Dorm Tour + Cheap Chic Updates

As someone who feels that their environment can heavily influence productivity, mood, etc; I tend to put a great deal of care into crafting my spaces. Also being an HGTV addict, I relish in the activities of designing, DIYing, and organizing. Having lived away from home in another dorm room this past year was yet another perfect opportunity to put these characteristics to the test.

What I love about dorm rooms is that they are (nearly) an empty canvas. Aside from settling for pre-existing (and slightly heinous) dorm furniture and conforming to ResLife restrictions, they offer an obstacle and opportunity any young design-enthusiast could find joy in. Sophomore year I lived in a single. With that I was stuck in one of the oldest and arguably least updated dorms of them all in a room that was once conjoined to another on the other side of an “L” shaped wall. That left me with quite a few design disasters and hurdles to get over:

Problem: Size + Storage

I had roughly 70 sq ft to work with in this past year’s dorm room. A good chunk of that was taken up by furniture bolted into one wall and the bed stuck in a nook. So how does one fit everything in such a small space?
Solution: Strategic placement.
Utilize given space and suitable empty areas for appliances and storage. Here's the breakdown of my dorm room from door to window:
-There was a large enough gap between the door and wardrobe to place waste and recycling bins then a fridge/microwave/coffee maker/ tower. Originally there was a door stop which impeded on that fridge placement; however I unscrewed that from the floor and set it aside in a safe place for the school year. This opened up the flow for my room massively. The only other place all of those appliances fit was next to the window, and at one point they were there; however that placement made an already tight space feel that much more congested.
-I was given a wardrobe, which would house all of my hanging clothes, shoe rack, and cleaning/homey supplies on the top.
-Beside it was a bureau for the rest of my clothes and one “junk” draw for extra school supplies, crafting bits, etc. On top of that was my printer and a couple of snack jars (I’m addicted to goldfish tbh).
-The desk then followed. One draw was dedicated to makeup, another to hair and nails, and the final two were for snacks and soups. Because I love semi-functional decor, I adorned the shelves above with pretty but practical pieces, like mugs, perfume bottles, art supplies, etc.
-To achieve a sense of openness in the room, there was a solid 6 sq ft of nothingness near the window. There I placed my full length mirror- ideal for outfit shots!
-For additional storage and for the aesthetic, I bought a 6 cube shelf from Target to go against my gallery wall.
-I stored my hamper, shower caddy, and a plastic draw under my bed.

Problem: Surfaces

Surfaces include the walls (I even lucked out and got a yellow one ha ha) and floors. They show their age all too well.
Solution: Throw down an area rug to freshen up the floor. Using command hooks and tape, place art on the walls. This way you can add personality to your space! I personally opted for a gallery wall, dreamcatcher, and a few stray pieces I made. 

Problem: Furniture

If your dorm furniture is anything like mine, it'll be dingy, banged up, carved into, and just a basic light stain- very much in need of a facelift.
Solution: Using contact paper, reface your furniture with this temporary and inexpensive trick. Check out how here. If you have a cork board, reface it with fabric and tacks. Have a look here for how I finished mine.

Problem: Lighting

Dorms can have some pretty drab or harsh lighting. :/
Solution: Opt for lamps and string lights to brighten up the space. I hung vertical lights in my entire nook to make it brighter and cozier! Link to the lights I bought here.

Have you ever lived in a dorm? Any tips for making it your own?



  1. This is beautiful! You did such a great job with a small space. I love the photo wall, it really adds a happy vibe to the whole room.

  2. Cute room decorations, have a good day

  3. Love your dorm girl! I totally agree. Having a nice environment makes such a difference:)