Robin Flies South...

A blog about decorating and tablescaping with an emphasis on creativity and smart shopping over cash!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dorm Rooms 101

My youngest graduated from college over two years ago so I haven't given much thought to decorating a dorm room.  Then I received a Pottery Barn catalog last month and one of those little flyers came out and to my surprise there was an ad for Pottery Barn Dorm.  I'm not sure how long they've been into this decorating niche but I don't remember it from 2006 (when my daughter was a freshman).  I do remember dorm room decorating being a lot of fun and a great chance to be creative.  Has it ever been a challenge on Design Star?  If not, it should be, don't you agree? 

Before I started my virtual shopping for my imaginary college freshman, I decided to look for some inspiration on line.  Here are some examples from HGTV's Rate My Space.



Black and white with a pop of color seems to be very popular for girl's rooms.  I chose this one because the accent color wasn't pink!  I also like the wall treatment.  The bold colors help to hide the ugly carpet. I've never seen two windows in a dorm room. How nice to have fresh air and natural light. This furniture arrangement allows for some privacy. Not sure about the TV placement but maybe there's seating on the opposite side of the room.

A different color palette and cute headboards (notice the monograms).  I saw several examples of custom headboards in my browsing.  The matching lamps are an unexpected touch too.  It looks like some kind of grid pattern done on the wall.

Believe it or not, this was my favorite and it's a boy's room!  I think I'm seeing some IKEA shopping in this one.

This is other side of the room.  Isn't that paper lantern great?  I saw many a bamboo plant in my browsing.  Perfect for college students since they are self-sufficient.

My son's dorm closet looked just like this (not!)  And another lantern and subtle Asian touches.

This room has some nice features.  They added a cushion to the storage trunk for extra seating and added some trim and tiebacks to the curtains.  I would bet that pink desk chair wasn't college issued.

Zebra and pink, Marilyn and Audrey were easily the most popular themes I came across, so if your daughter likes to be unique, she should head in a different direction.  I love the swagged fabric on the wall.  Is that pearls mixed in?  I used to have strings of pearls from my Victorian Christmas phase about 20 years ago! I never thought to save them for the college years! They broke up the boring carpet with bright throw rugs.  I remember using this trick in my daughter's freshman dorm room.

Here's a more unusual theme-peacocks!  If you are a regular visitor here, you know how I love peacock colors, feathers, you name it!  The brown comforter would hide dirt well and this bed looks super comfortable.  I like the way she added peacock touches to the cork squares above the bed.

Pretty sophisticated touches from a college student!  Hey, I have that peacock sphere!

A little Tiffany's done very tastefully.  Pretty intricate window treatment here.

Nice touch with the mismatched lamps.  Again with the two windows.  I wonder where these dorm room are?  I would guess there is a mother with a sewing machine involved in this one.

Now we are really going over the top!

Custom headboard, bedding, window treatment and a real chandelier!  I can't help but think that this young lady would be high maintenance!

The brown and turquoise is a nice combination and once again we have the matching lamps!  I love how they repeated the zigzag fabric here.  The flowers soften the cinder block walls.

This fun chandelier seems a bit more practical than that last one. 

Juicy Couture for a dorm room?  I love how she painted her letters here and repeated the polka dots.

This isn't from Rate My Space but I wanted to include another boy's room.  This is from Pottery Barn Teen.  You can usually tell Pottery Barn by the way the beds are "perfectly" messy!  Something about this room makes me think it wouldn't smell very good, like a combination of beer, sweat and pizza.  I guess I'm remembering back to my son's college rooms.  They used to keep their running shoes out in the hallway because they smelled so badly!

This student has great taste with these gold accents and perfectly layered bedding.

I'm going to guess she's an older student.  It seems like freshman girls really load up their rooms. This one is a bit more sparse.  Great print on the director chair.  Maybe a stencil?

To see more pictures of these rooms and hundreds of others just visit HGTV's Rate My Space and look under Dorm Rooms.

Obviously dorm decorating has become a big business and no wonder. College kids and their parents spent $3.6 billion last year to decorate dorm rooms or apartments. If you have to buy things for your student's room anyway, why not make it special?    You can try to use the same budget saving ideas you use in your home.  It's a great chance to do a project with your son or daughter.  I will admit, my son had absolutely no interest in his dorm room decor.  His sister and I picked everything out.  We went with a khaki and black theme starting with a contemporary plaid comforter.  He was an athlete and had to report early to school and lived in a temporary space.  We didn't see his room until we came down a few weeks later to visit.  His room looked pretty nice but there was the comforter in it's plastic bag on top of his wardrobe.  He told me he didn't need it and I could take it back.  I almost cried explaining to him that that was the inspiration for the whole room!  I left it and he did wind up using it for 2 more years.  Eh, what do 18 year old boys know!

My daughter was a different story.  She was going to school a thousand miles away by airplane.  We were able to go to our local Bed, Bath and Beyond and use their college registry (works like a wedding registry).  She had fun scanning all the things she liked and then when we arrived in Tampa, we just went to the local store and they had it all boxed up for us. 

