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Emily Henderson

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by Jess Bunge
dorm room ideas
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for EHD | from: my dream dorm

Let me paint you a picture of yesteryear. It’s 2006 when I was a young, naive 18-year-old moving into her dorm room. Back then, the world was different. The iPhone had yet to change (*cough* take over) our lives forever, Facebook was strictly for college students and Instagram and Pinterest did not exist. Let me repeat that last part. Instagram and Pinterest DID NOT exist until 2010. I was already out of college when those came on the scene. Also, I think online shopping was a thing but I was NOT partaking. Too risky if you would have asked me. “I’m old school,” I would proclaim. I had in my mind that I  needed to see and touch whatever I wanted to buy before I was giving anyone any money. So endless runs to the mall, Target and The Container Store it was and DIY dorm room ideas from the imagination of me and my creative parents’ minds.

It all feels nearly prehistoric now. Needless to say, things are different than they were 2006. So now that we are in 2019, I got to thinking if I were headed off to college this year, with the endless inspiration that’s on the internet and my current close and loving relationship with online shopping…how would I decorate my dorm room differently? I took this question to the streets and by streets, I mean the EHD team for some dorm room ideas. Our new Partnerships and Marketing Manager Caitlin, and our new Editorial/Social Media Assistant Mallory were particularly into this idea. So we thought we would all design our dream 2019 dorm rooms as a fun nostalgia trip (well, for most of us). This way, you have three different designs in addition to getting to know a little more about these two wonderful EHD ladies. ALSO, fun fact, there is almost exactly a five-year difference between each of us which I think maybe gives an interesting perspective…

Curious to see what that is? I thought so (plus we have some real raw ACTUAL photos of some of our dorm rooms, so keep reading).

I will go first since I am the oldest and wisest. JK. But here she is…

dorm room ideas

1. Washed Linen Duvet Cover Set | 2. Cream Chenille Euro Dec Pillow | 3. Cotton Velvet Cushion Cover | 4. Crochet Fringe Throw Pillow | 5. White Fitted Sheet | 6. Throw Blanket | 7. Stripe Rug | 8. The Orga lamp | 9. Be Nice Or Leave Flag Tapestry | 10. Cult Paper Mouth Art Print | 11. Almost Makes Perfect Round Art Print | 12. Floral Vase Tufted Tapestry | 13. New Math Collection Tea Towels | 14. Abstract line Art 2 Poster | 15. 30-Minute Hourglass | 16. Leather Tray | 17. Ottoman | 18. Decorative Soft Knit Baskets Bins Storage Organizer | 19. Picture Frame | 20. Dome Glass Table Lamp | 21. Woven Wicker Arc Wall Mirror | 22. Bluetooth Radio Speaker | 23. Rattan Letter Sorter | 24. Book Boxes | 25. Lined Hardcover Notebook | 26. Wall Jewelry Cabinet Armoire with Mirror | 27. Eraser Pencil Stand Set | 28. Textured Stripe 6” Planter | 29. Blue Bud Vase | 30. Office Chair  | 31. Brass Tray | 32. Pen Cup | 33. Polka Dot Ceramic Dish | 34. Mug | 35. Desk Lamp | 36. Wastebasket

Okay, I know I may get a fair amount of push back on some of these items as they are not all classically “dormy.” And while not the most expensive, they are also not terribly inexpensive for what people may think a college student needs. BUT as the oldest gal out of today’s group, there is something to be said for buying a few things that don’t scream dorm. Why do you ask? Sustainability. Sure, your style may shift after that first year of being on your own but the last thing you want is to throw out all of your dorm decor because it either fell apart from poor quality or now feels toooo young when you start to decorate your new apartment. I say don’t spend a ton of money on bed linens or storage. You will probably desperately want an upgrade from your twin XL asap once you say goodbye to your dorm and will need to buy new bedding for that bigger bed. Secondly, dorm specific storage is just that…specific to a dorm. You may have very different needs in your next apartment so don’t break the bank on the organizational stuff.

