40 Decor Ideas to Transform Your Dorm Room

It’s almost that back to school time of year! And this is another topic on my blog post bucket list I’m so excited to do. College bound this summer or fall? Those weeks before leaving for college are so fun to prepare ideas for your space! I’ve got 40 decor ideas to transform your dorm room. You’ll never want to leave campus again!

For me, my college years were some of the best of my life. As someone who spent the majority of my time in college living in dorm rooms, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. It’s such a great time for fresh high school graduates to get a taste of freedom and personalize a new space of their own. However, it’s so easy to go overboard and buy things that are gimmicky or just won’t work.

But I’ve got a ton of ideas from my personal experience that you can steal from my book! This is not just a list of cute decor items; this is how you take your space to the next level.

40 dorm room ideas graphic
40 dorm room ideas - sketch image
Image of my sketch I found for my first RA dorm room at FSU. Can you tell I was excited to have my own space?

Tip #1: Create a Stylish, Cozy Corner

Dorm rooms are often equipped with classroom-style florescent lighting, blah furniture, and minimal storage. So the fastest way to add a splash of personality is to bring in elements to intentionally warm up the space to feel more like a home. And what’s more homey than a cozy reading corner?

Love this glam boho reading nook filled with inviting home items. Image source: Pinterest

The image here show here shows multiple tactics you can borrow to make a small, corner space feel inviting. Create a similar space with these products.

Acme pink velvet chair with gold legs $314
Midcentury modern shell-like chair $156 – comes in blue and green velvet as well!

A comfortable, stylish chair adds instant style and creates an inviting space for reading or guests. A lot of times, popular college shopping stores like Target, Walmart, and Bed Bath & Beyond will have chairs in the back-to-school section that are often cheap or uncomfortable. My recommendation is to avoid these and get something that you’ll totally enjoy for years.

Geometric print tan and gold 18 inch throw pillow cover. $17 – comes in white, black and other colors as well.

You can top your adorable new chair with a fun throw pillow, like this geometric gold velvet one.

Emma Tripod LED Floor Lamp $70

A floor lamp virtually dissolves the need to have bright florescent lights on which creates a more zen vibe for you and your roommate. This is another area where you can shop the main home section!

Be sure to order low energy LED bulbs in a warm white color to help combat the cool tones and make your space feel cozy.

Manhattan Comfort Midcentury Bookcase $101.15
Washable gray flat weave 2 x 3 fringe rug. $17

Rugs add color, texture, and warmth to cold dorm room floors. Look for flat weave, washable rugs that can handle college life in “high traffic” areas.

Tip #2: Make Your Bed a Sanctuary

Love the soft textures and disguising technique shown here for all the under-bed storage.
Source: Pinterest

Dorm room mattresses are probably nothing like what you’re used to at home, being much thinner and firmer. So you may want to order an XL twin memory foam topper. The one below comes in different sizes, depending on how soft you want to make your bed.

XL Twin Gel Memory Foam Toppers – Various Sizes ($43-$63)

A down alternative duvet and duvet cover can also add to the cloud-like bed vibe. Look for duvet covers and inserts that are both machine washable and dryer friendly so that you can wash them every few weeks.

Down Alternative Duvet Insert – XL Twin $27
Tufted Macrame Boho Ivory Duvet Cover & Pillow Sham Set $80

The other thing to take into consideration is that some dorm rooms might not allow you to control the temperature. It’s often colder than you’re used to! In that case, it’s great to layer up your bedding with a super soft throw blanket. I love these three options to add a pop of color/pattern for this white bedding scheme.

Mustard yellow chenille throw blanket – on sale for $40
Lightweight textured print throw blanket $50
Sweater-style pink pom pom blanket $54

While the inspiration bed image is beautiful, it’s really not that practical to have five or more pillows on an XL twin size bed. (They’ll be piled on the floor quicker than you know!) I recommend getting one pillow to sleep on, one to go in the matching sham, and one accent pillow. Below are some ideas for those.

