7 ways you can transform a dorm room—without hiring an interior designer
Here are my secrets to decorating a dorm room on a budget
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While shopping for college is fun, it can be a major expense. In my experience, I've seen students hire interior decorators to transform their dorm rooms into something out of a magazine. Now that I'm a senior, I've figured out how to decorate an 'insta-worthy' living space without spending a fortune—or hiring an interior decorator!
I like to say that my dorm is realistically decorated. I used items I already had at home and combined them with affordable pieces of decor that I managed to find at a discount at my favorite stores. While I opted to decorate my room on a budget, I came to the conclusion that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade your dorm room with serious style.
I believe a dorm room should be a reflection of who you are. In my room, I stuck to a color scheme, incorporating my favorite hues like pink, white, blue, and gray. I also chose decor that reflects aspects of my personality and my interests, like my love for elephants and baseball caps. Because my room reminds me of the things I love, it is a cozy space that is all my own. It might not be over-the-top, but it’s definitely ‘insta-worthy’ to me, and that’s all that matters.
Here's a list of ways in which I turned my dorm room from basic to chic:
1. Cover your bed with a colorful comforter and matching pillows
When I bought bedding, I opted for a gray and white printed comforter set which came with a pillowcase and a matching pillow from TJMaxx for $30. My gold pillow is from Primark and was no more than $10. I love Primark because it has all the decorative accents you could need, and it is extremely affordable. My fuzzy blanket is Ralph Lauren, and I got on sale at TJ Maxx—it is the softest thing ever. My soft blanket adds a bit of luxury and makes sleeping on a college mattress much better.
Buy similar bedding: AmazonBasics Bed-In-A-Bag Twin/Twin XL, $38.99 on Amazon
Buy a fuzzy blanket: Balichun Luxury Fleece Blanket, $35 on Amazon
2. Place string lights on your walls to make your area of the room cozy and inviting
To my surprise, my newly renovated dorm did not have a light source in the bedroom. So in addition to getting lamps, I bought three sets of string lights from Primark for about $7 each. They use AA batteries, which I also bought from Primark for $1.50 for a set of 10. The string lights make my dorm feel cozy, and make me never want to leave my bed.
3. Hang canvases on the walls to enhance your room's aesthetic
Marshalls and T.J. Maxx are my favorite places to buy random things that I don’t need, but want. I got these two canvases from T.J. Maxx on clearance for $5 each. They are small, which I like because I don’t fear that one will fall on my head while I am sleeping. The canvases are great reminders of my passions and inspire me every day.
4. Use a tapestry to cover part of the boring walls
A tapestry can really tie a room together. I got mine while in Botswana during the summer before my senior year in high school. I bought a bunch of different fabrics while in Botswana and thought this one looked the best on my wall. It has the big five game animals: a lion, an elephant, a buffalo, a leopard, and a rhino. The elephant is my favorite animal, so for that reason I love to look up at my tapestry every day.
Buy animal tapestry: Ambesonne Safari Decor Tapestry, $27.95 on Amazon
5. Display your prettiest belongings on your desk
While my mother may wish my desk was used to study, I use it for storage. I don’t have a lot of storage shelves, so I use my desk to store makeup, electronics, drinks, and books. I have a “V” on my desk from T.J. Maxx that I purchased for less than $10. My mirror is also from T.J. Maxx, and it was only $8—along with my storage organizer for folders, which I use to store books and some loose receipts. I got the pink lamp on my desk from Target years ago and it has yet to fail me. Like most college girls, I get ready and do my makeup at my desk, so great lighting is a must. The other things I keep on my desk end up as décor, too, including my Fujifilm Instax camera, my white "marble" laptop cover, and my water bottle.
Buy laptop cover: iDOO Matte Hard Case for MacBook Air 13-Inch, $13.59 on Amazon
Buy S'well water bottle: S'well Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle in Wood, $35 on Amazon
6. Store your makeup in a styled organizer, making the items part of your room decor
Makeup organizers can be expensive. I found mine for less than $15 at Marshalls, and I love how it keeps all of my products easily accessible and visible. I also have a small Sterilite drawer on my desk from Target, which costs less than $10, that I keep jewelry, lipsticks, and miscellaneous items in.
Buy a makeup organizer: Ikee Design Jewelry & Cosmetic Storage Display Boxes, 13.99 on Amazon
7. Hang something you love on your wall to show off your personality
My caps are my pride and joy. I started collecting hats about two years ago, and I’ve since accumulated quite the collection. I hang my hats on animal pins that I found at Target. The pins are in the shape of unicorns, elephants, rhinos, buffalos, moose, and deer. Usually, people don’t notice them until they pick up the hat and realize little animals are holding them up on the wall—sometimes the smallest details make the largest impact.
Buy animal push pins: Ubrands Animal Head Push Pins, $6 at Target
While the cost of dorm shopping may be scary for parents and students alike, there are so many ways to decorate on a budget. The key is to start with items you already own, and then head out to stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Target, and Primark to decorate the rest. Also, shop around and accumulate pieces over time—large sales tend to occur after students have already moved in.
Good luck with your school year!