Now for my dream design, I wanted it to feel young but not juvenile and colorful but still peaceful. Sometimes too much color is distracting for me (I can attest since I really went for the color in my actual dorm all those years ago; I sadly cannot find a photo as much as I tried). Some of my favorite items in this are the Floral Vase Tufted Tapestry because it’s playful while still looking modern, the squiggle table lamp because I have wanted it forever (I love squiggles if you didn’t know) and I would keep it forever/ it gives movement to the space. I also really love the Italian Lakes book because SURPRISE it’s a secret box and the over the door mirror/storage piece because it’s almost too useful. I wish I would have had this when I was in the dorms. It’s perfect to share with your roommate (if you get along) for your everyday jewelry and makeup. Then you can have your special stuff in a smaller bin on “your side.”

Jess’s Dorm Dos and Don’ts

1. Choose art that looks good unframed: In any dorm I’ve been in, putting holes in a wall is not only a big no-no but it’s actually impossible. Remember that cinder block is the wall material of choice of a lot of schools. And then when you get an apartment, put your favorites in frames and they will feel brand new and more put together.

2. Don’t go crazy on the appliances: You only really need a fridge and a microwave. Maaaybe a toaster and coffee maker. Just take it from someone who NEVER used her “eggs benedict maker” and keep it simple. Also, you might want to wait to see if your roommate wants to split the appliances so you don’t have double of everything. Plus, try and get out of your room as much as possible to meet people. The dining hall is perfect for that and you don’t have to wash your dishes.

Now may I introduce Caitlin. Five years younger and as you will soon be able to tell with her design, SO MUCH fun. I’ll let her take it away in one second but we thought it would be fun to show you what her actual freshman dorm looked like, Halloween decorations and all. Just so you all know, I’m not avoiding showing my less than ideal dorm room. Like I mentioned, I tried desperately to find a pic of mine but it was lost on an old computer. Also remember that I am older and the technology we know today was a fetus that didn’t want to make remembering memories easy. So I will just subject my two new coworkers to showing the world their old rooms alone.

Dorm Room Ideas Caitlin

Does it have some personality? Yes. Would she do things pretty differently if she could do it all again? The answer was a big yes and the design below would be her 2019 dorm masterpiece. Okay, now Caitlin will take it away…

dorm room ideas

1. Solid Down Alternative Comforter | 2. Pink Pillow | 3. GURLI | 4. Winky Embroidered Pillow | 5. Sheet Set | 6. Throw Blanket | 7. Rug | 8. Modern Irregular Stripes 01 Art Print | 9. You Can Stay Up All Night Art Print | 10. Ice Skating Illustrated Winter Print | 11. Wall Clock | 12. Toucan Lamp | 13. Trixie Inflatable Chair | 14. Cork Bulletin Board | 15. Plastic Vanity Mirror | 16. Vase | 17. Banana Dish | 18. Speckled Ceramic Tiered Planter | 19. Over-the-Door Mirror Metal Black | 20. Henry Googly Eye Planter | 21. Reference Bookend | 22. Letter Rack | 23. Academic Planner | 24. Wastebasket | 25. Office Chair | 26. Cactus Coaster Set | 27. 70’s Vintage Plastic Desk Organizer | 28. Penn Desk Lamp | 29. Large Slatted Metal Bin with Mesh Bottom | 30. 3 Shelf Utility Storage Cart | 31. Laundry Basket

Hi y’all! I’m Caitlin, and I head up partnerships around here. I’m a Delaware native and graduated with a degree in journalism that I am currently using for the first time. I spent three years living in my college’s dorms—first in a forced triple (yes, I lost the lottery, and yes, it was as cramped as it seems), then in a double, and finally in a single—so I am WELL VERSED in the on-campus life. Anyway, here’s my confession: I kind of LOVE the college dorm aesthetic. There’s a pretty limited time in your life where you can rock a blow-up translucent chair (one of them was in the late 1990s when everyone loved inflatable furniture, and one of them is the 1-4 years when you’re living in a dorm), so I’m trying to lean into that vibe.

My style in a nutshell: I try to keep most of my functional pieces super minimal while bringing in the weird with my accessories and art. There’s a little bit of vintage (I am absolutely in love with this toucan lamp and ’70s space-age pencil cup), a little bit of nature (spoiler alert: the person who can keep a plant alive in college is definitely the type of person you should befriend), and a little bit spicy (I have a different Baron Von Fancy print above my bed now, but this one feels very fitting for all your all-nighters).

