11 DIY Ways to Light Up Your Dorm Room (Without Burning It Down!)
No one wants to be that person, ya know?
College is the best. Living in the dorms? Not the best. (An opportunity for emotional and intellectual growth? Perhaps. But, the best? Not even a close second.)
The bunkbeds, the unflattering fluorescent lighting and, of course, the prehistoric communal bathrooms — suffice it to say that dorms are a far cry from the comforts found in the childhood home. Our go-to way to remedy a classic case of dorm room dreariness is to add warmth via lamps, pendants and string lights and more. Flip the switch and bring some much-needed cheer (and style!) into your dorm with these lighting ideas.
What's Your Sign?
This question is more than just a bad pick-up line. In fact, it is exactly the question you need to ask your future roomie before harnessing your star power and creating this crazy-cool constellation light board! Cross your fingers for astrological compatibility, then get down to business. Add their constellation alongside yours for a striking star centerpiece that both of you are sure to enjoy. Color me obsessed, you guys.
Make This: Illuminated Constellation Wall Art
String ‘Em Along
Cozy Family Room Features Playful Lighting
Whimsical lighting steals the show in this cozy family room. Behind the sofa, string lights gracefully adorn the wall, and above the armchair, a lighted art installation adds a cool, crisp pattern to the space.
Claire Esparros for Homepolish
Ah, string lights. I consider these bad boys to be the cornerstone of every successfully-decorated dorm room. There are endless ways to use them and they work for each and every design style imaginable. Forego the boring strand and string up your Edison-style bulbs in a fun, layered pattern like designer Claire Esparros did here.
Get Inspired: 8 Ways to Use Holiday String Lights All Year Long
Dorm Sweet Dorm
Girl's Bedroom With Coral Dresser and Light Blue Accent Wall
A beautiful coral dresser separates the twin beds in this shared girl's bedroom. Floral throw pillows add a mix of great colors and echo the pink border of the bright bed linens. A light aqua accent wall with sunburst decoration brings life and light to the design.
John Woodcock Photography
Usher in the warm and cozy vibes from home with a classic table lamp. I find that traditional lamps evoke a more settled feeling in spaces that tend to feel transient and temporary. We all know that feeling settled = feeling relaxed. And relaxation, my friends, is of upmost importance during a stressful school year.
Candles make spaces smell like all things good and pure in this world and they give off the most calming, transcendent glow. Problem: College freshmen are forced into a sad, sad reality — a reality in which they are banned from burning candles. No need to forgo their glorious glow, though. Solution: flameless candles. They last forever, never melt down and ultimately grant spaces that same, soft lighting that regular burning candles do. (Without the risk of burning down the building!) To make these flameless beauties look a little less faux and little more chic, arrange candles of varying heights on a gorgeous mirrored tray.
Spell It Out
How to Use Icicle Lights to Make a Light Box
Light up a room with a DIY marquee-inspired light box sign. This one was created using a shadowbox frame and a strand of colorful LED icicle lights.
Emily Fazio, 2016
Who doesn’t want to read a positive affirmation that quite literally illuminates their room? Stick a light-up board on your desk and switch out the message throughout the year. Add uplifting quotes, remind yourself of deadlines or even add a bit of school spirit during football season. (Mine would read: “Go Vols, Y’all!”)
Make This: DIY Christmas Light Marquee Box
Add neon signage and saturate your space with an urban, eclectic and colorful glow. This prickly, neon green nightlight adds effortless design-savvy and up-for-anything vibes to a dorm. I believe that kids these days refer to the look achieved here as “#goals” – and I can see why. #Goals, indeed.
Make It: DIY Neon Sign
Oh So Boho
Breezy White Bedroom Feels Whimsical, Feminine
The handmade bedspread brings a soft pattern and texture to this bedroom. A unique rock light fixture hangs above the bed, which is decorated with a wood breakfast tray and patterned throw pillows. A wood chair with a hot pink pillow adds a bright pop of color against the neutral and white tones. Fresh flowers and sheer curtains complete the look.
You can go the simple route with a pendant light, sure. But, sometimes you’ve got to kick it up a notch, am I right? Do just that and make an over-the-top statement with a beautiful, beaded chandelier. From glam to bohemian, beaded chandeliers are suited for all kinds of design styles and will up the wow-factor in even the dreariest-of-dreary dorm rooms. Just be sure to get the go ahead from your roomie beforehand, of course.
Twinkle + Tulle
The word on the street is twinkle lights and tulle are the top trending combination for headboard backdrops this upcoming school year. Throw this easy DIY backdrop behind your headboard for a low-cost, high-style upgrade that produces just the right amount of soft lighting for any bedtime reading. (Or, Netflix binges. I'm not one to judge.)
