Dorm decor 101

Outfitting rooms with personal touches can mimic the comfort of home ... minus mom and dad

Outfitting rooms with personal touches can mimic the comfort of home ... minus mom and dad

August 11, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

As zero hour, the start of classes at Shepherd College, approaches, the appropriately named James Vigil prepares for the inevitable onrush of students.

Some will be searching for textbooks, some for a bottle of aspirin. But others will be looking for little touches to make their new home feel a bit more comfortable.

More, well, lived in.

"It's just not knowing what to expect when they get here, what they can and cannot put in their rooms and what they need to do to get online when they get here" says Vigil, director of auxiliary enterprises at the Shepherdstown, W.Va., school. "The busiest day in here is the second day of classes because they've generally gone to all their classes, they know what they need, they know what they've brought, they know what their roommate's brought and they're ready to get what they need."


Before too long, and later this week at Shepherd, freshmen will flood college campuses nationwide, taking the first baby steps toward independence by living on their own in a dorm.

Outfitting that personal space is as important as mastering the campus layout and figuring out which pizza places deliver and how late.

The dorm is a sanctuary, a place to put a personal stamp on the college experience, a comfort zone where hopefully students can take refuge when times are rough.

Large home improvement or houseware stores are a clearinghouse for off-to-college shopping supplies, providing directions for building a loft for additional storage or a portable hamper for dirty clothes.

Holly Shonk, director of student activities at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., suggests bringing personal touches to spruce up a room: photos, sketches or stuffed animals that can make a sterile dorm more inviting.

She also suggests, despite the infiltration of technology via e-mail, to pack stationery and stamps for letters to friends or family.

"It's important that students maintain a personal connection with people from home," Shonk says. "To be able to write letters home is more personal than e-mail."

Short of new paint jobs, there are dozens of things that can be done to personalize the living space. Big ticket items are easy to remember: Computers, TVs, mini refrigerators or microwaves.

In addition to textbooks, writing supplies and official collegewear, Vigil and his staff at the bookstore provide some of the easily forgotten items. Need a desk lamp? Alarm clock to keep from sleeping through classes? Posters? Wall tapestries?

These are the little touches that can turn a sterile room into home.

More recently, Vigil says requests have come for more high-tech accessories, computer cords, coaxial cables, phone cords needed to make the room work, and look, just right.

"Things that are really long, so they can stretch things out across the room," Vigil says. "So they can have some mobility about how they set up their room."

Shonk suggests planning ahead. One item often left off of checklists is a fan, since cooling and heating systems in residence halls can be uneven.

Other nuts and bolts items can include kitchen utensils, a small pan and a can opener.

"That's something you never think to bring along," Shonk says. "But when you find yourself in a situation where you need to open a can, they can be hard to come by."

Beyond such practical items, she returns to the personal touches. Little reminders of home and friends left behind can make a big difference when first semester blues hit.

"It's fun going away to college and buying all those new things for your room," Shonk says. "Sometimes, when you're feeling down, it's the things that are not new that make you feel more comfortable or ease those feelings."

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