Caitlin’s Dorm Dos and Don’ts

1. Bring way less than you think you need: The plastics industry is lying to you. You do not need to buy extra plastic dressers or those big plastic storage tubs. And if you feel like you do need those things right away, there’s a good chance that you may have overpacked. Case in point: I brought two (yes, two) of these big tubs filled with shoes and boots when I moved into my Boston dorm. You know what I didn’t need when it was 80 million degrees and I was hauling things from my car to my dorm? A whole tub of boots, that’s what. I had never even worn boots before I got to college, and now I was stuck schlepping the entire TJ Maxx size 9.5 shoe section in a plastic sarcophagus. They sat untouched for months. Pack less than you need at first and live in your space before you make any big storage decisions. As it turns out, mail and holidays are both things—you can always bring more things in later!

2. Be nice: Okay, this is not decor-related, but it is a real pro-tip: if you’re living with other people, be considerate about your noise level! In my freshman year forced triple, one of my roommates would wake up in the middle of the night to eat apples. Apples! That’s a healthy choice, but y’all, you do not even KNOW how loud a crisp apple sounds across a silent room at 3 AM. On the bright side, my bunkmate and I bonded over how surreal and ridiculous of an experience this was and we ended up becoming best friends—I even got to be in their wedding.  So, maybe your crunchy foods will bring your roommates together…but probably not. Basically, if you’re going to be loud, do it in the common room.

Next and last up is Mallory. Mallory graduated this past December so she is fresh off that college train and most attune to what life in the dorm is like in the “modern-day post-social media world.” I am about to show you her freshman dorm and let me say that it is super cute. In my opinion, she didn’t even really need a “dream dorm” redo…

Dorm Room Ideas Mallory

See what I mean?? Pretty great already. But hey, we love a redesign and her “new design” is actually even cuter so please enjoy while Mallory introduces herself…

dorm room ideas

1. Tufted Dot Duvet Cover | 2. Gemma Fringe Throw Pillow | 3. Textured White Pillow | 4. Velvet Tufted Round Throw Pillow | 5. Jersey Sheet Set Solids | 6. Broken Stripe Flatweave Rug | 7. Kiss 2015 Art Print | 8. Spacce 03 Geometric Pastel Print | 9. Mini Macrame Wall Hanging | 10. Cosmic Double Rainbow | 11. Abstract Art2 Art Print | 12. Hinkson Picture Frame | 13. Mirror Hooks, Set of 3 | 14. Tiger Cutout Hook | 15. Opalhouse Chunky Knit Throw Blanket | 16. Black Braided Jute Pouf | 17. Oak and Metal Floor Mirror | 18. Round Decorative Mirror | 19. DwellStudio Faceted Black Vases | 20. White Himalayan Salt Lamp | 21. Two Cube Organizer | 22. Speckled Vases | 23. Office Chair | 24. Marbled Travel Journal | 25. Free Downloadable Calendar | 26. Solid Faceted Wastebasket | 27. Desk Organizer | 28. Black Indoor Floor Lamp | 29. Dorm Shower Tote | 30. Cooking Caddy | 31. MagicLinen Laundry Bag

Hey everyone! I’m Mallory, the Social Media and Editorial Assistant here at EHD. I’m a So-Cal native who has never surfed a day in her life, wannabe calligrapher, fireworks lover (I cry every time I watch the Disneyland fireworks), and my back-up career is to be a professional trampolinist. So now that we know each other, let’s dive right in:

I call this look, Chic Modern Glam (or Affordable Anthro Chic). I would be stoked to go back to college if that meant living in this dorm room. It’s got everything you could want: pattern, warmth, storage, a gallery wall, a great floor lamp (which is only $33), all sprinkled in with lots of gold glam. The pieces I chose aren’t just there to look pretty though, guys, they’re functional, too. Like those wood storage cubbies (life savers, see below) and desk organizer. I also really love the ceramic vases and art. They add the perfect amount of texture to the room and completely elevate the style.

