The Ultimate Guide to Decorating Dorm Room Walls

Editorial Assistant, Carnegie Communications

Dorm rooms: most are old, institutional, and just plain dull. You’ll be living in this teeny, tiny space for the whole school year, and we’re sure you’ll want to do some decorating to make it your own. But most colleges have a lot of regulations regarding what you can put on your walls. No paint, no tacks, no nails—no fun!

There are some easy ways to get around these restrictions to make your dorm a place you’ll want to come home to. We looked online and found some of the best wall décor for college students; everything is removable, reusable, or safe for room inspection.

To avoid buyer’s remorse, be sure to review your own school’s rules before you invest in anything. (And one more thing about money: always look for coupon codes and shipping deals for online purchases! A quick Google search can usually yield valuable discounts for well-known websites.)

Pinhead? We’ve got you covered! Just click the image, and you’ll be directed straight to your boards, so you can save any of these pinteresting ideas for future reference!

Wall decals

These dorm-safe stickers are easy to apply and remove from smooth walls, and they can often be reused after each application. Available on sites like Etsy, DormCo, and Fathead, wall decals can be decorative or functional—or both!

Striking peel ‘n’ stick

Huge self-adhesive stickers are a great way to enhance a boring, white wall and show off your interests. Display your favorite animal, flower, or sports team with these choices—but the options extend beyond birds, poppies, and Gators, of course. There is a sticker for anything your heart desires if you look hard enough! Removable decals also make cool decorations for theme parties and holidays—think a space-saving fake Christmas tree when you aren’t allowed to have the real thing.

Bird decals           Poppies decal

Gators decal           Chandalier decal

Practical décor

You don’t have to stick a life-size Tom Brady on your wall to make it prettier. These options are less overwhelming than those monster decals but just as ornamental, while also serving a purpose (not that Tom doesn’t! Sigh . . .). Anyway, these message boards and timepieces don’t require a screw or nail to hang on the wall; all you do is peel, stick, and use. So easy, attractive, and R.A. approved!

Chalk decal           Message board decal

Wall clock decal          Dry erase wall decal

Rooms with a view

These “windows” are ideal if the view outside your dorm room—or lack thereof—leaves much to be desired. They could also dull the pain of homesickness with a familiar scene or help you escape to your happy place during a study session. Fathead offers a wide array of Instant Windows, but there are other options that cater more to a college kid’s budget too.

Country window decal          Tropical window decal

City window decal          Castle wall window decal

Temporary wallpaper

Removable wallpaper can add color to your dorm that looks permanent but easily peels away at the end of the school year. Use it to cover your entire space or just an “accent” wall. You can even create your own unique patterns with blank canvas wallpaper, made for the artist in us all! Temporary paper can be pricey, but has some pretty good deals, regularly offering discount codes and free shipping on minimum purchases.

Pink temp wallpaper          Blank temp wallpaper

Striped temp wallpaper          Patterned temporary wallpaper

Photo collage

Nothing says “college” like a wall plastered with your favorite photos. There are a lot of ways to hang up your pics: you could create your own wallpaper by covering the entire surface, make a fun shape like a heart, or hang them up like laundry on a line. You can even use visually similar shots to create a sort of photo-wallpaper effect. Whatever you do, make sure you use a safe adhesive—like dorm tape or blue painter’s tape—to avoid any damage. You don’t want to ruin your photos or pay fees to repair your blistered walls at the end of the year!

Photo collage          Heart picture collage

Clothesline collage          Sky photo collage

Paint swatches and samples

Paint chips are all over Pinterest! Those little swatches are free for the taking at home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, and they can be used for a number of creative projects: accent walls, murals, arts and crafts . . . the list is as long and as captivating as a rainbow. Even Martha approves of this colorful and economical trend!

Rainbow rooms

These vibrant works of art make us want to run to Sherwin-Williams and steal every paint sample they have! Your rainbow wall can be as big or as small as you like. All it takes is some patience and creativity to customize this project for rooms of all shapes and sizes.  

Rainbow swatches          Rainbow swatches

Rainbow swatches          Rainbow chevron dorm

Funky patterns

You don’t have to restrict your paint-sample wall art to rainbows. Patterns like chevron, stripes, or polka dots can spice up any free space and take a lot less planning and fewer swatches than a fully covered wall. You could also create a mosaic design if you’re feeling really inspired! (Check out this pixelated paint-chip portrait of Marilyn Monroe—how do people do stuff like that??)

Chevron dorm wall          Dorm mosaic

Tree dorm wall          Polka dot dorm

DIY paint-chip crafts

Paint samples can also be used for fun little projects that you can transport home after you take them down—just don’t make holes in the walls to hang them up! Display your one-of-a-kind paint-chip picture, calendar, or garland using Command hooks or their ilk. They stay on the wall using a self-adhesive strip and easily come off without any residue. And they can hold up to a few pounds—perfect for a small canvas or picture frame!

Dorm paint chip crafts          Dorm paint chip crafts

Dorm paint chip crafts          Butterfly paint chip decor

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