Standard size hypoallergenic pillows – set of two $32
Brush dot print accent pillow cover $10
Woven black and white textured throw pillow cover $18

Tip #3: Create a Custom Plan for Clutter

Clutter in dorm rooms is really public enemy #1. But I’m not just your mom telling you to keep your room clean! I’m the type of person who believes that orderliness can come to most if you have a strategy. If you come into it thinking it’s not going to get messy, that’s like going to a water park and forgetting a bathing suit! It’s just going to happen.

And it totally sucks if you’re like I was and you spend money and time decorating your dorm room and it hardly looks tidy. It’s a smaller space, plain and simple! You’re often sharing the room that may also be your kitchen and bathroom, all in one. It’s inevitable that it will look more cluttered than your bedroom at home. The trick is to take the time to create a plan to minimize the look of your clutter.

Upscale desk decor idea. Source: Pinterest

Don’t just push your cart down an aisle at Target or IKEA grabbing every organizer product you can find. I challenge you to really think about this and create a custom solution.

Do you have a humongous collection of hair or beauty products? Does your desk tend to get cluttered? Do you have an overflowing closet? A coffee addiction with lots of machine accessories and an abundance of flavors? Do you have more books than one person could read in a lifetime? I’m no Marie Kondo, though I do know there’s a lot of value in decluttering your stuff before you move. However, I believe you can have the things you love in excess if you have a smart storage strategy. A few ideas below!

If You Keep A Lot on Your Desk

I wish I had this cool chair pocket in college! Just maybe wait until you’re in your dorm to order this so you can double check the measurements. $30
Alternate chair pocket that can possibly fit on the side of your dorm bed. $24
A storage cart that fits under your bed can be a game changer for your storage needs! I love how they’ve used this one as a chic extension of your desk space. $39

If You Have a Lot of Beauty Products

Organize with consistent materials, color, and labels to create a streamlined feel. I love the idea of using white (instead of clear) wherever possible because it cuts down on the visual clutter. Set of four white plastic organizers, $26.
I love this combination of a behind the door wire storage rack and narrow white containers with clip labels. Idea found here.

If You Have a Big Closet

Umbra Behind the Door Rack – $20.

Use behind the door racks to contain the overflow of heavy coats, scarves, and handbags. Think of every behind-the-door space as an opportunity to store items from your closet!

Tip #4: Your Stuff is Now Your Primary Decor

When you’re in college, pretty much everything in your dorm room should serve a purpose. So I’m really big on the idea of making everything you NEED look like decor. Or sourcing things you need that look good to you stylistically. Some ideas below.

Image source: Pinterest

When I went to school, I had a bookshelf from home that followed me to every dorm room. A tall bookshelf can be extremely helpful with organizing your new space. And whenever you can arrange something in a systematic or styled way, like the bookshelf examples here, it looks less cluttered.

Another totally gorgeous shelf styling idea. Source: Pinterest
Driftwood jewelry organizer. Source: Pinterest/Etsy

Your costume jewelry can be a part of the decor parade and save you valuable surface or drawer space. Just make sure you hang the driftwood pieces from a command hook and NOT a nail in the wall.

Who doesn’t love a lamp with an animal totem? Owl base lamp $32

As I mentioned earlier in this article, bringing in your own lighting is a key decor element to transform your dorm room. Instead of standard desk lamp, why not get a cute table lamp like the owl above? Get something that works AND makes you happy to look at it!

This adorable pineapple lamp can charge your phone and dim with a touch.

Tip #5: Go Crazy with Wall Art

Just because you can’t put holes in the walls, doesn’t mean you can’t transform your walls with decor. The walls will be the first expression of your space, so take time sourcing the items that will communicate your vibe. Some ideas below.

If I had to go back to college today, I would be doing a washi tape gallery wall for sure! It comes in so many patterns but it’s about as sticky as painter’s tape, so that means it usually won’t destroy walls. You can print your own photos, quotes or use favorite cards and notes from your friends. And you can get a huge pack of washi tape in a variety of patterns that will last you all four years. A few options I found on Amazon below.

