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.
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August 27, 2015

Photo By: Dormify for Macy's. Photo by Dan Whipps.

Photo By: Courtesy of IKEA

Photo By: Courtesy of PBdorm

Photo By: Dormify for Macy's. Photo by Dan Whipps.

Photo By: Land of Nod

Photo By: Bashful Bliss

Photo By: Courtesy of Art.com

Photo By: Courtesy of IKEA

Photo By: Courtesy of IKEA

Photo By: Courtesy of Dormify.com

Photo By: Monika Lundholm

Photo By: Emily + Meritt for PBteen.com

Photo By: Courtesy of Dormify.com

Photo By: Courtesy of IKEA

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."

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. Here, storage ottomans serve double duty, while slim (but necessary) furnishings take up little space to keep the room open.

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.

Avoid Clashing by Coordinating

Your favorite color is hot 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 navy and coral palette is open-ended enough so each girl can express her personality while still keeping the room pretty and balanced.

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 presenting small-scale dimensions. To fix this issue and create a custom look from off-the-shelf rugs, designer Brian Patrick Flynn combines several rugs together to form one giant area rug that fits the space perfectly. This is more cost-efficient than ordering a custom-made designer rug, and you won't feel as guilty when it becomes worn from constant foot traffic.

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.

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 and one-of-a-kind artwork on boutique sites for an affordable price. Collect several pieces and print personal Instagram photos to create a well-arranged gallery wall.

Go Bold With Color

Color is the easiest way to bring life to a room. HGTV fan designstar1216 bent traditional dorm rules by painting an accent wall a luscious shade of lime green, but suggests a wall tapestry if you absolutely cannot paint: "It's easy to install, change out and take down at the end of the year with minimal effort. At the same time, it makes a huge impact." To add even more vibrancy and personality, she brought in her own furniture pieces (in lime green!) to replace the standard wooden furnishings that came with the room.

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 giant beachscape mural is an ideal alternative to wallpaper and would cover almost an entire dorm wall. Just imagine having this breathtaking view during finals week. Photo courtesy of Art.com

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.

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.

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 an armoire or closet door, try designer Alexandra Hernandez's solution: Use burlap fabric like a curtain and hold it slightly open with cotton tie-backs. Voila! Clothes stay tucked away and the room appears instantly tidier.

More Than a Feet Prop

Poufs have been a hot home accessory this year, and now they're making their way into dorm rooms, too. The experts at Dormify.com say 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 design.

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.

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. Blogger Erin Hiemstra was tired of looking at drab white closet doors from her bed, so she adorned them with mod palm tree decals. Now, her apartment feels less like a temporary rental and more like a customized home.

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.

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.

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.

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. For greater visual appeal, add a bed skirt to the bed to hide everything underneath.

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 classic plastic storage containers come into play. To keep floors open and the room clutter-free, take your storage to the ceiling in a stylish way. Install wall shelves to hold uniform storage containers. This will keep items organized and within reach. In this sports-themed room, the navy-blue containers blend into the matching walls, preventing the storage from taking over as decor.

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