4 Stylish Dorm Rooms You’ll Want To Move Into This School Year
They may have already graduated, but these design professionals know how to tackle a small, bland dorm room and turn it into something Insta-worthy. Let’s break down how experts like our own Jennifer Koper and bloggers like Emily Henderson take on this real world challenge with fresh eyes and stylish solutions.
Residences typically have decorating constraints on what can be altered in a dorm room, like changing the paint color, making holes in the walls, or removing a bossy carpeting. Joel Bray and Jennifer Koper tackled this space at George Brown College in Toronto, without breaking any of the rules.
Joel and Jennifer started by installing removable wallpaper to create a feature wall behind the bed. It’s easy(ish) to apply, according to Jennifer. Teal velvet drapes from Ikea add an inexpensive, yet luxe, touch. They are easy to install and remove, and hide the contents of the open closet. Floor runners layered around the bed break up the grey carpet underfoot. Desk accessories and a faux succulent plant (real plants are prohibited in this dorm) complete the room.
Reiko Caron and and Joel repositioned the furniture and removed a lot of the pieces in this standard 100-square-foot dorm at Ryerson University in Toronto. An extension rod was added to display layered sheer and dark drapes. The same drapes are used to hide the closet. Joel created a DIY headboard (in 10 minutes!) with cardboard, foam and pretty patterned fabric for the bed. A classic table lamp lights the bedside and desk, while an inexpensive large-scale framed map adds the final pop of pretty, helping transform this dorm room into a stylish, young adult living space.
Blogger Emily Henderson styled this dorm room with items from Target’s Room Essential line, and the inspiration was the aught’s TV sensation, Felicity. For those unfamiliar with the show, Felicity’s dorm room came with a bay window with a window seat and deep crown molding — all highly desirable, if somewhat unrealistic. Emily gave this dorm an updated, more industrial spin that’s still very aspirational.
The bed is a DIY made with 16 cinder blocks as a base, topped with inexpensive pine planks as the frame. The headboard was put together using two 50″ leather straps with holes punched through both ends to allow a bolt to feed through them. Emily placed a body pillow through the loops and attached the straps into the wall using two brass cabinet knobs. A layered bed with lots of pillows is the focal point. Emily started with a patterned sheet set, then added a pink quilt and fringed yellow throw.
A mood board and inspiration wall that flows from one wall to another is the standout statement in this space. The cactus was printed from Jenny’s Print Shop (as well as a few other images seen here). “While we had to buy some magazines to make it happen, most of what you see up there came from clippings we already had,” says Emily, who augmented the wall with affordable Polaroids, quotes, flyers, postcards, and photo strips.
An oversized faux fur rug warms up the cement floor, and the butterfly chair creates a reading nook. A multi-functional furry pouf can serve as an extra seating option, ottoman or serving surface, and she’s stacked up books to act as a side table for a reading lamp. A big fan palm creates some major impact and injects a youthful, SoCal vibe.
The desk and chair are small in scale, but offer functionality and a shelf for storage. “We clustered the photo and clip boards above to create a mini eclectic gallery wall,” says Emily. Open shelving is a fun spot to style accessories and store makeup. Green plants add life to a room, and easy-care options like a snakeplant or Sansevieria, (far left) and Crispy Wave ferns can survive low light levels and spotty watering.
Dorms typically have small closets, but sometimes it’s fun to put favorite fashion finds and accessories out on display, within easy reach. This portable display stand has a shelf for shoes so it can act like a clothing valet and outfits can be assembled ahead of time. “I love that wardrobe and have kept it in my office for fashion shoots. It’s simple and super functional,” says Emily.
Cassidy Boatright manages online visuals and Darling’s social media channels, and she’s currently a junior in college, so she’s particularly adept at dorm decorating. “A great carpet, quality curtains, and adorable pillows help make an otherwise lifeless dorm room feel warm and comforting,” she says. She also suggests bringing in some permanent furniture pieces, like the accent table and console to make the space feel more unique. A pretty rug conceals bland industrial carpeting.
Since most students move multiple times within their college years, there is ample opportunity to declutter, re-evaluate belongings, and toss junk. A carefully edited shelf contains essentials, but Cassidy added two vases of fresh flowers, a nice pampering touch when pulling an all-night study session.
Cassidy created an industrial-style filing system that’s uniquely hers with personalized labels. Metal file organizers are functional and conceal clutter, and accent her cool metal laptop and desk lamp for a cohesive effect. “Having a peaceful dorm room will help ground and center you as you press into your studies and launch into the rest of your life,” Cassidy notes.