While I am NOT the first person to suggest fairy lights in a dorm room, I want to suggest an accent wall of lights. I love how this example uses super long strands of fairy lights ($14) with photos clipped on. Mini pack of 50 craft clips ($5). Be sure to use mini command hooks for hanging and arranging so that you don’t damage the walls.

You can make your own ethereal, boho art piece with a branch, string, and florals from the Dollar Tree or Michael’s. Just be sure to hang from a command hook. Oh and leave your cat at home! 🙂

Tip #6: Decorate with Plants

Real plants, if you can take care of them, are awesome in a dorm because they look great and really bring the essence of home. Some of them may even clean the air a bit for you! Just to be sure to read up on their care instructions and find places where they can live that don’t cut into your valuable desk or dresser surface space.

While it’s best to purchase plants from your local grocery or home improvement store, you can order cute plant stands or pots online to up your style game.

Hanging planters are a great way to bring the look of live plants to your space without taking up surface space. Lightweight ones like these should be able to hang from a command hook as long as the total weight doesn’t exceed three pounds. I can’t get over how cute these are!

Tip #7: Consider Going EXTRA with Home-y Touches

Without decor, dorm rooms really aren’t that different from the vibe of sitting in a hospital. This is why no one will fault you for taking the cozy home accents a little over the top!

I love the idea of bringing in a faux sheepskin rug to be the first thing your feet will feel in the morning. You can also use to soften up a chair like the example below.

Usually dorm rooms are pretty good about having blinds or some way to block light, so curtains are totally in the “extra” zone. I had a bay window in my first RA room in a building that was over a hundred years old. The future designer in me could NOT resist dressing up that space with beautiful sheer curtains. You can accomplish the same with a set of cute sheer curtains and a tension rod like you would use for a shower curtain!

For small picture windows, kitchen or bathroom length curtains with fun tassel details will look amazing! Tassel curtain panels, $30
Long tassel-edged sheet curtains, $41

Tip #8: Consider Repurposing Items from Your Home

The set of chairs in my floor plan drawing were created by picking up some used chairs from Craigslist and reupholstering in a funky fabric. I kept those chairs for nine years because I loved them so much! It was so cool to transform something that could’ve easily gone to the dump. If your family has offered you some old lamps, chairs, mirrors, etc. don’t be so quick to turn them down! Nowadays you can find upcycled DIYs for all sorts of things on Pinterest. The sky is the limit for these type of projects, and why not try it out?

I feel like this Anthropologie lamp ($148) could easily be duped with a ribbon of tassels from the craft store.
DIY for recovering an office rolling chair.

Oh my goodness, this was a lot but SO much fun to put together. I’ve been even unintentionally listening to some of my college music favorites on Pandora as I worked on this. I hope you enjoyed these 40 (or more) decor ideas to transform your dorm room!

If you try any of these ideas, please be sure to tag me on Instagram as I’d love to see it! @kaitlynloosdesign

Moving into an apartment or renting a new house? I have lots more interior design inspiration and budget design recommendations under the Interior Design section of this blog. Lots more ideas where this came from!

About Kaitlyn Loos

Kaitlyn Loos Headshot

Kaitlyn Loos [loh-s] is one of the newest designers for interiors and events in the Tampa, Ocala, and Gainesville area. She brings over seven years of graphic design, project management, and event planning experience to create amazing spaces and experiences for her clients. She is one of the only interior design companies in her area who offers modern, fresh, pattern and color-savvy designs. From styling an event to designing an entire home, Kaitlyn Loos Design is a full service company that delivers style for nearly any investment level. She also enjoys sharing her ideas and projects through her new blog which reaches over 325 people monthly. 

For more information about Kaitlyn, check out: About Kaitlyn: Interior Design, and About Kaitlyn: Event Planning.

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