6 Key Design Principles to Follow When Decorating your College Dorm Room

college dorm room ideas, college dorm room decor, dorm room style, how to decorate your dorm room

This blog post is not like all those other blog posts about decorating your dorm room.  For all those students starting or going back to college this fall and their anxious parents, I am going to give you some insider tips from the design world that will help you transform your dorm room so that it is the envy of your class mates.  It is not easy to create a comfortable, organized and good looking dorm room when you cannot make any permanent changes, drill into walls or change major pieces of furniture (not forgetting the tiny budget!) but these key design principles will help you make the most of your limited space and create a sense of order and harmony that you will love coming back to.


Think about what you will see when you first enter the room

When working out the best layout that will maximize the use of the space, consider that first view of your room as you enter.  It is important as it impacts how you feel about your personal space. As you open the door, your room should welcome you as a refuge from the rigors of college life.  Often your friends will hang out around the doorway and chat to you.  Make sure any clutter is not in direct view from this angle.  If you have a TV, you would not want to see the back side and all the electrical cables in direct view.

Make sure there is a clear path into your room and you wont trip over anything. It is preferable to see the head or top of the bed from this view too.  If you are lying in your bed, you would want to see right away anyone opening the door to your room.


College dorm decorating ideas
Clutter is hidden in this peaceful looking room. Remodelaholic.com


Establish what will be the focal point of the room.

It is often the window or your bed but may be created with a colorful neat bookcase or display of artwork or photographs on your wall.  It probably should not be your desk unless you are a really tidy person!  You should only have one focal point in a small room otherwise it will feel unbalanced.

Focus your energy and budget on making this focal point look good.  If it is the window, add a colorful shade which could be made by draping a cloth over an inexpensive pole and stringing it up either end with ribbon to create gentle swags.  Use color and add decorative details to your focal point so that it is the first thing that draws your attention when you enter the room.

The aim is to distract the eye away from any less attractive clutter that you will inevitably have in your room.


Dorm room decorating ideas, design principles for dorm rooms, lighting for dorm room
Create a focal point for your room with an unusual and eye catching lamp shade. Pinterest


In this photo, the lamp shade really makes a fabulous style statement in the room and makes it feel balanced.  I also love the clever use of chandelier silhouette decals on the wall either side of the window.  This also reinforces the sense of balance and harmony that comes with it.  Which leads me on to the next key principle ….


Consider how you can create symmetry

Symmetry is very important to consider in a small space so that it feels calm and organized.  It does not just apply to the way the room is laid out but should also be considered when making color and decor decisions.  In the above picture, you will notice that one of the beds has very neutral coverings but the other has a bright color and pattern.  Normally this would throw off the balance in a small room but by cleverly adding the chandelier decals and patterned curtains with the lamp shade, the color mismatch is less distracting.



Dorm room decor with fairy lights, storage ideas for dorm rooms
Making use of the full height of the room, fairy lights make the room feel larger. Pinterest


Maximize the space by using the full height of the room

When you have limited space, don’t just think about the floor space.  Make use of the full height of your room by adding standing shelves, raising your bed to allow for storage underneath and hanging things from the ceiling. The closet needs to be organized in the same way.


Dorm room shelving and decor ideas
Shelving over the bed makes full use of this otherwise unused space and avoids drilling into the walls.  mtdemocrat.com


Use only one or two colors for your color scheme to create a sense of harmony

In a small space it feels more coordinated and less busy if you stay with just one color or use colors which are close together on the color wheel.  The same goes with pattern.  Use more subtle patterns and repeat the same patterns around the room if possible to create more balance.  So I would suggest when choosing bedding, to go for bolder patterns on your pillows rather than your duvet or comforter.

The picture above demonstrates this well.  The comforter has a subtle pattern in lilac, which is repeated for the pillow.  The lilac color is paired with a solid maroon.  Both colors work well together and we see accessories in those some colors spread around the room.


College dorm room decorating
A black and white color scheme looks sophisticated and edgy.  Pinterest


Make your room feel warm and cozy

There can be a lot of hard and cold surfaces in a dorm room, especially if there is a hardwood floor, so add warmth with fabrics, a window curtain or blind, a rug and layers of light.

Rugs especially are a worthwhile investment and can move with you.  They add warmth and a feeling of luxury  under your feet when you get out of bed in the morning. You can layer them over a low pile carpet too if you do not have a hardwood floor.  They can anchor a space and pull everything together so the room feels more cohesive.  Rugs can be very inexpensive too.

Choose a rug which is a good size for the room.  You don’t want it to look like a doormat and you can combine smaller rugs if this is less expensive and easier to fit around your furniture. Remember to buy a slip resistant pad if laying the rug on a hardwood floor.

Lighting is another way to add mood and warmth to a room.  Think about adding a floor lamp as well as a desk lamp for studying.  Go for a floor lamp with a shade which will add more softness.

Fairy lights strung high on a wall also look decorative and make the room feel larger by drawing the eye up.


Dorm room decor ideas with lighting
Decorative lighting strung along the wall and a table lamp add warmth. Pinterest