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Dorm room décor 101: Designer tips and tricks

Selena Dehne is a marketing and public relations manager for JIST Publishing, freelance writer and life-long Hoosier. She covers home, entertaining, and holiday topics for and Selena has also published do...

Stylish ways to decorate small spaces

Across the nation, high school graduates are gearing up for their first semester of college. For many, moving away from home and into the dorms is one of the most exciting steps in this transition, and they can’t wait to start decorating their new digs.

Stylish ways to decorate small spaces

Here are a few tips college-bound students should keep in mind as they brainstorm décor ideas with their roommate and shop for everything from bedding and furniture to storage solutions and accessories.

1Plan for minimal space

Dorm rooms are notorious for being small, and students never fail to bring entirely too much stuff. According to Sabrina Soto, Target's Home Style Expert, it's essential to keep things organized in tiny spaces. "Doing so will help make a room feel larger and can reduce stress levels. Sweater and shoe closet organizers are great solutions for keeping closets tidy and will allow space to tuck away books, workout gear or even an iPad," she explains.

2Invest in functional furniture

Soto says another way to make the most of a small space is to opt for furniture that will serve more than one purpose. She notes that Target offers storage ottomans that can keep DVDs, linens and supplies out of sight, while serving as extra seating. "Most dorms are outfitted with the simple furniture pieces students will need, so I would focus on personalizing the space with colorful items for the closet, like bright and graphic storage bins, and desktop accessories that keep clutter at bay and out of sight," she adds.

3Resist the temptation to be matchy-matchy with your roommate

Liz Billman, a style advisor for, encourages students to coordinate their bedding and colors rather than trying to match everything. "If your roommate wants a flower print, don't feel like you have to get one too. Pick a different graphic for your bedding and make sure it shows your personality. Mix and match with reversible duvet covers for a coordinating, but not matchy-matchy, look," she explains.

4Hang a stylish mirror

What can students do to brighten a dark dorm room and make it look larger than it actually is? Billman says, "Place a mirror in your room where it can reflect light and a view. Finding a mirror that is in a shape other than a square is definitely a plus. You don't need anything else that looks like the square you are living in."

5Adorn the room with a trendy wall decal

Many dorms have strict policies against placing holes in walls, which can limit students' ability to decorate them. To sidestep this dilemma, apply decals to the walls, which can be easily removed without causing damage to the wall or paint.

Soto says decals are also a great way to add color and character to bland concrete walls. "At Target I've found options that are chic, like a silhouetted chandelier with rhinestones and some great dry-erase decals in primary colors that you can use to leave reminders," she says.

6Find creative ways to improve the room's lighting

According to Soto, lighting can instantly transform the mood of a dull room. She recommends hanging a paper lantern and says that not only will it add light and texture to the room, but it will also save space by eliminating the need for a bedside lamp.

Stylish ways to decorate small spaces

More dorm room décor and storage solutions

  1. Student Lounge boho over-the-door accessory organizer. Keep clutter out of sight and organized in this colorful, convenient organizer from Kohl's. Use it to store everything from jewelry and class supplies to toiletries and mementos.
  2. Student Lounge collapsible storage bins. These lightweight bins, available at Kohl's, will give your closet or shelves a bright splash of color while storing various items you'd prefer to hide from view.
  3. Storage ottoman. If you need extra seating and storage, head to Target and snag this fashionable ottoman. You may even grab one or two extra to give your room an extra pop of color.
  4. Chandelier wall decal. Want to give your room a touch of whimsy? Check out this chandelier decal from It's fashionable, easy to apply and won't wreck the walls — key considerations for anyone living in the dorms.
  5. Believe You Can Fly duvet/sham set. Selecting two or three specific colors for your room's décor will help you tie all of the elements together. This simple, sophisticated duvet and sham set from can be easily paired with just about any bright color that suits your style.

More tips for decorating dorm rooms

3 Dorm room design ideas
Top 10 must-haves for dorm living
Decorating your dorm room

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