Young redheaded White woman making bed with colorful pillow in sunlit dorm room

Smart Ideas to Decorate and Save Space in Your College Dorm or Apartment

Your dorm or apartment is a big part of your college experience, so it must be comfortable and functional. Upgrade your space with these helpful tips!

Designing your college dorm room is an exciting milestone. Some students don’t see why decorating their dorm is so important—it’s just a room, right? But ensuring you’re comfortable during your first experience away from home should be a top priority. Interior designers study the psychology of how elements and the use of space affect us, so knowing the basics can help you optimize your space for relaxation, studying, and leisure. Here’s how to achieve efficiency in your college dorm or apartment while keeping style at the forefront.

The lounge area

For students living in apartments or suite-style dorms, a lounge or living room serves as the heart of your space. It’s the hub where friends and family naturally gravitate when they come to visit. Having loved ones over in college provides a powerful reminder that you're never alone, which is important in this stage of life when mental health can be vulnerable. With the lounge area being center stage, focus on chairs and couches to help set the tone with favored color schemes, fabrics, and shapes. Free or gently used thrift finds are ideal, but more stylish and luxurious home goods options are also available with back-to-school discounts and sales. The lounge area should provide comfort but also be a welcoming space if you host a party or club meeting, so consider opting for a biophilic design. This concept aligns with the natural outdoor environment, which means the use of plants and natural tones is key. Once your lounge area feels spacious and complete with a cozy design, you’ll start to feel more at home in your space.

Your dorm or bedroom

With late-night study sessions and early morning classes to look forward to, your dorm room needs to be a place where you can check out and relax. No matter how small your bed is—most schools only offer twin sizes—you can create a cozy oasis to climb into each night. Choose a comforter or quilt that showcases your personality while also creating a tranquil atmosphere. From there, add throw blankets and accent pillows to create a cohesive look that feels like home, but don’t forget your room needs to be functional as well. Consider adding a mattress topper to help your back or a cute lamp for the bedside table so you can stay up and read. Your dorm room should be an extension of yourself, so make sure you consider your own unique needs when decorating (while still being considerate of your roommate).

The dining area

Senior dorms and lofts or apartments usually have eating areas or kitchens, which are perfect for saving money on a college budget. You want to make sure you and whoever you’re sharing the space with have enough room to cook, host a few friends, and be able to sit down comfortably for a meal. Rounded chairs offer a comfortable place to sit and extra space to navigate the room without bumping into sharp corners. The overuse of jagged edges and sharp lines can cause anxiety by signifying the brain to be on alert mode, so stick with soft natural tones in the kitchen area and spice it up a bit with pops of color and one or two hard-line decor objects.

Related: Tyler's Ultimate College Cooking Collection: All the Best Microwave Recipes

Your workspace

Storage, storage, storage—this needs to be the highest priority when setting up your desk at college. Picture a massive clutter of pens, pencils, paper, and notebooks from every subject lying open, waiting for a coffee spill to ruin the pages. That’s a top-notch recipe for stress, so an efficient organization method is a must! Small drawers and desk organizers can sit on the desktop so utensils and knick-knacks can be tucked away. Get a rack to go under your desk to file away binders, folders, and important documents while still allowing everything to be visible for easy access. You can also get creative with furniture like a fashionable ottoman that can triple as an extra chair, footrest, and storage option. This helps keep your space looking trendy and fun while still being functional for you.

Wall decor and other accents

There may be a lot of campus dorm rules, but that shouldn’t prevent you from hanging wall decor and adding accent pieces. Try mixing jagged or sharp edges into your decor if your space has mainly soft, rounded lines. Find a good wall for a neutral-toned or wild abstract painting, depending on your style, to act as the centerpiece of your room. Thrift stores have affordably priced art and decor that can capture exactly what you’re going for. Wall decor and throw rugs can pull together any space into something comfy and unique to you.

Related: 5 Tips for Decorating Your Dorm to Help You Settle in at College

Luckily, there are plenty of trendy and budget-friendly furniture and decorating options you can take advantage of to perfect a cohesive design for your college space. Your dorm room or apartment will be the place where all your friends gather for relaxation and fun, so take the time to make it your own!

Kick off your new campus experience right with all the advice you could ever need under our “dorm life” tag

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About Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.


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