Defeating The Dorm Room Doldrums

Dorm room décor has changed a lot since I wandered the hallowed halls of matriculation. Back then, it was all we could do to cover up the cinderblock walls with Janes Addiction or Johnny Depp posters (he has staying power, no?). Generally speaking, decorating a dorm room is pretty simple, since much of the furniture is already provided, and there isn’t always a lot of room for anything else. Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to inject your student’s personality into a bland dorm room with colorful and practical accessories.

There are a tremendous amount of stores that offer great products for making a dorm room a comfortable place for both studying and hanging out. Sales abound in both stores and online; below are just a few examples of some fun accessories that will turn your student’s dorm room into a sanctuary for studying.

Urban Outfitters is always a fantastic resource to find quirky and fun things for any space. In the sale section, they have some really fun wall art, from quirky and interesting paintings, collages, and black and white photography. They also have recycled rice sack products, such as hampers, totes, jewelry boxes, and storage bins. These are great solutions for the environmentally conscious student who wants to hide clutter and keep their room organized and tidy.

At PB Teen (Pottery Barn for teenagers), they are having a sale on wall murals that can transform a boring dorm room wall into a tropical paradise or urban landscape with large panels of 6’ x 4’ or 12’ x 8’. Choose from lifelike photos of tropical settings, such as a hammock on the beach, surfboards on the sand, or large pictures of the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben. But be careful which motif you choose – you don’t want them to daydream too much while studying!

Good lighting is the key to a productive studying environment, and there are plenty of fun desk lamps and table lamp options at PB Teen. In addition to some fun, bright desk lamps, they also allow you to design your own table lamp; you choose the base and a coordinating lampshade to mix and match. I fell in love with the glass bulb base that exposes a pink chord (you can choose between pink or green) with a pink zebra shade. Too cute. They are also having a sale on wall art and mirrors.

dorm_room2For desktop accessories that help your student stay focused and organized, Cost Plus World Market has an organizer with two drawers that sits atop a desk or a shelf. Offered in purple, red or espresso they are sure to add a punch of color. While they look like leather, they are made out of 100% recycled cotton, and are completely sustainable. Save the trees while being orderly.

World Market also has a bright suzani-style lampshade that will brighten up any dull dorm room; the best part is that it’s on sale for $8. They are also having a sale on decals (in paisley patterns or medallions) that stick on the wall and infuse a room with Moroccan, French or Asian panache. They also have some very colorful and pretty throw pillows on sale that will turn a dorm room bed into a sitting area for friends who come over to lounge.

CB2, Crate and Barrel’s younger and hipper sibling, is having a sale on super cheerful Marimekko® bedding. The bright orange and green flowers can really spice up a dorm room, while the throw pillows that are on sale add an extra splash of color.  CB2 is also having a sale on open weave basket storage; these are great to use as a catch-all, and they hide clutter very easily.

Bulletin boards are essential for every college student; they can hang reminders, invitations, and photos of friends and family. The best solution is to buy several 12” x 12” cork tiles at a home improvement store and stick them on the wall. This allows you to create an entire wall of cork, if desired.

A student’s dorm room can easily be a reflection of their style, and there are thousands of ways for them to decorate and show off their unique personality. Even with so many options to choose from these days, however, I still think I’d keep the Johnny Depp poster.

Erin Vosti Lal is an interior designer based in Monrovia. She can be reached at

September 10, 2009

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