20 Chic and Functional Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

Don't let small, shared quarters cramp your style. Turn your college dorm room into a stylish and efficient space ideal for studying and relaxing with these fresh decorating ideas.

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
June 19, 2019

Photo By: YouthfulNest

Photo By: Jennie Andrews Photography

Loft Your Bed for Twice the Space

Most dorm bunk beds offer the capability of lofting. This option frees up valuable floor space below for studying, lounging or storage. Once the bottom bunk is removed, you can add a futon, desk or storage containers. In this dorm room design, the bunk wasn't lofted out of necessity, but mostly out of the desire for a cozy lounging spot.

Must-Have Item: Gray Futon from Target, $268.99

Rearrange Your Furniture to Find the Best Layout

Moving a piece of furniture from one side of the room to the other can oftentimes make a world of difference. The experts at Dormify.com suggest rearranging your room when you first get to school. You should begin by assessing the layout and then testing different placements. Why not put two desks back-to-back or move a dresser into a closet? You never know how this may look or work in your space. They also suggest turning your bed into a daybed to create additional seating for friends. During the day, add decorative throw pillows against the back wall to turn the bed into a "couch."

Must-Have Item: Fuzzy Body Pillow from Dormify, $49

Think Multifunctional, Compact + Mobile

When buying furniture for a dorm room or small college living space, the smartest thing you can do is choose pieces that are multifunctional. A futon is the perfect example; by day it can be used as a sofa, but by night it can instantly turn into a full bed. Another solution? Storage ottomans which serve double duty as a slim stool and concealed storage.

Must-Have Item: Navy Storage Cube from The Container Store, $39.99

Avoid Clashing by Coordinating

Your favorite color is pink but your roommate hates it. There are ways to compromise on a color scheme without getting stuck with a palette you don't like. Talk with your roommate before moving in and decide if you want to coordinate. That doesn't mean you have to match exactly, but you can decide on a color palette to avoid clashing. In this dorm room, a pink and gray palette is open-ended enough so each girl can express her personality while still keeping the room pretty and balanced.

Must-Have Item: Pink Ombre Comforter Set from Dormify, $129

Dress Up Walls with Decals

Since you can't decorate the walls with anything permanent, try adding decals where you need some extra flair. They add instant charm to neutral walls and are a cinch to remove when it's time to move out. If you want to create the look and feel of wallpaper, line up several of the same decals to create a repeating pattern.

Must-Have Item: Triangle Wall Decals from Etsy, $5 and up

Warm Up Cold Floors

Don't let the word "custom" scare you. When we say "custom" we mean DIY and an easy one at that. Small spaces often present a problem when it comes to finding a ready-made area rug in the right size, with many being out of proportion or lacking small-scale dimensions. To fix this issue and create a custom look from off-the-shelf rugs, designer Brian Patrick Flynn suggests combining several rugs together to form one giant area rug that fits the space perfectly. A neutral rug, like this gray one, will hide dirt and not clash with colorful bedding.

Must-Have Item: Grey Moroccan Rug from Dormify, starting at $99

Add Personality with Artwork

Integrate personality into your space with stylish and trendy prints that add vibrancy and inspire creativity. You can get a variety of gorgeous, colorful artwork for an affordable price at Target, Society6, Urban Outfitters or Etsy. Collect several pieces and print personal Instagram photos to create a well-arranged gallery wall.

Must-Have Item: Inspirational Print from Society6, $19.99 and up

Go Bold with Color

Color is the easiest way to bring life to a room. Add in bright, patterned pillows, real or faux plants and cheery curtains to instantly enliven a dull dorm. If you have space, bring your own colorful furniture pieces from home to add even more personality.

Must-Have Item: Palm Leaves Pillow from Target, $16.99

Need Your Space?

Everyone needs their space, especially when sharing a small room with someone. To set boundaries and create a bit of privacy, cubed bookcases offer just the right amount of enclosure without making an already small space feel even smaller. If space allows, this type of bookcase can stylishly divide a room while still adding a clear decorative element. (It's not an obvious room divider.) If you can't pull in another piece of furniture, floor-to-ceiling curtains will make you feel like you're in a room of your own. Using an easy-to-install curtain track, simply slide the curtains into place when you need a few minutes of alone time. An advantage — your room won't suffer from a loss of square footage.

