Dorm room decorating

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Make your dorm room your home away from home
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As you plan to enter or return to college this fall, think about how you'd like to make a statement with your surroundings. After all, you're going to be spending a lot of time in your dorm room and you want it to be a reflection of who you are as well as serve as a comfy gathering place for you and your friends. Dorm room decorating doesn't have to be a chore, if you plan ahead.

Gather information

Know Your Dorm: As a college student, you'll quickly realize the importance of developing strong research skills. For now, you can put your skills to the test by finding out as much about your dorm as possible. Contact your school or visit its Web site to determine the size and layout of your dorm room. Consider the following questions:
  1. 1. Do you have a large bedroom/study area behind one door that you share with your roommate(s)?
  2. 2. Or is your study area separate and accessible to other suitemates?
  3. 3. Is there a common living area in your suite?
  4. 4. What supplies and furniture come with the room?
  5. 5. Are private rooms available?
Be sure to specify the correct dorm building you've been assigned because chances are some of the school's newer dorms will have rooms with different sizes and layouts. You can assume that your room will be furnished with a bed, a desk and some drawers in your storage space, but other amenities are optional.

Meet Your Roommate(s): If at all possible, contact your roommate(s) before you meet in your room for the first time. Most colleges will acquaint you with your roommate(s) up to two months in advance, so use that to your advantage. Call or e-mail your roommate(s) and discuss supplies and furnishings. Does he/she plan to bring a refrigerator? A microwave oven? A standing lamp? If so, you can coordinate and plan your own lists accordingly. What about decorating style? Do you want to set up your beds bunk style to create more floor space? It will be helpful to discuss with your roommate whether to plan for modern style décor so you can purchase chrome desk and lighting accessories. Or, if you want to go with a more earthy feel, you can discuss buying wood accessories and handmade paper lamps.

If you discover that your personal styles clash, why not try deciding on a color scheme first? Of course, if you long for a private room, you may put in this request early and then place the results in fate's hands. Only a lucky few are blessed with a private room, and charged accordingly. Private rooms are usually 1 ½ - 2 times more expensive than a shared room.

Make Your Lists

Make a list of the items you need to bring. These items include a sheet set and comforter, your favorite desk lamp and toiletries. Then, make a list of what you want to bring. These are more likely to include personal items, such as scrapbooks or photo albums, your extensive CD collection and your stereo.

Finally, make your wish list. This list includes all the items you'd like to purchase in order to make your life on campus more enjoyable. A mattress topper, such as memory foam or egg crate foam, can make a creaky mattress more comfortable. A large rug can warm up an otherwise plain dorm room. And, of course, lighting in a room can make all the difference. You will want a lamp that provides soft light to create ambiance as well as a bright desk light for study time. A clip-on book light can be invaluable for nights when you want to read in bed while your roommate needs to fall asleep.

Some items are worth waiting to buy until you've lived in your dorm for a few weeks. Last-minute room assignment changes and unforeseen circumstances could land you with a new roommate or living situation. Besides that possibility, you may find that you can settle for less once you are actually moved in. If you'd like to start with a ready-made comprehensive dorm room checklist, visit

Maximize Storage Space

How can you create more storage that does not involve using up valuable floor space? This can be a true challenge, but what you want to do is turn your sights upward. Try using over-the-door clothes hooks and towel racks so piles don't collect on the floor. Installing simple shelving on the walls to hold your radio, alarm clock and textbooks is another low-cost solution.

When it comes to storage, plastic can be your new best friend. Plastic containers with lids, plastic file cabinets and plastic bed lifts can help you make the most of your limited storage space. They're strong, easily stackable and can be hidden under your bed. If you don't want to design your dorm room with bunk beds, consider investing in a set of plastic bed risers to create the extra space you need, adding as much as six inches of under-the-bed height for your extra shoes, winter clothes and even your toiletries. Anything you don't want accessible to your suitemates should be stored in your room when not in use. What about a memory box? This is a great place to stow away college memorabilia as you collect it.

Decorating Project

Many dorm rooms have cinderblock walls, making them a real challenge to decorate. Some colleges permit you to paint your walls, as long as you repaint them the original color at the end of the year. Although paint can instantly brighten up a room, you may not want to invest the time to paint twice in one school year.

So why not start a project that you can ultimately bring with you? A great way to settle into your new dorm and get to know your roommate(s) is to collaborate on a decorating project. This can be as simple as going to the local music or bookstore and picking out some posters together or as elaborate as purchasing crafting materials and designing a collage, scrap wall or hand-painted posters.

What about installing corkboard squares on the walls that will allow you to hang important items, calendars and postcards with just a thumbtack? Another great idea to add life to cinderblock walls is to cover them in fabric. You can crate a patchwork of different fabrics on your wall or select one primary fabric to use like wallpaper. For directions on this simple decorating project, visit

Whether you're excited to express your personal style or just want to make a ne

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