DORM DECOR: Planning Your Residence Hall Space

Welcome to another installment of Moodboard Monday! For this post, I'm collaborating with 10 other talented design bloggers with a common goal in mind: Help parents & students with their dorm decor. Whether you're a freshmen or a Junior, these posts will help you plan your new residential space and life on campus. Since I'm not a parent nor did I live on campus when attending college, I really had to start from scratch. Since my hubs did live in a dorm, I got some insight from him. Other sources for gathering info for dorm decor inspiration can be found at, Pinterest, and various other online magazines like Real Simple or Better Homes & Gardens. My favorite thing to do for inspiration is to take walking tours of stores like Ikea, Crate & Barrel and West Elm; this can be a great source of decor inspiration (especially for color combos!) Surprisingly, I also found a wealth of first hand information from actual college students themselves through Dorm Tours posted on You Tube. These students shared the essentials that they were wish they were told the first year to tips they've learned along the way.

Visualize & Prioritize - Dorm Decor Planning

But first, getting started means deciding on what size dorm fits your budget AND personality. A single space can be small and pricier, but if you're an introvert and privacy is your priority - this is the one for you. Most singles are 10'x11' and already come with: a single bed, a desk, a 3-5 drawer dresser, 1 ceiling light, 1 small closet, crappy floor, boring white walls and "maybe" 2 adjustable shelves on the wall. Older dorms won't have heating or cooling, so a fan and a blanket (or two) are a must. Most single dorms also will also require you to share a bathroom with others on your floor (so don't forget to stock up on flip-flops!)

Space planning is key to dorm decor.

Other dorm sizes available are double, triple, and even quads - but be careful going for those larger spaces. Although the larger the dorm, the less expensive it can be per person in the space, lessons not on the schools curriculum may also be learned, plus you can forget about privacy altogether. However, triple and quad dorms do offer a great opportunity for networking - but so can a double. A double may be shared with someone new to you or it can be a great way to bond with your 'now' besty. Where a single may be a 10'x11' space, a double can be 19'x 12'. These dorms are also known as Residence Halls, and some newer versions may include a small kitchen and an adjoining bathroom. Another option to the dorm but in the area of campus are college apartments.

For more decor ideas, see these boards on Pinterest:

After deciding which size space will sit your needs, view and collect images of what you think you'd like your style to be. Are you City Glam? Rustic Chic? a ? Boho Babe? a Rocker? or Preppy all the way? Are you a sports jock? or the next tech savvy James Bond? Having a board on Pinterest or using Olioboard is a great means of virtually collecting the images and items you come across on the web. You can even upload your own images of something you spot in a store. If you don't have Pinterest or haven't joined Olioboard, another way to pull together your vision is in a notebook filled with magazine and catalog clippings, or create your own vision samples as a collage on a poster board.

MORE dorm decor ideas via clever bloggers, mommy bloggers and designer 
on Pinterest collected at:

DIY Decor for your Dorm via Pinterest - selections narrowed down on Olioboard.

After collecting all your inspirational images, start to narrow down the choices with "Lists". Before cluttering the space with all the fluff & stuff here are some categories of necessities to consider:

  • Open Containers - great for magazines, hair & nail care, tools and/or electrical cords
  • Food Containers - good for storing left overs or extra grub from a buffet
  • Totes - good shoes or for seasonal & bulky items
  • Boxes - a decorative way to add color & pattern
  • Baskets - great for the rustic chic look
  • Ottomans - great to stash extra throws
  • Trunks - stylish means for concealed storage
  • Hooks - over the door + wall mounted
  • Closet Extender - doubles hanging space
  • Bed Risers - adds extra storage space
  • Velvet Skinny Hangers (saves space + clothing drops to floor)
  • Ziploc Bags - for leftover pizza or sandwich
  • Trays - help organize dresser surface or drawers(especially for small items lie jewelry or nail polish)

  • Scissors - Stapler - Paper clips - Pushpins
  • Hammer
  • 2 Screwdrivers (1 flat & 1 philips)
  • Pliers or Wire cutters
  • Bottle & Can Opener
  • Chip Clips + Eating Utensils
  • A small sewing Kit
  • Band-aids + Advil + Mouthwash + Vitamins
  • Duct tape
  • Command Strip Tape & Hooks
  • Cleaning Supplies: Goo Off, Windex, Laundry Detergent
  • RAIN-GEAR: Umbrella + Raincoat  (remember - most time getting to class will be OUTSIDE)
  • USB Flash Drive
  • Ethernet Cables
  • Chargers & Power Strips
  • Head Phones & Ear Plugs
  • Printer
  • External Hard-drive
  • A Fan & A Microwave
  • Lighting
Depending on your major, you may also consider having two laptops: One for school work and another photos & video. A Kindle or an iPad can help with some reading or music. A TV may or may not be necessary, since you can also stream these on the computer or smart devices.
NOW for the FUN stuff: decorating the dorm! Since this is a small space, the decor for the most part should perform double duty. For example back out panels for the window can be a great means of adding a vibrant color & a splash of pattern to the space. Rather than just flanking the window, consider doing a wall to wall rod of panels. Panels can be a store bought splurge like at Anthropologie, or a DIY project parents can make together with their daughter (or son). Other no-sew options can be patterned tablecloths or paint your own patterns on drop cloth. For in-a-pinch window covering: a simple tension rod with rod pocket panels will work fine.