Looking at dorm rooms from my experience as a college mom and  as  "I wish I was a designer", my advice would be as follows:

1.  Try to get the roommate to agree to a design plan (color and theme).  This will be the first step in learning to compromise.  It will prepare your child for  living with another person.  You may even offer to buy the matching bedding if they need some convincing.  It's tough to overcome conflicting bedding on those Xtra long twin beds.  If they have no interest in decorating the room then just worry about your child's half of the room.  Hard for me to believe but some people just don't care what a room looks like!

2.  Storage can be attractive.  Look for things functional and beautiful.  Jewelry and scarves can be "artwork" for the space hung on racks or hooks..  Same thing with caps and jersey's for boys.   Colorful sneakers can look good in open storage. Storage boxes come in great colors and prints.  Even clothes hampers can be cute.

3.  If the room has window blinds, don't stop there.  If there is one common theme in the rooms I showed above it was attention to the windows.  Window treatments don't have to be standard curtains. We used a grass table skirt from a party supply place as a valance over a long window in my daughter's room. She added colorful party lights to it. 

4.  Try to get quality bedding for a good price.  Your child will be spending alot of time sitting, laying, eating and studying on that bed and they SHOULD wash it often.  Make sure it's tough enough for all of that.  I wouldn't even worry about it lasting through 4 years of school.  I think my daughter had different bedding each year.  Try to find a color or print that will hold up to dorm life.  White eyelet or fancy silk probably wouldn't be the best choice. 

5.  Try not to overdo it with the memorabilia in the beginning.  Your child will have so many new memories to help fill their cork boards and picture frames.  They will spend lots of time in this small room so let it breathe a bit! 

6.  I love how the rooms I showed here used paper lanterns and the cardboard chandelier.  Think of the ceiling as another place to decorate. 

7.  Wall decals have come a long way in the last few years and what better way to dress the boring walls most dorm rooms have?  Hanging fabric or an interesting rug not only looks good but may keep the noise out ( or in!).

8.  Add a taste of home with a favorite pillow or stuffed animal (don't over do this!).  My daughter picked out several posters for her room and one was a scene from Goodnight Moon (one of her favorite books when she was little).  It was a real conversation piece as her friends would recognize what it was. 

8.  Use sports equipment or musical instruments as decor. My daughter's room was done in a "Beach" theme and her roommate's surfboard was perfect. 

9.  This is a great time to experiment.  They will only be in this room for around 9 months and then they can start planning for the next year.  Perfect for someone who has decorating ADD!

10.  Enjoy the process and be prepared to spend some cash.  I started a "dorm room" fund for my daughter about 6 monthd ahead of time and was very glad I did.  Start collecting those 20% off coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond.  They never expire and they will take as many as you have.

Take it from me, if you think the high school years fly by, wait until you experience the college years.  I know it made me feel better that my children's new home was a welcoming and functioning space for them.  And I only cried a little bit when they were gone, honest! (that last statement is a lie!) 

Here is a picture of my daughter's freshman dorm room (before the grass skirt curtains).  The Goodnight Moon poster is over the mirror.  Her bed is the aqua and green.  Her room always smelled like chlorine because she and her roommate were swimmers.  Seems like yesterday! And I have no idea why I can remember the smells of my children's dorm rooms!

Update:  Look what landed on my Facebook home page today...

Looks like Old Time Pottery agrees with my advice, look HERE

I will be bringing my Dorm Room advice to the following parties...

Overflowing with Creativity at It's Overflowing
Seasonal Sundays at The Tablescaper
Spotlight Saturday at Classy Clutter
Show and Tell Saturday at Be Different, Act Normal
Saturday 7 at Positively Splendid
Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage
Sunday Showcase at Under the Table and Dreaming
Met Monday at Between Naps on the Porch
Nifty Thrift Tuesday at Coastal Charm
Your Cozy Home Party at Cozy Home Scenes
You're Gonna Love it Tuesday at Kathe with an E
Transformation Thursday at Shabby Creek Cottage
Saturday Night Special at Funky Junk Interiors
Creative Blogger's Party at Homemaker on a Dime
Tutes and Tips not to be Missed at Home Stories A to Z
DIY Project Parade at DIY Showoff
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Show 'n Share at Southern Lovely
Rustic Restorations Party at Homespun Happenings
Pinspired Rewired at Southern Lovely
Grace At Home at Imparting Grace

Mop it Up Mondays at I Should be Mopping the Floor


shopannies said...

you have inspired me to do a bit of change decor here as well thanks

come see us at

Grammy Goodwill said...

I can't believe these rooms. When I went to college in 1971, I lived in what had formerly been men's dorms. No suites with bathrooms, a sink in our rooms, bathroom down the hall, tile floor, and metal bunk beds. Grim, believe me. We weren't allowed to have fridges in our rooms unless there was a medical reason. Times sure have changed.

Terry said...

I had so much fun helping my kids get ready for dorm living. My son only cared about having a huge tv while my daughters cared about having cute stuff! So much fun putting everything together and then so sad to leave them there! How funny, I scoured Rate My Space for dorm room inspiration too, so many great ideas. Thanks for sharing this at Sunday Blog Love, wishing you a wonderful weekend!

SwedishCorner-DownUnder...Pernilla said...

Great inspiration!
Greetings from Australia♥ ~Pernilla

Anu@My Dream Canvas said...

This is lovely!! I am hosting a Giveaway to win a 50 dollar gift card to the store HomeGoods. It would be great if you stopped by and entered. Thanks Anu