If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to keep pieces you bought for your very first year of college long after you graduate. This is best achieved by ignoring every cliché dorm room checklist and coupons for bright turquoise and fuschia polyester bedding—you know the type—and instead being more intentional with every item you purchase for your brand new space.
Sound a tad overwhelming (not to mention, expensive)? It can be, but it doesn’t have to. Between stressing over the possibility of contracting a fatal disease from the mystery meat parading as “chicken” in the dining hall and worrying if you and your roommate are going to kill each other within a week of move-in day, there’s enough to overthink when it comes to your first year of college without factoring in dorm room decor. Which is why we’ve put together a list of easy upgrades on all the dorm room classics to consider instead.
Put the “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost” print-out down—these are the dorm decor pieces worth spending a bit more on for an elevated space you’ll actually want to come home to.
Corkboard or Whiteboard
White Wire Wall Grid Shelf, Etsy, $39.99+
Pin sentimental mementos, class schedules, and other daily reminders up on this contemporary grid. Thanks to its multifunctional nature, you’ll be able to use this handy tool for years to come as a catch-all for your future home workspace. This particular find comes with free clips, but try buying a set of uniform-looking ones (like these gold ones from Scandinavian retailer Hay) to personalize your grid and make it look more elevated.
Eric Tine Bent Metal Wall Hooks, West Elm, $18
Not only do they look cheap, but command hooks are a one-use-only kind of deal. Provided you’re allowed to make small holes in your wall, opt for something a little longer-lasting and a lot more stylish. Wall hooks like these candy-colored West Elm ones can hold much more weight for your accessories, coats, and hanging wall art than flimsy command hooks can.
Not allowed to ruin the masterpiece that is your dorm room wall by screwing in hooks? Try this sleek over-the-door hook from Urban Outfitters.
Plastic Desk Lamp
Gold-Dipped Task Lamp, Anthropologie, $98
Speaking from personal experience, you want to steer clear of those $20 plastic-shade desk lamps at all costs because a) the plastic can melt and rapidly turn into a safety hazard and b) they’re ugly. Instead, choose a more artful piece you can easily transition to your nightstand or living room side table post-grad; these gold-dipped lamps are simple and provide plenty of light for late night studying. They also won’t stick out like a sore thumb against the rest of your stylish decor.
Wire Mesh Laundry Hamper
Jute Laundry Basket, H&M Home, $34.99
Unless you are Elle Woods, chances are your dorm room isn’t very big. Which means that, when closet space is precious and divided up between you and your roomie, you can’t hide unattractive mesh hampers behind closed doors. For an option you’ll actually want to display, choose something neutral in a woven material like this jute H&M basket. Make sure it has handles so you can easily tote it down to the laundry room.
Plastic or Fabric Shower Caddy
Minimal Rose Gold Shower Caddy, Urban Outfitters, $29
When you share a bathroom with your entire dorm floor, it’s probably not best practice to leave your beloved beauty supplies permanently out in the open. And while toting shampoos and razors back and forth between the bathroom and your room multiple times a day isn’t ideal, it’s not a permanent situation—so choose your caddy wisely.
A sturdier one you can hang in your room on an over-the-door hook (like the aforementioned Urban one) when not in use is your best bet. The design-forward style is one you’ll be able to use to organize your shower long after you graduate.
We get it. Dorm room walls are ugly, and you want to cover them up. But instead of trying to fix the problem with a tapestry like pretty much everyone else in your dorm will do, flex your design skills and go for something that will pull together your room a lot better. temporary wallpaper is affordable, hassle-free, and you don’t have to stress about getting in trouble for hanging anything up.
Our favorite place to find trendy removable wallpaper? Chasing Paper, whose most recent collection features tile-lookalike paper inspired by European destinations. The brand has pretty much every color and style imaginable ready to buy on its website.
Plastic Stacked Drawers
3-Tier Storage Trolley, Walmart, $45.99
Multifunctional, mobile, and way more durable than a set of plastic drawers, utility carts are a serious lifesaver in the storage and organization department. Use to hold the overflow of textbooks and school supplies that don’t fit in your desk or to keep all your nightstand necessities in order. Or, pick up a tiny coffee maker, add a couple of your favorite mugs, and use the top as an at-home coffee cart. Trust us, you’ll be super thankful not to have to trek out in the cold to pick up your morning cuppa during winter finals.
: Clunky Chairs
Knitted Silver Pouf, CB2, $79.95
We’re sure your dorm room will be the perpetual social hub for the entire floor, but don’t waste valuable floor space with clunky chairs! Floor pillows and poufs are far better options; not only do they take up less square footage (you can hide under the bed or stack ’em on top of each other when not in use), but the casual vibe they create is way more conducive to informal get-togethers than stiff armchairs. They make quite the useful indoor/outdoor entertaining tool you’ll be getting use out of for years after you graduate college.
Knotted Window Curtain, Urban Outfitters, $59
Whether you realize it or not, curtains really can make or break a room. Dingy, old blinds immediately make your space look worn-out. Try framing your windows with something longer, like these super simple blush curtains, to heighten your ceilings and pull the whole room together.
Pro tip: They also work well as makeshift room dividers if you move out of your dorm room to a tiny studio apartment. The simple design and quality cotton material will never go out of style.
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