Double Duty Desk-Lamps
Pink and Gold Girls' Bedroom With Feminine Nightstand
This quintessential girls' bedroom features a stylish pairing of gold and pink hues. A gold metal lamp sits atop a soft pink nightstand with a ruffled edge and gold legs. White and gold polka dot bed linens dress each of the twin beds, while the pink and yellow upholstered headboards add a finishing touch.
If you’ve done any shopping around for lighting, you understand lamps can be rather costly. My top tip for cost-effective dorm lighting is to forego the traditional lamps all together. Go in with your roomie and purchase two sleek, reasonably priced desk lamps. Place the pair together, between the beds and utilize them as bedside lighting. The results will emulate the same look as the duo-lamp featured above, but for far less money.
Make Your Mark
DIY Marquee Initial Sign Lights Up Kid's Bedroom
HGTV Magazine: For this marquee-inspired sign for her 4-year-old daughter's bedroom, mom Mandi Gruber drew a letter d on a 2-foot-by-4-foot piece of plywood and used a jigsaw to cut it out. (A lumberyard that has a jigsaw can cut it for you if you draw the shape.) Then she drilled holes for the lights. To make the d three-dimensional, she stapled flexible MDF around the outline. The bulbs inserted in the holes are a string of globe lights from Target. Step-by-step instructions for this project can be found at HGTV Magazine online.
David A. Land
Or rather, “Make Your Marq”. Add a funky, whimsical marquee light that mirrors your youthful, sprightly spirit. Bland dorm walls will welcome a large, colorful marquee fixture and the personality it packs along with it. Many marquee-lovers select the first letter of their first name, but the options are truly endless.
Make This: DIY Lighted Marquee Letter
Pull out all the stylish stops with a dangling pendant light. This subtle addition provides a polished, intentional design for your dorm. Opt for a modern chrome piece, an industrial wire fixture or go boho with a rattan pendant, instead.
Make This: Easy + Chic DIY Pendant Light
Personalized Desk Accessories
Use various containers like Mason jars, vases and tin cans to create a matching desk accessory set that will keep all your school essentials organized and within reach. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Personalized Wall Photo Mural
A customizable, printable wall mural makes a bold statement without the need for paint or wallpaper, perfect for apartments and dorm rooms where temporary decor is a must. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Washi Tape Decor
Washi tape comes in a rainbow of patterns and is easily removable without leaving damage or residue. It's the perfect material to use to decorate a dorm room and personalize college belongings. Get decorating ideas.
Curtains Decorated With Ribbon Trim
Use fun pom-pom trim and colorful ribbons to update an inexpensive pair of ready-made curtains into a custom decoration for windows. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Low-Maintenance Plants + Flowerpot Painting Ideas
Just because you live in a dorm room, that doesn't mean you can't bring nature inside. These succulents aren't just beautiful, they're super low-maintenance, too. Plant them in bright, hand-painted pots and they instantly become the perfect addition to your temporary small space. Get the step-by-step instructions + painting ideas.
Fabric Pouf Ottoman
This fabric pouf can be used as an ottoman, extra seating for guests or as a coffee table with a tray on top. Use a fun, patterned fabric that matches the other decor in your room. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Use glass flask, flask stand, Edison bulb and glass plate to create an industrial beaker lamp perfect for a sophisticated study space. Get the step-by-step instructions from HGTV Magazine.
Multipurpose Message Center
Keep yourself (and your roommates) organized with a stylish and multi-functional message center made from round cork trivets, patterned fabric and chalkboard paint. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Keep perfume, makeup and jewelry stylishly displayed with this custom tray. Paint wooden chips in the palette of your choice, then place them in a herringbone pattern on the base of your tray. Watch the step-by-step instructions.
Fabric + Chalkboard Room Divider
Separate your spaces with a multifunctional room divider that is upholstered in a patterned fabric on one side and painted with chalkboard paint on the other. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Wooden Crate Jewelry Display Boxes
Give old wooden crates a brand-new purpose by turning them into jewelry display boxes that will showcase your stunning collection and keep it organized, too. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Find an inexpensive dresser with flat-front drawers at a thrift store or discount retailer, and spice it up with your favorite patterned wallpaper. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Framed Wipe-Off Board
Every dorm room needs a wipe-off board for messages from friends and to jot down to-do lists. Use a flea market frame and a funky fabric to create a one-of-a-kind message board that will make your space look chic. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Several Small Rugs = One Large Area Rug
The key to getting a custom look from off-the-shelf area rugs is to combine several together, giving the appearance of a large, custom-sized version. Get the step-by-step instructions.
Polymer Clay Photo Holder
Use polymer clay and 22-gauge wire to create a modern photo holder. Instead of a heart, you can bend the wire into a star or a hexagon. Get the step-by-step instructions from HGTV Magazine.