Mallory’s Dorm Dos and Don’ts

1. Get versatile storage furniture: Let’s start with the storage because that’s most likely going to be your #1 problem when moving into your new space. In my crusty little dorm freshman year of college, my roommate bought two of those storage cubbies. At first, I was wary but they ended up being the most versatile pieces of storage that I took around with me from college apartment to college apartment (my roommate ended up transferring so she gave them to me…shoutout to you, Han). The best part about them is you can configure them any way you want, which makes them perfect for dorm life since you usually have no idea what you’re getting into until you walk in the door. You can stash one (or both) under your bed, you can put them together and make them a TV console, or you can do one in a little nook on one side of the room, and the other on the opposite side of the room. See? You got lots of options with these little babies. Plus, you can switch out the bins for an instantly new look, so they’re totally non-committal.

2. Be resourceful and find FREE things: Another little something I chose for my dorm that’s hands-down the most affordable item in this blog post because it’s FREE is this printable minimalist calendar. I’m a sucker for giant calendars that I can write on daily (I had a whiteboard calendar that I used in my dorm). This one rocks because you literally have to pay no money, you just click the link and print. Enjoy.

3. Command Strips are key: The last thing I want to call to your attention is the fun little tiger hook. It shows so much personality, keeps the glam-thing cohesive PLUS you can hang your towel or robe on it, so yes, it is fashion AND function all wrapped up into one. As you probably already know, you can’t nail this into the wall unless you want a hefty fine, so I would recommend using a command strip to stick on the back of it. The rumors are definitely true—Command Strips will be your best friend so get comfortable hanging EVERYTHING with them. I think I probably used over 1,000 of them to hang a full gallery wall my sophomore year. Anything is possible if you just believe in yourself and your stash of Command strips.

Now for THE DORM ESSENTIALS. You know those little things that will make your dorm life so much better, prettier and easier all in one shoppable place. Thank us later.

dorm room ideas

1. Black+Decker Compact Refrigerator | 2. 16-Compartment Under Bed Shoe Storage | 3. Heavy Duty Bed Risers | 4. Interlocking Drawer Organizer Set | 5. 10-Foot Extension Cord | 6. Command Spring Clips | 7. Mounting Putty | 8. Washi Tape, Set of 4 | 9. Twin XL Bamboo Memory Foam Mattress Topper | 10. Long Under Bed Boxes with Wheels | 11. 3.1 cu. ft. Retro Mini Fridge | 12. 30-pack Non-Slip Slim Hangers | 13. Damage-Free Brass Hooks | 14. Microwave | 15. Assorted Picture Hanging Velcro Strips | 16. 8-Shelf Fabric Shoe Hanging Storage | 17. 90-count LED Fairy Lights | 18. Magnetic Fridge Caddy | 19. 5-Tiered Pants Hanger | 20. Essential Oil Diffuser | 21. Mesh Shower Caddy | 22. 2-Slice Extra Wide Slot Toaster | 23. Damage-Free Wall Hook | 24. Shower Slides

Alright, hope these dorm room ideas are helpful for all the college bound out there (or even those post-college that want a little accessory refresh). Our biggest tip/recommendation is to explore your style/creativity. Look at Pinterest, Instagram and blogs for inspiration but ultimately make it your own. Try not to be wasteful and be nice to your RAs.

If you are college bound but looking for non-dorm design college tips and a more general “how to not mess up college” advice, head to this post. We polled the team and put together all of our best tips to help you make the most of those precious four years…and maybe help you get a job after. 🙂

Love you, mean it.

  1. How times have changed (for the better!) — when I arrived as a college freshman the fall of 1987, I had a suitcase, a backpack, and a laundry basket filled with bedding & toiletries. Of course, this is when you could still smoke in your dorm room!

    Great post – I sent it to my niece who is headed off to college this fall. WPS!

    1. That’s great and thank you! xx

  2. After having gone to boarding school for four years in high school and living in college dorms for the first two years, I am pretty familiar with the art of living in dorm rooms. After living in a dorm for six years, I have found that one of my most important things is to have a lamp or two so that you don’t always have to use that absolutely awful overhead fluorescent light. Every year, I decorated my walls with random fabrics I found that had been made by my grandmother who was a quilt artist, as well as a collage from photobooth strips and pictures and random items that I have found along the way. Also Cavallini Papers & Co. make really cool vintage posters that I have used— they look cool and are classy while still being posters that are easy to hang up and remove. Overall, I just didn’t really care that much throughout the years and used what I could find around the house (it also helped that my dad had some really cool vintage tapestries). So yeah, that’s just a small part of my insight from my six years of experience.

