Those cold, drab dormitory rooms are things of the past — or at least they can be. Leaving your parents’ cozy home for a room with two beds, boring furniture, plain walls and cold floors can be a shock for freshmen. Adjusting to challenging classes is hard enough without having to deal with anything-but-warm living conditions.
Atlanta interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, the associate producer and on-air designer for Movie & A Makeover on TBS, knows how to turn a room inside-out. You don’t have to pay a professional to do the work, though. Flynn gives us some DIY re-decorating tips, based on his signature stamp on a University of Georgia dorm in 2007. You can take these concepts and make them fit your budget.
You may not be able to paint your walls, but you can use the advice on color schemes. Maybe you can’t fit a sofa in you room, but you can get a comfortable chair instead of using your bed for seating. No hanging lamps? What about cool, decorative ones instead of the boring lighting in the room. You get the idea. Good luck:
1. Don’t paint the walls in school colors: “It’s cliche,” Flynn said. “Use a complementary color, and the school colors as the backdrop. In this design, he used turquoise as the primary color, and red and black as accents.
Note: If you can’t paint your walls, don’t sweat it. Use the color theme suggestions to add some pop to your room decor.
2. Go modular: “This way, you’re not locked into one thing.” Flynn likes the idea of using couches that can be used in L-shapes, for instance, to give you options in a small space. “Three years later, in your apartment, you can change the way it’s laid out.” Sofa beds, because of their versatility, are also good options.
Note: No room for a couch? How about a comfortable, cool chair? That’s far better than using your bed for your primary seating. This club bean bag chair for about $54 from Wal-Mart is pretty cool.
3. Build a loft: If you’re allowed the latitude to make changes in the room, consider adding an inexpensive loft area using plywood, 2-foot-by-4 foot support boards and bedding. Flynn said it is not difficult at all to attach these to the wall. It takes a little more work than plopping down on a twin size bed, but if you choose this option, you’ll have more space for a living room-like feel below.
Note: A stretch for a lot of people. But if need more room, try using concrete blocks or RackRisers to lift your bed, giving you more space.
4. Lighting: Lights can dramatically change the tone of a room. You can purchase nice lamps for little money. You can also go in Flynn’s direction. “When I was 20, I never would’ve thought of this,” he said. Buy a plug-in pendant and ’swag’ the cord into the wall. Attach the chain or wire to a hook in the ceiling, swag it into a corner and use the outlet. “This overhead lighting will make the space a lot more inviting and add more task lighting for study time,” he said. For an extra touch, add table top dimmers for about $12.
Note: This isn’t a bad idea, but if you can’t use a simple hook, look for a few decorative lamps at a yard sale. Your lights can make a huge difference in the room. Visit Target, Wal-Mart, Ikea, JC Penney and other similar stores to find one you’ll like.
5. Multi-purpose table: Using a table with a center pole can turn an ordinary desktop into a four-seat dinner table, creative space, game table or study area. The butcher block ones will run you about $100.
Note: Couldn’t possibly fit in your small space? You might purchase a couple nice tray tables that can stay up. You’ll enjoy not eating late-night pizza off your lap. This one is nice — and on sale for $65 — from Overstock.com. It doesn’t take this much; you can do a pretty simple one for $10 or so.
6. No more plastic crates: You don’t have to do away with them entirely, but cube ottomans look better and can be just as spacious. They look more like furniture than storage space, but serve as a good place to hold video games, books and other smaller items.
7. Cold floors, be gone: “This is so easy; you can roll it up like an area rug, and it’s super-duper easy to do,” Flynn said. He’s talking about Allure Stainmaster Vinyl Flooring. It’s a thin laminate that adheres to itself, rather than the floor. That makes it easy to put down. It’s about $25 a box, and an average dorm space might use about five-and-half boxes, Flynn said. “All you need is a blade knife to cut the ends to size and then snap each flat vinyl piece to the others.” Maybe your roommate would be willing to split the cost!
Note: If this is too much, look for a decorative area rug to give the room a more homey feel. You can find college rugs here, starting at $69, but you can go with a simpler rug for about $12-$15 from an area store.
8. No ordinary picture: Rather than taping photos to your wall or cluttering your limited space with picture frames, take your favorite picture and have it blown up to larger than poster size. It makes a bigger statement.
Note: Small pictures are nice, too, but this takes up much less space, and for about the same cost. Enlarging a picture shouldn’t cost you more than $10.
9. Comforter: Don’t skimp on your comforter. You’ll have to sleep under it every night, so make sure it’s something that feels good to you. Choosing a solid pattern will give you more decorating options than a comforter with bold patterns.
Note: You can find comforter sets at area stores, many of which are holding sales right now. JC Penney has this really cute one for 50 percent off through Saturday. It’s just $29.99!
10. Throw pillows: They nicely accent your room and provide comfort, as well. Plus, you can get quality ones without spending a great deal of money.
Note: Again, big statement, little money. This is an attractive three-pillow set on sale at Macy’s for $22.
Bonus: Outfit your closet with items that will make life easier, like plastic hooks for hanging towels and shoe organizers that hang on the back of the door.
Here are some other college dorm room tips: