When Katherine Peters started her freshman year at Indiana University, she wasted no time with decorating her college dorm room. “During my first conversation with my roommate, we decided that we wanted our whole room to be a vibe,” the Dormify ambassador says. Since she previously went to boarding school, she was a seasoned vet in the dorm decorating game and oversaw the design and cohesion of the space. The result? An Instagrammable 14-foot wall completely covered in photos, hanging lights and tapestries, and, as Peters puts it, “the softest rug imaginable.”
Today, college students are going the extra mile to create design-minded dorms, and they’re sharing their decorating process on social media. From temporary wallpaper to matching bedding, these coed quarters put the butterfly chairs and unframed posters of yore to shame—for a reason that shouldn’t be too surprising.
“Social media has raised the bar for how students want their dorm room to look,” explains Stephanie Kimel, cofounder and chief merchandising officer of Dormify. “Most students share their lives on Instagram. Going away to college and showing off your room is definitely a big part of that.”
But it’s not all for the ’gram. College gives many young adults a true sense of independence—as well as the chance to decorate a space of their very own for the first time. “They use this as an opportunity to really hone in on their personal style and use their rooms as a platform for creative expression,” Kimel shares. The only thing is, dorms aren’t always a room of one’s one. Luckily, it’s possible to work with your roommate to create your ideal dorm room—even if you have totally different styles.
Just because you’re a college student with no disposable income doesn’t mean you have to settle for a set of scratchy sheets or a side table that looks like it’s going to break at any moment. “Invest in quality pieces that you’ll love for a long time,” recommends Sophia O’Halloran, a Dormify ambassador and rising junior at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. “Sometimes at college, you can feel unmotivated and lonely, so you really want to make sure you’re happy in your space.”
Investing in great pieces you truly love doesn’t have to be a huge expense. Secondhand shops and tag sales, for example, are great places to snag inexpensive finds. Head to a thrift store with your roommate and you can even challenge each other to see who can find the best deal.
Personal touches such as pictures, vases, and mementos can keep your space from feeling super-sterile, which is important when decorating a college dorm. For most people, college is their first time away from family and friends. Sometimes, homesickness can really settle in. “Imagine what you would want to wake up to when you are feeling homesick,” Peters says. “While your room might be small, filling it with things you love will help relieve those stressors.”
Instead of taping your favorite Kodak moments directly to the wall, consider using frames. No need to hammer nails or complicated mounting systems—Command strips make it easy. And think about contrasting your frames (one side black, one side white) with your roommate’s for an elevated look.
Coordinate—But Don’t Copycat
When Angelina Licari and her roommate designed their dorm room, they wanted to create one that was unified yet gave them enough space to experiment with their unique styles. “My roommate and I did coordinate—to an extent. We got the same white bedding and I handmade our headboards,” the Dormify ambassador and rising sophomore at the University of Oklahoma explains. “Other than that, we decided to go our own way on decor.”
This tactic makes it possible to set up a room that truly feels like your own. “Overcoordinating with your roommate and sacrificing your personal style can turn out to be a big mistake,” adds Licari. For a space that feels cohesive—but not forced—Kimel recommends choosing a common color scheme and styling your sides individually.
Find Storage Solutions
It doesn’t matter how much time you spend decorating your dorm room: No space looks its best when covered in clutter. “Make use of the area under your bed,” Peters recommends. “Dormify offers really great storage that was beyond helpful.” You could settle for a few plastic bins, but picking up some more stylish options will keep your room equal parts pretty and practical.
Go Your Own Way
At the end of the day, it’s your dorm room. It’s where you will sleep, study, scarf down a heaping bowl of instant noodles, and hang out with new friends. “Go with your heart and what makes you happy, not what you see everyone else doing,” advises Mikaela Ridall, a rising senior at Temple University in Philadelphia and a Dormify ambassador. “This is your time to create a space that is beautiful to you and makes you feel as comfortable as possible.”
Ridall explains that since she and her roommate have very different tastes, they stuck to their own aesthetics. Just because you and your roommate don’t see eye to eye on interior design doesn’t mean you have a one-way ticket to dorm room disaster. Empower each other to experiment, get creative, and express yourselves through your decor. After all, going with your gut always looks good.