How To Decorate A College Dorm

Decorating a college dorm room is an exciting milestone, but that doesn't mean it's a piece of cake. Since this is probably the first time you will be living away from home without family and siblings around, you'll want to ensure you have the right essentials to make your new space feel like home. Most college dorm rooms are pretty basic and small, and you might be sharing the space with a roommate. According to Good Housekeeping, the average dorm room is only about 200 square feet, but you can still make it feel like home with a few creative decorating tips.

Come move-in day, it's best to show up prepared with functional must-haves like bedding, along with a few cute items to spruce up plain walls. You don't need to have everything on the first day, since it can take some time to figure out how to express your style in the new space and make it ready for sleeping, studying, and hanging out with new friends. Whether you're just starting your college dorm room shopping list or are looking to freshen up your current room during the school year, we've got you covered with our list of A+ decorating ideas.

Create a photo gallery wall to help feel at home

Starting college is filled with exciting moments and new experiences, but that doesn't mean you won't miss the familiar comforts of home at times. According to, about 95% of first-year college students report feeling homesick to some degree. Making your dorm room feel cozy and homey can help you during this time of transition. A great way to bring memories of your family and friends into your new space is by sprucing up empty walls with your favorite photos. 

Whether you cover an entire wall with photos or hang up a few on adhesive clips, photos will instantly brighten up the room and add some personality. Since most dorm rooms won't allow you to put holes in walls, you can instead use mounting putty, removable adhesive strips and hooks, or double-sided tape to display your photos. You can always add more as you make amazing new memories on campus.

Stay focused with task lighting

Whether cramming for midterms or pulling an all-nighter study session, you'll want to make sure your dorm room has a high-quality desk lamp. According to Homes To Love, task lighting, or lighting that helps us complete specific tasks, is super important in any living space. A study area should have a strong desk lamp to illuminate the room fully. 

When choosing a desk lamp for your dorm, you'll want to consider the light source, adjustability, and of course, the design. The average desk lamp features LED light, which is the most energy-friendly option, but you can always switch out the bulb based on your personal preference (via The Strategist). You should also look for a lamp that's adjustable with either a rotating head or telescoping arm, so you can point the light in your direction of choice. In terms of design, aim to pick out a lamp you love that adds to the room's overall style.

Keep the space feeling fresh with a couple of potted plants

Breathe some life into your dorm room with a couple of cute potted plants. Houseplants not only make for stylish decor, but also improve one's mood and freshen the air. According to NBC News, plants remove 87% of toxins from the air in just 24 hours. Plus, studies show that plants are great for boosting concentration and productivity — exactly what you need for your next study session.

If you're looking for some low-maintenance greenery to add to your room, consider lucky bamboo, snake plants, and heat leaf philodendrons. These varieties are pretty hard to kill, even if you forget to water them. Succulents are also a great option for dorm rooms since they don't take up too much space. Just keep in mind that these plants love sunlight and need about six hours of light every day to flourish (via Clever). 

Choose cute and cozy bedding for sweet dreams

One essential you won't want to forget on move-in day is bedding. With a wide range of fun options to choose from, bedding is an easy way to show off your style and add personality to your room. However, before buying a cute new set, you'll want to make sure you're bringing the right size for your mattress. As reported by Elite Daily, most college dorm rooms feature an extra-large twin mattress which is not compatible with standard twin size sheets. Also, keep in mind that white bedding is more susceptible to stains and may need to be cleaned often. If you don't like doing laundry, stock your dorm room with a few sets of sheets.

While your bedding style is important, you'll also want to make sure it's comfortable. Opt for sheets made of natural fibers like cotton for a better night's sleep, since they're soft and breathe well (via USA Today). And last but not least, don't forget a mattress pad for your bed — your back will thank you.

Invest in chic storage to stay organized

College dorm rooms are super small, which means there's not much wiggle room when it comes to storage space. According to Southern Living, you're going to want to invest in space-saving storage kits and utilize every inch of free space on walls, in closets, and under beds. Take advantage of vertical space with hanging baskets, shoe racks, and towel racks. Maximize the space under your bed by placing storage bins and drawers. Adding a bed skirt is an easy way to hide your clutter. In the closet, save space with felt hangers and add cube storage to stay organized. To keep your desk organized, use drawer organizers to store all your study essentials. 

Shower caddy totes are also important for carrying all of your essentials on trips to the communal shower. The best caddies have durable handles, are quick-drying, and feature holes for easy drainage (via Bustle). There are also tons of chic options to choose from, so you can shower in style.

Have some cool speakers on hand to get the party started

College dorm rooms aren't just for studying. They're also a great place for socializing with friends. To make your room the go-to hangout spot, make sure you have a great sound system ready to fire up some tunes. Portable speakers with Bluetooth functionality are the perfect option, since you can take them with you wherever you go and instantly stream music from either your phone or laptop. According to Rolling Stone, you'll also want to keep factors like size, battery life, sound quality, and weight in mind. It's important that your speaker of choice doesn't take up too much space in your small room, but you'll also want one with clear audio quality.

One standout option is the Oontz Enhanced 3 Bluetooth Speaker, which offers a solid 14 hours of battery life. The petite speaker will fit comfortably on a shelf, desk, or windowsill without taking up a lot of space. And when you're ready to crank up the music, the audio quality won't disappoint.

Make laundry trips more fun with a stylish hamper

For many people, college is the time when they first start doing adult tasks like laundry. According to The Spruce, you can make college laundry trips smoother by figuring out costs, laundry supplies, and adding labels to your clothes before you go. Sort clothes before you head to the laundry room and check that machines are empty before loading them up with your items.

