Turn a drab dorm room into a stylish home

August 13, 2005|By CHRISTINE BRUN

Part of the thrill of starting the university experience is decorating a new room. Whether it's a dorm room or moving into a first apartment, students want their private space to reflect their personalities in a significant way.

Even if they have little or no money, their rooms can be cutting-edge stylish. The secret is to learn how to stay within a decorating budget.

Teach your student to shop for fashion-forward merchandise at discount stores such as T.J. Maxx, Target and HomeGoods. Then think of creative ways to incorporate items they already own.

"Although college living spaces are typically small, personal style can still shine through," states Robyn Arvedon of HomeGoods. "There are so many creative and affordable ways to showcase a person's individual style and taste, no matter what size the living space is."


One obvious way to add punch to the blah residential hall room is with color. If painting the walls isn't an option, maybe your student can bring in a fun lounge-type chair like a comfy Papasan chair offered by retailer Garden Ridge. The floppy cushion will add color and comfort in an instant.

In addition to being essential to sleeping, reading, watching movies and generally hanging out, the bed is the first thing people see when coming into the room. This is probably the place where students have the greatest influence over the statement their room will make. Allow them make their own choice for a brightly patterned duvet or comforter. If possible, let them spend a little more on this one item because of the importance of homelike comfort at this time in their lives.

If you and your child already have a design plan for the room, consider ordering from a linen catalog and shipping bedding ahead of your arrival. Most campuses have arrangements for such mailings. That way, the bulky pillows, blankets and comforters won't take up valuable room in the car during the trip to the campus. Many companies will monogram for free, thus eliminating the possibility of mix-ups in the laundry room.

A polar fleece throw in vibrant red, pink or blue also adds softness. Pillows are a safe bet and can be covered to reinforce their chosen theme. Items like fun acrylic tableware and glasses are a smart alternative to messy paper plates, are easy to clean and can add bold color in unexpected ways. Desktop organizers are a good idea, along with stacking file boxes.

Storage will be a big issue in cramped dormitory quarters. Happily, that dilemma offers a possibility for adding color and interest to the surroundings with unusual storage boxes like the one shown here. No longer are students limited to ugly milk crates. Think of fabric-covered boxes, lined baskets and funky hatboxes for the women. The guys might prefer colorful plastic storage boxes with lids instead. Wicker baskets and leather boxes are also options. T.J. Maxx often carries leather desk accessories and storage boxes in masculine black, brown or red leather.

Necessary accessories, such as a sleek retro desk lamp or a colorful shag rug, can also showcase personal style. Funky wall art and cool picture frames are other ways to add color and give the room some individuality. Discount stores are also good places to buy the necessary utilitarian items such as back-of-the-door hanging shoe or jewelry storage.

Don't forget to bring along some favorite family photographs. This space will be your child's refuge, as close as he or she will get to "home" for the coming year.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

Copley News Service

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