Wallpaper inside shelves to add color interest

Taking advantage of vertical area in a small space is a must. This can be achieved using bookcases. Bookcases can be store bought & put together new, or save money and shop thrift. To give personality & style to these cases, they can be painted, add wallpaper inside, or even upcycle pallets for a rustic look. Removing an existing back panel and replacing with pallet boards can also make the case more sturdy. To help create some privacy in a double dorm, cluster bookcases: Set TWO back to back coming out from a wall, and add one (like a T) to the end. This can be a great way to create a sleeping nook or office-like study space. The added shelving will create storage for containers, boxes, and totes, holding everything from extra sheets to magazines.

This is a great way to ground the patchwork of comforters, quilts, 
blankets, pillows and rugs in a dorm space.

Cover nasty floors of the former dorm peeps by layering rugs. Rugs are another way to add color & pattern into the space - plus give comfort to those who prefer to do their reading o the floor. Since smaller rugs (3x5 and 4x6) are less expensive, this can also help with the decor budget. Pile on the pillows! From toss to floor cushions:  Make your own from anything including fabric samples, quilt squares, napkins, old jeans and even t-shirts. By making some of your own pillow covers, you can recycle existing decor pillows shoved in a closet or pick up through thrift. An popular pillow and a MUST according to the dorm divas to have: A body pillow.
Even in a small space, seating is a necessity: option for visitors to sit on, a place for students to read, and a place to sit at the desk and study. Splurge on an armless slipper chair or even thrift for a few to paint & recover yourself. Even existing fabric nowadays can be painted by mixing in a fabric paint softener additive you can pick up at JoAnn's or a craft store. Another way to save money on dorm seating: recover an old bean bag with a cover from Pottery Barn Kids - and even have it monogrammed or go chic and go for fur. Speaking of monogrammed: I'd suggest this for towels as decor of choice, along with wall hooks or over the door hooks in the bathroom.

Storage boxes are great for tools, take-out menus and back-up extension cords, 
chargers, headphones and earplugs.

GREAT idea to add color to white dorm walls: 

To stay organized with class schedules, campus 'events' (ie parties), holidays, and even a work schedule, a clock and a calendar are a MUST - along with a message board. A calendar can be another means of adding color or style flare - DIY your own with a poster frame and paint chip samples (behind the plexi). A message board can be a fun chalkboard wall decal or dry-erase board.  Even simple cork squares can be stylish covered in samples of your fave fabric prints. All of these are a great way to functional add art to dorm walls, and even doors.

Coordinate fabric covered cork wall panels with fun bedding layers - or even make it your beds headboard. Layer solids and trellis or chevron patterns for s city chic look or mix a patchwork of floral prints and stripes for a boho look on the bed. Although most dorms supply the bed, personalize yours with a rustic chic wire headboard, a DIY tufted headboard or build your own from recycled pallets. With the pallets, set other as a solid surface or leave gaps to clamp on some industrial-like clip-on lamps. For more lighting in the space, don't overlook the opportunity to hang a cluster of colorful paper lanterns from the ceiling and task lighting at the desk.
Other dorm decor essentials are picture frames. More than likely, this will be the first time this sparrow has left the nest and reminders of home, family, friends, and even the pet can be very comforting. After a while, a new flood of photos will emerge, and a great big heart collage can be created for wall decor. Another great way to incorporate functional display as dorm decor is by using jewelry. Hang with hooks, hang in picture frames, and even create a grid of clipboards - which they themselves too can be left natural or covered in colorful paper or fabric.

And don't forget to show your shared dorm bathroom and closet a little love. A little organization and creativity can and will go a long way...

great place for reminders!

can jazz up a basic dresser or desk drawers or as pulls on cabinet doors.

  • Thrift & Dollar Stores
  • Ikea & BigLots
  • Target & Walmart
  • Home Sense &Homegoods
  • TJMaxx & Ross
  • Anthropologie & Urban Outfitters

REpurpose salvaged letters for wall art.

