With college students heading back to campuses in droves, many for the first time, it’s time to start thinking about dorm room decorating ideas! When you live on a campus where thousands of people have the exact same room and furniture as you, it’s worth spending a bit of time to make your space feel more unique. And, more than that, to make it feel personal and homey! After all, what you really need is a space where you can crash between classes, get some studying done, and a place where you can hang out with your new friends!
So, to help you out, we rounded up 14 inexpensive dorm room decorating ideas that will help you personalize your space, transforming it into a home away from home! You can also check out our dorm room layout ideas for more inspiration!
Bonus: For those of you who live in off-campus apartments, these dorm room ideas still apply—though you can also check out our design tips for small apartments as well!
1. Layer Up on Cozy Bedding
Bedding is the most practical way to add comfort and style to your dorm room decor. You can keep it simple by opting for a duvet set that comes with a matching duvet cover and pillowcase. But you can also add extra style, color, and texture with a mix of throw pillows! And be sure to add a throw blanket to the end of your bed for some added comfort, color, and coziness.
2. Bring in a Nightstand
A lot of dorm rooms don’t come with a nightstand—but this piece of furniture is essential in any bedroom. After all, you need a place to set your water glass, phone, glasses, and anything you want to reach from bed! If you don’t have space for a full-sized nightstand, or if it’s not in the budget to buy one, you can always use a nightstand alternative like a stool or even a utility cart. When styling your nightstand, add a small lamp for reading in bed, and layer on a plant for a homey feel!
3. Create a Gallery Wall
Nothing adds personality to college dorm rooms quite like a gallery wall! It’s the perfect way to decorate a large blank wall in your dorm room while adding color to neutral walls, along with some personality and style. You could create your gallery wall with photographs, polaroids, prints, framed art, tapestries, or a mixed media wall that brings in a little of everything! (And check out our guide on how to hang art if you need some help getting started!)
Designer Tip: If you can’t use nails, choose art that can be hung with command strips or putty. (Which also makes for easy removal at the end of the school year!)
4. Style Your Dresser Top
Dressers in a dorm room can easily become a surface where you dump books, toss clothes, or simply waste by letting it sit empty and collect dust. But it’s a perfect space to utilize and bring in some dorm room decor. Use the surface space on your dresser to add personal touches from home—like art, books, and a lamp. This is a great space to showcase momentos and another great space to inject some personality into your dorm decor!
5. Set Up a Coffee Station
Having a coffee maker in your dorm room can save a ton of time and money! And it’s also nice when you need coffee but don’t want to leave your room but just need one more cup of coffee. (Or if you’re burning the midnight oil trying to finish up a research paper before that morning deadline!) So, set up a coffee station on the top of your dresser or on a utility cart. All you need is a coffee maker (either a regular drip machine or a Keurig or Nespresso!), plus a tray to corral some mugs, your coffee grounds or pods, and any cream or sugar! You could also hang a small wall shelf or tiered organizer for your coffee accessories. A coffee station is also a fun dorm room idea for when you’re hosting friends and family!
6. Accessorize Your Desk
Ok, so you came to college to get a degree, and studying is how you expect to spend a lot of your time. But that doesn’t mean it’s always fun! However, adding personal touches to your workspace can make it more comfortable, cheerful, and a place you want to spend time! You can accessorize your desk by adding framed photos from home, setting up an inspiring letter board, or styling a tray with your favorite flowers, a candle or diffuser, and a colorful task lamp. Just make sure you strike a balance of practical and decorative items so that your desk is still functional for homework and studying.
7. Create a ‘Getting Ready’ Zone
If your dorm room doesn’t come with a full-length mirror, this is a piece you’ll definitely want to purchase! How else will you be able to check your outfit before you leave?? This also allows you to do your makeup and hair in your room so you don’t have to get ready in a crowded bathroom every morning!
To create a full ‘getting ready” zone, add hooks and bins nearby, along with some cute boxes to house your hair styling tools, makeup, and jewelry. You could even add a rug to zone the space even more and add a pouf to sit on while you get ready!
8. Get a Multipurpose Pouf
Speaking of poufs—these are amazing inexpensive and multipurpose pieces that are a perfect addition to your dorm room decor. As we already mentioned above, they’re great for sitting on while doing your hair and makeup, but they can also be used as an extra seat when you have friends over, as a footrest if you have another chair in your space, or as a makeshift side table—basically whatever you need them to be. They’re also super durable and can easily be moved around as needed.
9. Hang Drapery
Your dorm room windows probably came with aluminum blinds—but they tend to be old and dusty and feel pretty sterile. An inexpensive way to add personality and style to your space is to hang drapery in front of your blinds. Curtains bring texture, color, visual warmth, and a touch of hominess to your dorm decor. And they can also help with temperature control! You can go bold with bright or jewel-toned curtains, or keep things more neutral (which is a great option if you and your roommate have different design preferences!).
10. Add Greenery
Plants can bring a lot of life and texture to your college dorm room. And you don’t need to have a green thumb to be a plant mom! Just start with one or two low-maintenance plants and set them on your windowsill or another surface where they can get enough natural light! (You can even mix faux plants in with real ones if you want the look without the maintenance!) Bonus: Plants naturally help with air quality—which is always nice in a shared living space!
11. Try Out Layered Rugs
A lot of college dorm rooms either have cold concrete floors or old, ugly carpeting. Give your dorm room a facelift by adding some area rugs to the floor! Rugs add comfort underfoot, but also are great for making your room feel warmer, dampening noise, and adding some color and pattern to your dorm room. They’re an especially good addition to your dorm room decor if you like sprawling out on the floor or walking around barefoot! If you want to take it a step further, you can layer a more decorative rug on top of a more neutral, durable rug—which also gives you a stylish, layered look.
Designer Tip: On a budget? Opt for a natural-fiber rug, which is one of our favorite cheap decor ideas that gets you the look you want for less!
12. Add a Comfy Chair
Want a place for reading, studying, or just chilling that’s not your desk or your bed? Bring in a comfy accent chair! They’re great when you want to study or read in your dorm room but you need something more comfortable than the standard wooden chair that goes with your desk! For some added practicality, place a C-table, which can double as a desk while sitting in the chair, next to the chair, as well as a floor lamp for additional lighting.
13. Create a Hangout Zone
If you have a loft bed, we love the idea of creating a hangout zone underneath the loft. It’s great to have a place where you can chill and hangout with your roommate and friends. To create a comfy seating area, start with a loveseat or smaller sofa, then add in a small coffee or side table to give you a place to set food, drinks, and even laptops for a movie night or study group. This is also a great place to layer in a pouf, as well as rugs, pillows, and throw blankets to make it extra cozy and homey.
14. Hang Up String Lights
What is it about string lights that makes any space feel more cute and cozy? String lights are the ideal dorm room decor! They’re a great way to add ambient lighting when you don’t want the harsh fluorescent overhead lights on, which are standard in most dorms. Plus, they offer the perfect amount of light for movie nights!
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