Must-Have Item: Cube Shelving Unit from Ikea, $89.99

Cover Bare Walls

There's nothing worse than plain beige walls, but we have a solution for that. Since wallpaper and paint are off-limits, artwork can quickly transform your space in a similar way. This beautiful, homey tapestry is an ideal alternative to wallpaper and would cover almost an entire dorm wall.

Must-Have Item: Bohemian Tapestry from Urban Outfitters, $49

Use a Clothes Rack

Most dorm rooms come equipped with an armoire of some sort. If that's not enough to house your ever-growing clothing collection, then bring an additional storage solution for clothes, shoes and accessories. A mobile clothing rack can easily hold an abundance of hanging clothes or a storage shelf for accessories.

Must-Have Item: Clothes Rack from Ikea, $12.99

Conceal to Prevent Clutter

When it comes to small spaces, keeping unnecessary clutter concealed is the key to a neat room. If you don't have a closet with a door, try this solution: Slide a shower curtain onto a tension rod and hang in front of shelves. Voila! Clothes and supplies stay tucked away and the room appears instantly tidier.

Must-Have Item: Floral Shower Curtain from Urban Outfitters, $49

More Than a Feet Prop

Poufs have been a hot home accessory for a few years, and they're making their way into dorm rooms, too. College kids aren't just using them for extra seating, but also as ottomans and coffee tables. These multipurpose furnishings are easy to move around, store and add more function to a small space.

Must-Have Item: Diamond Floor Pouf from Walmart, $89

What Every Desk Needs

Every dorm room needs an adequate place to work, and every desk needs the essentials for an effective study experience. Keep your workspace clean and organized; a messy, stressful environment may not be quite as inspiring. Use desk organizing accessories or drawers to keep clutter at bay and all of the necessities within reach. Plus, a chic and comfortable desk chair doesn't hurt, either.

Must-Have Item: Pegboard Desk Organizer from Ikea, $36.99

Dress Up What You Can

Every bit of space offers design potential. Even closet doors, which are typically considered dead space, can turn into your room's next great focal point. Adorn them with mod palm tree decals, like these, so your dorm feels less like a temporary living space and more like a customized home.

Must-Have Item: Palm Leaf Wall Decal from Etsy, $39.09

Start an Inspiration Board

Hang a decorative memo board and use it to post things that inspire you and make you happy, whether it's a magazine cutout, a recipe, a quote or pictures of friends. This inspiration board will keep you striving forward each day in a positive way.

Must-Have Item: Gold Wall Grid from Target, $16.99

Bring Nostalgic Items from Home

The first few weeks of college are always a period of transition and adjustment. Integrate items from your childhood bedroom into your new bedroom to remind you of home like photographs and important (but not considerably valuable) keepsakes. Now, any time you're homesick, you'll have little pieces of home mixed into your new space for comfort and support.

Must-Have Item: String Light Photo Display from Urban Outfitters, $20

Transform a Bland Door

There's nothing attractive about the exterior of a dorm room door, but you can easily make it welcoming and design-worthy with washi tape or removable decals. We especially love this fun and abstract washi tape pattern that can instantly turn a contractor-grade door into a welcoming entryway.

Must-Have Item: Watercolor Washi Tape from Amazon, $9.59

Make Room Under the Bed

Short on storage? Look no further than the space underneath your bed. Use extra-long storage containers to hold linens, clothes, shoes and other items you may need access to often. Rather than storing empty suitcases from move-in, use the suitcases as storage to eliminate unnecessary clutter around the room. Use an extra long bed skirt to hide unsightly storage bins for a clean look.

Must-Have Item: Extra Long Bed Skirt from Dormify, $99

Go Vertical

No matter how little you take to your dorm, you'll still feel like you don't have enough space. This is where over the door storage comes into play. To keep floors open and the room clutter-free, take your storage up and away in a stylish way. Hang a pocket organizer on any door in your dorm to hold loose objects like shoes, toiletries or even pantry items. This keeps your room organized and most-used belongings visible.

Must-Have Item: Over the Door Organizer from Target, $17

More from:

Back to School