17 ways to transform your boring dorm room for under $40

Achieve prime #aesthetic, even on a budget.

Credit: Urban Outfitters
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I remember how nervous I was on move-in day freshman year of college. But after my parents and I said our tearful goodbyes, I looked around at the empty canvas that was my new (tiny) dorm room and no longer felt scared. I was excited to embark on a new adventure and make this place my own.

As soon as my roommate arrived, we cranked up some music and spent the entire afternoon decorating our room together. Our room became the place to be. It was full of color and funky patterns and was inviting for the rest of our floormates. Our room not only provided a place for comfort, but it genuinely elevated my mood.

Turning your little cinderblock-walled cell into an oasis will have a large impact on your mental state during times of high stress (which seems to be every week in college). It can also be done on a budget, with a keen eye and a little help from Amazon. I would suggest getting an Amazon Prime account as a student, considering the discounted price and all the benefits it offers. Here are my top picks to achieve prime #aesthetic in your dorm or apartment for under $40.


1. Set the mood with these bulbed string lights

String lights
Credit: Amazon

You will most likely never want to keep the bright, sterile looking ceiling light on. By buying styled lighting fixtures, you can alter the atmosphere of your dorm room and create some serious ambiance. I am drawn to the globe bulbs on these string lights since they are more unique than traditional twinkle lights, and they happen to be a best-seller on Amazon.

Buy now: String lights with clear bulbs, $15.57 on Amazon


2. Incorporate trendy white marble with this dry erase board

Marble board
Credit: Target

Unless you live under a rock, you know that white marble is one of 2017’s favorite texture patterns. Elevate your boring whiteboard with this "chiseled" version for just 10 dollars.

Buy now: Marble dry erase board, $9.99 at Target


3. Bring your Instagram feed to life with these photo hanging kits

Photo strings
Credit: ModCloth, Urban Outfitters

Keeping photos of family, friends, and pets is how I lifted my spirits when the going (studying) got tough. Side note— if you’re rolling with an instant print camera, you can use these displays to show off your masterful work.

Buy now: Photo string, $14.00 at Urban Outfitters
Buy now: Photo hanger display kit, $24.99 on ModCloth


4. Disguise those boring dorm walls with a vibrant tapestry

Tapestries
Credit: Amazon

Seriously, those walls are so bleak. Think of them instead as blank canvases, and use them to express what you love, or something that will inspire you everyday.

Buy now: Palm leaves tapestry, $15.99 on Amazon

Buy now: Pink mandala tapestry, $12.99 on Amazon


5. Set up fun seating areas for you and your friends to lounge (and study)

Bungee seat
Credit: Target

This chair was one of my favorite pieces of furniture I’ve ever had— although it technically belonged to my roommate. That didn’t stop me from sitting in it all the time, bouncing up and down in it like a fool. This chair’s unique design is an eye-catcher, yet it folds up and can be tucked away, making it quite practical for small spaces.
Buy now: Bungee chair, $28.00 at Target


6. Show off your green thumb by adding plants into your dorm

Planters
Credit: Urban Outfitters

Bring some life into your room, especially the kind that is hard to kill. Succulents, air plants, and cacti are just about the lowest maintenance plants you can own, and they bring style into any space. I am obsessed with these whimsical googly-eyed planters— they are sure to become the conversation piece of the semester.

Buy now: Googly eye planters, $8.00-$16.00 at Urban Outfitters
Buy now: Hanging crescent planter, $8.00-$16.00 at Urban Outfitters


7. Hang up posters that will make you and your friends lol

Michael Scott Poster
Credit: Amazon

Showing off your humor in a poster is so #college. Added bonus? Buying posters featuring your favorite movies or TV shows will surely break the ice among new floormates. Just promise that you won’t hang up Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Please.
Buy now: Michael Scott poster, $10.00 on Amazon


8. Dress up your cold tile flooring with these unique rugs

White furry rug
Credit: Target

There is nothing worse than stepping out of bed barefoot onto a freezing, rock hard floor. Well, actually—I guess it would be worse if you stepped out of your bed barefoot onto a lego.

Buy now: Faux fur circle rug, $24.99 at Target
Buy now: Printed rectangle rug, $34.00 at Urban Outfitters


9. Bring in the night sky with a paper star lantern

Star Lantern
Credit: Amazon

By day, this stellar paper decoration adds style and dimension to the room. By night, it illuminates your room, casting stars onto the ceiling. My star lantern hung above my bed so I could use it as a reading light while my roommate slept on the other side of the room, unbothered. I would suggest purchasing the 12 foot long cord listed below to hook it all up.

Buy now: Star lantern, $7.05 on Amazon
Buy now: 12’ Lantern cord, $9.25 on Amazon


10. Feed your inner wanderlust with this atlas scratch-map, especially if you plan to study abroad

World scratch map
Credit: Amazon

Scratch off where you’ve been, pin where you’d like to go next. Oh, the places you’ll go.

Buy now: World travel map, $39.99 on Amazon


11. Store all of the things in a stylish ottoman cube

Storage ottoman
Credit: Amazon

There is nothing like buying an item that has dual functionality. Make the most of your space by storing items in this ottoman that doubles as a comfy seat. I personally used mine to hide my good snacks from my friends. Absolutely shameless.

Buy now: Storage Ottoman, $27.99 on Amazon


12. Drape a chic fuzzy throw over your bed

Plush throw blankets
Credit: Nordstrom

Blanket cocoons are necessary—especially on Sundays.

Buy now: Plush throw blanket, $25.90 at Nordstrom


13. Incorporate a board for your friends to leave you messages and jokes

Peg board
Credit: Urban Outfitters

This peg board provides the perfect throwback aesthetic.

Buy now: Peg board with letters, $24.00 at Urban Outfitters


14. Make a statement using these throw pillows from Nordstrom

Throw Pillows
Credit: Nordstrom

I had a pillow (pet) that somehow always ended up in photos as everyone’s favorite prop. Obviously you won’t want your friends tossing your pillows around for a photo-op, but you will want your bedding to speak to your style. Since the bed is usually the biggest piece of furniture in a dorm, it’s the first thing people notice when they walk into the room.
Buy now: Nap more stress less pillow, $25.90 at Nordstrom
Buy now: Tassel accent pillow, $25.90 at Nordstrom


15. Bring in a chalkboard-inspired piece like this calendar wall decal

Chalk calendar
Credit: Pottery Barn Teen

Chalkboards will never not be cool. Use this chalkboard decal to keep track of important events or holidays happening in the weeks to come, while also creating chalk doodles on all the corners.

Buy now: Chalk calendar wall decal, $31.00 at Pottery Barn Teen


16. Mount something unique on your wall like these plush animal heads

Animal heads
Credit: Target

Full disclosure on these creature head mounts, they are indeed intended for a much younger crowd. But then again, so are Disney Pixar films, and that doesn’t stop me from visiting the theater on opening day every time one comes out.

Buy now: Unicorn head, $19.99 at Target
Buy now: Llama head, $24.99 at Target


17. Create your own wall art with these colorful, geometric felt pin-boards

Felt cork boards
Credit: Amazon

With so many colors to choose from, and at such a low price, you can’t really go wrong with these pin-boards.

Buy now: Felt hexagon memo boards, $6.99 on Amazon

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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