sure to talk about practical things like dorm fridges, microwaves, and televisions, in addition to decor items.
    • Go shopping for new items with your roommates if possible. This will be a great way to get to know each other while decorating your room.
  3. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 18
    Get measurements. It helps a lot to know exactly how much space you will have to deal with before you start buying items to decorate your room with. If possible, visit the dorm rooms yourself and take measurements of everything (Including the existing furniture). If you can't do it yourself, call your college and see if they can provide you with measurements.
    • Remember that you can't fill every square inch of your floor space with furniture. When deciding how much will really fit, be sure to take walking space into consideration.
  4. Image titled Decorate a Dorm Step 19
    Don't be afraid to rearrange. You do have to deal with the furniture that comes with your dorm room, but there's no reason you have to leave it in the same place! Feel free to move things around to create a space that works for you and your roommates.


  • If you must use a push pin in the wall, a swipe of toothpaste is needed to cover the hole. Remember this could get you in trouble.
  • Don't overdo it on the stuff. Remember that you'll have to move everything again when the school year ends.
  • Nearly any hard surface can be painted, so don't be afraid to buy not-so-attractive furniture at a thrift store. As long as you like the shape of it, you can change up the color.
  • When choosing a colour scheme, check with your (future) roommate about which tones to use, so that the entire room looks coherent
  • When you're shopping for storage solutions, look for things that can hang on the wall or stack on top of each other to maximize space.[25]


  • If using bed risers, make sure that the bed legs won't slip too much, and check them regularly to make sure that the risers are properly placed and the bed is secure. Sudden or rough movements may cause a bed riser to slide out of place.

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