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Whether you’re living in a shared dorm or your childhood bedroom, at Seventeen, we believe you can make any space stylish, all while on a budget. That’s why we polled you, our readers, on the biggest decorating hurdles you face whatever your situation. Then, we partnered with House Beautiful to tap some of their favorite designers to advise. In this installment: The dorm room.
Whoever told you that a dorm room couldn’t be stylish and functional clearly didn’t speak to the right people. That’s right, you heard it here first — your dorm room aesthetic can absolutely be on point and you don’t have to break the bank to make it happen. After polling Seventeen readers on their biggest shared dorm room struggles, the consensus was that it can feel challenging to to make a space feel like your own when it’s shared with another person. To make things easier, we spoke to three design experts who shared *all* of the ideas on how to upgrade your dorm. Read on for ideas you will absolutely want to steal.
A tiny space calls for large art.
“I love decorating tiny spaces with big surfaces that don’t add bulk or visual clutter to the room” says Noz Nozawa of Noz Design. She finds one of the best ways to do this is with a rug. “A bold rug in a tiny room allows you to personalize one of the largest surfaces in your space,” she says. And, for the record, Noz will tell you that a small room can absolutely handle a large-format art piece (thankyouverymuch!). “Decorating the walls, just like going big with your rug, gives you the opportunity to personalize your space without cluttering up your limited floor space,” she says.
Filling the space > leaving it empty.
Forget what you heard about not adding to a space because it’s too tiny. “People tend to think that keeping a small space sparse will make it feel bigger, but that’s not necessarily true,” explains, interior designer Christine Gachot, co-founder of GACHOT.
Instead, she suggests intentionally filling the room. “Put the focus on your personality rather than the size of the room. The trick to thoughtful design is to limit yourself to furniture, object, lighting, accessories and the art that you really love, rather than buying something just because you need it,” she says.
With that in mind, Christine notes that multifunctionality is key in any small space, but especially a dorm room. For example, since your desktop is your workspace and your makeup vanity, Christine says to invest in a nice desk lamp since you’ll be spending a lot of time there. Then, there’s the need for additional seating and tabletop space, which she recommends stacking stools for. “[They] can serve as the stools and side tables for guests, and be stacked out of the way. Floor cushions can [also] be thrown on the bed for decoration.” Through these items, you can take advantage of the space you do have.
It’s all about bedding that you love.
Noz’s best advice for dorm room decorating? Make your space a comfortable oasis to rest. “Buy the softest, loveliest Twin XL sheets you can find and pick a couple fabulous throw pillows and get a little bedside rug — something you’ll love seeing and stepping onto every time you wake up,” she says. Noz says to indulge in your rest and in a happy wake-up. “When I was living in dorms, even the year when I invested tons of my (limited student) cash and time decorating, I barely spent time enjoying my room – I was either stressed out studying, or sleeping. There will be so many future apartments you’ll get to fully decorate to your heart’s fulfillment.” So, for now, invest in catching your z’s.
Speaking of bedding, try for something light and bright.
If you’re looking for something to make your space feel bright and airy, celebrity interior designer Mikel Welch says to add light colored bedding. “You might not be able to change the colors of your walls, but your bedding can add a bit of relief to the cavelike dorm feel,” he says. Consider this permission granted for that colorful bedding from Dormify you’ve been eyeing.
A common color theme is never a bad idea.
Sure, your roommate might have a different aesthetic than you or you just might not want to completely match with them, and that’s no problem. With a common color theme, your general styles could be different but there will at least be one common thread to help create cohesion for the space. “When all else fails, consider the fun of clashing styles. Use a nice-colored tape to create a dividing line in your room and let your disparate styles sit side by side in a way that feels intentional,” Christine says.
Incorporate peel and stick wallpaper.
Don’t underestimate the power of removable wallpaper, y’all. Mikel says this will add instant character to your room and I wholeheartedly agree. “Go for a fun pattern that adds life and energy to the space, so it doesn’t feel so drab and clinical,” he says.
Frame art and posters instead of taping them.
“It’s such a simple way to elevate a space and make it feel less transient,” says Christine. She suggests Framebridge, but otherwise says to print your art to size and frame them yourself. And since you likely can’t drill holes into your dorm room, don’t sleep on Command Strips to hang your frames.
Open up the space by adding a wall or floor mirror.
Possibly the greatest design hack of all time, Mikel suggests incorporating a large mirror even in the tiniest space to reflect light in the room. “The mirror will provide an optical illusion that makes the space feel bigger and brighter,” he explains, adding, “best of all, you can check your look before you head to class.” A little pre-class mirror selfie? Can’t argue with that.
Swap out your existing desk chair for something sleeker.
“Try swapping out that standard wooden desk chair that’s been sitting in the room since the 1970’s for a fun acrylic or upholstered desk chair,” says Mikel. This affordable upgrade makes sense, especially because you can repurpose the chair each year.
Add storage space by going *up* the walls.
If you’re needing more desk storage space and can’t install floating shelves, Noz suggests putting a tall bookcase on the wall with your desk in front of it. “You can stash your books, decor, picture frames, or plants, without taking up room on your desk,” she says.
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