    1. Totally agree on the Cavallini Papers & Co.! You can find them at Paper Source/Papyrus type stores for less than $5 usually. I used to frame these papers with 40% off frames from a craft store. And there you go, large scale art for less than $25! I kept those pieces well after my college years!

    2. Using textiles/fabric/quilts/tapestries as art is a great tip as they provide noise softening and are light weight so they won’t hurt anyone if they fall.

    3. Your tips are awesome and I can’t wait to check out that shop! xx

  3. Instead of Command Hooks, you can use Stick Tack — it’s lots cheaper! It won’t hold heavy things, but it’s perfect for posters/paper. Also called Fun Tack, Poster Putty, Sticky Putty, PlastiTak, and I don’t know what else. At my college, it was the only thing we were allowed to use (cinder block walls)…of course, that was also back in the fall of 1987.

  4. While Greek life is a controversial topic in and of its self I would like to add this: If you’re rushing a sorority or fraternity I would keep major items, like bedding, neutral. I saw so many women who would deck their room out in pink or blue only to join a sorority with contrasting colors that looked awful with that they already had. When you pledge they often give you tons of gifts, letters, and your paddle, to hang around the room. My advice is if you know you’re going to rush your freshman year keep your color scheme neutral enough to adopt your house colors!

    1. That’s a good point. Thanks! xx

  5. Because I am looking for ideas for my 11- and 13-year-old grandsons’ room, I was hoping for a boy version of a dorm room. But then I remembered, most of the boys I knew in my college dorm were happy with the scuzzy, un-designed version (as shown). 🙂

    1. hmmm maybe soon we will have to do a more varied kid’s budget rooms:)

  6. My parents didn’t have the means to save for college funds but had enough income that I didn’t qualify for assistance. I had a job to pay my own expenses since age 13. I went to the local college and lived at home for my first 2 years. Being able to go off to college and live in a dorm was an unimaginable luxury that only people in movies and books were able to do.

    1. This was me, too. Only I had to live at home all four years. I couldn’t afford it otherwise. Heh, I was arguing with my mom once, and she said “We paid for your college education” and I blew up. Other than not throwing me out of the house, what did you do?

      Neither of my parents really went to college (my dad moved back east to help an aunt with her boarding house and to go to this tiny 2-year Swedenborgian college until he was drafted for WWII). I used to envy kids whose parents would help them with all the college stuff. I had to figure it all out on my own. So many things I would have done differently if I’d had a heads-up.

  7. … and if you have a boy, he will take a gray comforter, gray sheets, a black futon, a black and gray rug, and a desk lamp. you can call it “minimalism” all you want, but that bed will never be made, art will never be hung, and the dust will pile up into its own version of “decor.”

  8. This is a really cool idea! I think it’s really important to remember that most, if not all, dorm rooms come with all the furniture already, and you can’t remove it. So for example, showing inspiration with double beds or really gorgeous desks is just not a reality. I respect the fact that you all showed mostly decor and not furniture updates. My rooms were also all pretty small, so there wasn’t even room for standing mirrors. But bed risers, etc, made it feel a little bit more custom and gave us room for storage.

  9. Back in the late 60s when I went to college (yes, back when computers were the size of a small house and as powerful as an ATM)… I was in a room with three other girls. Two sets of bunk beds, two tall dressers, four desks and four really skinny closets. And two radiators that would moan during the night … but were handy for warming up left over pizza. The only appliance anyone had was an iron, something I did my best to never get near.
    Room décor was not a “thing”. You put a quilt on your bed and taped up a few posters and called it done. If in school today I’d do it much differently of course.
    But many of your picks and tips would apply to first apartments too. I certainly lived in enough ugly apartments in my early years. I still love the same styles today as I did then. And my downsized condo certainly reflects that; neutral couches, colorful pillows, lots of books and Asian arts and crafts. Back then it was “Year of the Monkey” posters, now it’s a Shinto wedding kimono and woodblock prints

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