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Expert tips for dorm room décor

Want to be the dorm decorating envy among your new college friends? New Jersey-based Blanche Garcia, licensed interior designer and principal of B. garcia designs, shares her dorm decorating tips for you and your new dorm roomie.

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Customized wall graphic

Drat! Dorm décor obstacles

In addition to trying to strategically fit your belongings in a small box-shaped room you’re sharing with a roommate, you have limitations on how you can decorate your dorm. “The biggest issues to work around are the facts that you can’t paint the walls and proper lighting is scarce,” empathizes Garcia, who has been an interior design expert for 14 years and is a LEED-accredited professional through the United States Green Building Commission. “Also,” she adds, “there is virtually no room for storage for one person, let alone two!”

5 Dorm decorating tips

Even though dorm decorating may seem near impossible, Garcia shares how to transform your new pad into a comfy yet stylish college campus haven.

1Ikea table lampDeck the walls

Though you can’t slap a coat of paint on those well-worn walls, you can give them eye appeal with removable décor. “Decorative wall decals and murals are a great peel-and-stick method for adding color and design without damaging the walls, and can be customized to what ever graphic you upload,” Garcia explains. “Companies like [offer] a great way to express yourself.”

2Lighten up

You may only have a single window that only lets in a little natural sunlight, but strategic lighting will brighten up a dim dorm room. “Layers of light can make a room seem larger as well as solve task-lighting issues for studying,” says Garcia. “The most effective combination is through a mixture of table lamps for studying and floor lamps for general lighting. You can add a cheap dimmer from IKEA to any lamp and have soft lighting for relaxing and having friends over.”

3mini fridge cartSmart storage solutions

You don’t have to rent a storage unit off-campus — you really can fit all your and your dormie’s belongings by making the best use of your small living space. “Storage is a hot commodity in a dorm room, so hike up your bed with inexpensive risers from Home Depot and add storage bins on wheels that are easy to pull out,” recommends Garcia. “My favorite place to get bins on wheels is Next: Edit, edit, edit and reorganize your closet; again, The Container Store is your destination for all things storage.”

4Divide and relax

Even if your roomie is your new BFF, having a little privacy will be a benefit for your friendship. “Grab a little privacy by separating two roommates with a fabric curtain attached to the ceiling — even just 10 inches of separation will mentally feel more relaxing,” suggests Garcia. “I’m going to point you once again to IKEA, where they offer thin fabric panels that mount on a track, take up little room, and come in a ton of great graphics– a great way to sass up any space.”

5Bed in a bagExpress yourself

Just because you walked into a dorm room with the doldrums doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Liven it up! “Add your personality by using bright bedding, painting a garage-sale desk a pop color or using your jewelry as artwork by displaying it in a group on a framed tack board,” encourages Garcia. “ is a wonderful source for inexpensive furniture.”

Can dorm roomies really coordinate their styles?

It’s true: Women in general find the need to express themselves, and Garcia knows that this need doubles when it’s their first time on their own. But the interior design maven has a way for two new roomies to not only coordinate their dorm décor style but to also get closer by problem-solving together.

She explains: “It’s important to come to a compromise without feeling you have sacrificed your individuality. I suggest you pick color based on the rule of three. You each pick one color, then you each throw three color names into a hat and one of you picks out the lucky third color choice. That way, both parties were equally represented and you’ve ended up with a cohesive room design. You still get to pick what your individual bedding will be, and I find you get some unexpected but surprisingly beautiful color combinations this way!”

Keep up with seasons

Later in the school year, when you need a change of dorm scenery, Garcia says you don’t have to completely overhaul your dorm décor. Simply swap out a few small items to give your pad a new face. “The easiest way is to change out the accent color,” she explains. “By switching throw pillows, lamp shades and throw rugs, you can really change the look and feel of any space.”

More ways to decorate your dorm

Simple solutions for dorm décor
Dorm decorating tips and tricks
10 Dorm room essentials


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