While laundry can be annoying at any age, most college students have to carry their dirty clothes down to a basement laundry room with communal washers and dryers. Completing a single load of laundry is a lot of work since it can entail lugging clothes, detergent, and dryer sheets up and down several flights of stairs. You'll want a great laundry bag on hand to help you. Look for a hamper that's durable, large enough for laundry trips, and features sturdy handles to make transport a breeze.

Spice up white walls with washi tape and temporary wallpaper

While it's not always possible to hang up wall art with nails or drill holes for shelves in your dorm room, you can still make the space shine by getting creative. Washi tape, a decorative masking tape made from Japanese shrubs like hemp, is an easy way to dress up white walls. According to Paper Chase, this eco-friendly tape is recyclable, waterproof, heatproof, and won't damage walls. The tape sticks securely to most surfaces, including wood and metal, and endless color and design options are available. The best part? The small price tag fits the typical college student's budget. 

Another great option to brighten is to use removable wallpaper to create an accent wall. There's a wallpaper pattern out there for everyone, whether you're into nature, sports, art, or glam designs (via Apartment Therapy). And when it comes time to move out at the end of the school year, removable wallpaper will easily peel off the wall without causing damage or removing paint.

Transform your space with a mirror

The best thing about decorating with mirrors is that they make living spaces feel bigger and brighter, which is a must for dorms. According to Apartment Therapy, adding a single, large mirror to a room is the optimal way to open up a space. Typically, the bigger the mirror, the more spacious the room will feel. To master this decorating trick, stick with mirrors that have basic frames. If the frame is too intricate or detailed, it can be distracting. Additionally, you can brighten up a room by adding a mirror that faces the window. You can also arrange lamps or candles in front of it to create the same effect. 

If large glass mirrors are not currently in your budget, you can opt for peel and stick mirrors. Not only are they super affordable, but these plastic mirrors are unbreakable and come in a variety of fun styles (via The Rugged Rooster). 

Study in style by upgrading your desk accessories

The typical college student spends a lot of time at their desk, whether studying, doing makeup, or binging Netflix. According to Simplifying College, having an organized and tidy desk area helps boost productivity. Ideally, this area will be decorated with a mix of cute and practical items. You'll want some study essentials like a lamp, calendar, bulletin board, and pencil holder laying around, but adding a pretty succulent or bouquet (real or fake) will create an uplifting mood. If you're having trouble finishing a term paper, turn to aromatherapy with a scented candle or essential oil diffuser. Lemon, lavender, and jasmine are recommended for promoting concentration and workflow (via Entrepreneur). 

Additionally, adding a stylish clock to your desk will ensure you make it to class on time and help tie the desk decor together. Other pretty desk accessories to think about adding to your dorm room include basket organizers, Polaroid photos, and a felt letter board decorated with a fun message.

Get a homey atmosphere with curtains

While most dorm rooms come with blinds, hanging up your own curtains will make you feel more at home. Plus, there are lots of cute curtains out there to choose from. Whether you're looking for more privacy or want to control the lighting level, curtains can help you get a better night's sleep. According to Health, blackout curtains are your best bet for improving sleep quality since they stop light from coming into the room and disrupting melatonin production. However, sheer curtains are a great decorative choice since they soften the light and enhance a room's overall mood.

Once you've picked out a style you like, you'll just need to hang up your curtains. Start by measuring the window area. Your curtain width should be about twice the width of the window (via Better Homes and Gardens). Since you probably won't be able to drill holes into the wall, go for a temporary hanging method like using command hooks, ceiling hooks, or tension rods (via Spiffy Spools). While these options might not look as refined as a standard curtain rod, they will help spruce up your dorm room.

Take a study break in a comfortable chair

Having a cozy chair in your dorm room will help make it a popular hangout spot, plus you'll have a comfortable place to retreat to once you're done studying. According to House Beautiful, the perfect dorm room chair is space-savvy, comfortable, chic, and won't break the bank. It's typically best to pick a chair made with stain-resistant fabric in dark colors, since it will better hide dirt and other signs of use.

If you are short on space, consider looking for a foldable chair that you can store when it's not being used or use a storage bench for extra seating. Butterfly chairs are a classic dorm room pick, since they're great for smaller spaces and can be easily stored under a bed after use. If you want something more outside of the box, buy a fun and affordable inflatable chair for your room. 

Add some magical mood lighting by hanging up twinkle lights

The best way to add a magical feeling to your dorm room is by stringing up some twinkle lights. These tiny bulbs are easy to hang and instantly add a dose of warmth and style to any living space. They help create a cozy mood perfect for winding down after a long day of lectures. According to PopSugar, there are various ways you can decorate with twinkle lights, whether it's by using them to frame photos, making a DIY headboard, or hanging them around a window. You can also drape them around a tapestry or decorative fabric to create a dreamy vibe.

Twinkle lights are not one size fits all. There are many different styles, shapes, and sizes out there for all tastes, including star-shaped lights, copper twine lights, vine string lights, and flower lights (via Etsy). No matter which variety you choose, they're sure to add plenty of charm to your dorm room.

Tie everything together with a colorful rug

Last but not least, a colorful rug will tie any dorm room together and make it feel like your home away from home. According to Town & Country, decorating your space with a rug not only makes it feel cozier but also helps cover up a bare and unattractive floor. Oversized rugs tend to be the best way to go since they fill a room and make pieces like your desk, bed, and shelves feel cohesive. Rugs are great at setting a room's color scheme, as well as creating a focal point (via The Spruce). 

Of course, there are an endless variety of rugs out there to choose from with different textures, materials, patterns, colors, and sizes. Settling on just one might seem like a challenge, but follow your personal style and taste preferences. Rugs with neutral colors tend to be more versatile and match any space, while brightly colored rugs are a fun way to add color and vibrancy. Whichever one you choose, you can't really go wrong!