The take-away before running out to the store: PLAN your space. Planning tools can be as simple as a notebook or poster-board - or plan with virtual boards like Pinterest and Olioboard. Not everything needs to be brand new for even in dorms, the old can be new again: REpurpose - REuse - REcycle what you have and also shop thrift. And not everything needs to be done all at once - Some concepts and ideas to fix a fab dorm can be done over time (fun projects to do together on visits home - or done as a surprise for you when you come to visit :-) . The main focus is study & sleep in a safe space + get engaged with people IRL (in real life) to create those memorable life events. 

 One last look at pulling together your dorm decor look...

Splurge & Save on various print rugs like these from Anthropologie (splurge) & Urban Outfitters (save) and anchor the mix with bold black & white stripes, chevron or medallion. Add color to blank walls with stretched canvases painted in these Benjamin Moore colors:

BM Green thumb - BM Pink Flamingo - 
BM Goldsmith - BM 14 Carrots - 
BM Cherry Burst - BM Avalon Teal

All of my boards here I created using Olioboard.
Be sure to head over to the other bloggers to see how they used Olioboard too.

Back to school ideas & different points of view for Dorm Decor today kicks off this morning at 9AM with these other 10 talented bloggers:




And I'll close with this perfect image I came across on Facebook this weekend...

Hope these tips help inspire your dorm decor...
and your own imagination :)

Thanks for stopping by.



  1. So detailed and so informative. I think you covered everything including the much needed flip flops! You don't want to walk barefoot in the bathrooms! Yucko! Great job!

  2. You blow me away constantly! I think SO many college-goers are going to wish they could wrap you up and stick you in their pockets! So many details showing how even the smallest elements and quick fixes can make SUCH a difference! When I get my home makeover done I'm getting you out here to help me with the little things! Happy Hopping!

  3. Fantastic decorating ideas! I am with Dabble, I am blown away by your ideas and design. Truly inspiring and well thought out!

  4. Wow! This is CHOCK-FULL of inspiration- things I am going to incorporate into my own home while preparing for school to start in NY. I am dying for the BOHO looks and love that paint swatch calendar! Must do! Happy OlioHopping with you!
    Joanne @ Homestyling101

  5. OK... first of all- the bread ties on the cords...genius! I normally use blue painter's tape and make little tabs. The clipboard jewelry holders... C'MON! I LOVE THIS POST! Nice job and well planned offering room selection info! FAB!!!

  6. I'm not even sure what to comment on-- it's all great! Designs, tips, details... amazing. I know this took a lot of time- I'm inspired. Happy to #oliohop with you!

    Julie @gosimplysavvy and

  7. Love your post Lynda! Full of great information on organization solutions, space planning and decor idea to-do-list, + an awesome dorm decor board. Happy #Oliohop xo :)

  8. Lynda, again another great post.
    Love the chalkboard wall and those clipboard are so fun.
    All tops details and tips, so handy for the college crew.
    Makes you want to get your own dorm room, of course without all the homework and projects ; )

    Always fun Blogging with you Lynda!!xo

  9. Lynda, your blog is amazing. You covered everything a student could need living in a dorm. I love your jewelry display, the organizational items, the chalkboard wall, all of your design boards, and the tip to use fabric paint to change the color of a piece of furniture. You obviously spent a lot of time on this and it really shows. What passion and detail for design you have. I am thrilled to part of this with you.

  10. Dear Lynda --what can I say? This is just an amazing post -full of every single practical piece of advice a Mom or Dad could want for their son or daughter leaving for college and so many inspiring ideas..not to mention your beautifully detailed and layered Olioboards showcasing them all!

    If I had to pick just one idea (and I don't want to! ) I would pick those stick on pods. Those could be used so many different places -the sides of desks, sinks,etc. etc...

    Thank you again, Lynda, for putting your heart into everything you do in relation to these OlioHops! Your passion for design and your dedication to visual excellence is evident.

    Everyone at my client, Olioboard, appreciates your skill, thoughtfulness and time, Lynda, and this post is bound to become iconic in the world of #DormDecor planning!


    Leslie (@tkpleslie)

  11. Lynda,

    Fantastic post! You have laid out a great lesson plan to follow for the coolest dorm room on campus. Will there be a quiz? Great visuals like these and taking the right organized notes help me to learn the most effectively. I just may ace the test! ;)

    All the best,

    Jane @snob

  12. Lynda! I love it! I want to go back to college with you plan in hand! So organized, and beautiful at the same time! Wonderful posts as always and boards too! #OlioLove! xo

  13. I just wanted to add a comment here to mention thanks for you very nice ideas. Blogs are troublesome to run and time consuming thus I appreciate when I see well written material. Your time isn’t going to waste with your posts. Thanks so much and stick with it No doubt you will definitely reach your goals! have a great day!

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  14. Another informative blog… Thank you for sharing it… Best of luck for further endeavor too.
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  15. This is awesome! especially the flip-flop hanger...this is really brilliant! i will surely do this on my own slippers. Thank you so much for all your clever idea.

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