46 Chic & 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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July 24, 2020

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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.

SHOP THE LOOK: Futon & Bedding Collection from Target, $10 and up

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: it's a sofa by day but an instant full bed by night. Another solution? Storage ottomans which serve double duty as a slim stool and concealed storage.

BUY IT: Navy Storage Cube from the Container Store, $29.99

Curate a Gallery Wall

Cross the divide and coordinate with your roomie to create a gorgeous art wall that reflects and melds your unique personalities. Not only will this help your space look more cohesive, but it could be a great way to break the ice.

GET THE HOW-TO: How To Create an Art Gallery Wall

Make Room Under the Bed

Short on storage? Look no further than the space beneath 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 bins for a clean look.

BUY IT: Extra Long Bed Skirt from Dormify, $99

Tack Up Some Twinkle Lights

String lights are great and all, but a string light curtain? Even better. These twinkle lights pull double duty as mood lighting and statement wall art — just the right size to fill that space above your bed. You can even clip your favorite photos or postcards to it for an extra-cool look.

BUY IT: Dormify, $59.00

Hang a Tapestry

Show off your free spirit with this oversized, bohemian-inspired tapestry. Hang it as a headboard, as a statement piece above your shared sofa or add a punch of color to your bedding.

BUY IT: Urban Outfitters, $39

Adopt a Plant (or Two)

Nothing adds instant style to a space quite like plants. Low-light, indoor-friendly varieties like the snake plant seen here will thrive on the smallest amount of TLC. But if you absolutely don't trust your plant mom instincts, go faux with realistic greenery you never have to water.

BUY IT: Bamboo Plant Stand from Amazon, $27.99

Add Personality With Artwork

Integrate personality into your space with stylish and trendy prints that add vibrancy and inspire creativity. You can buy a variety of gorgeous, colorful art prints for an affordable price at Target, Society6, Urban Outfitters or Etsy, or simply collect fun greeting and postcards. Curate several pieces and sprinkle in a few printed Instagram photos to create a well-arranged gallery wall.

BUY IT: Inspirational Print from Society6, $19.99 and up

Turn Up the Texture

Pro Tip: Too much color can make a small space feel even smaller. For an open, airy look, pair your favorite hue with a simple, light-colored palette, then amp up the style with layers of interesting texture like wicker, leather and chunky knits.

BUY IT: Tassel Throw from Amazon, $45

From: Bri Moysa

DIY a Geometric Wall

No nails allowed? No problem. This gorgeous accent wall of painted hexagon-shaped cork pieces is attached with removable adhesive strips. Tack on favorite photos and magazine clippings with oversized pushpins for a multipurpose look that can be easily packed up at the end of the semester.

GET THE HOW-TO: Make a Geometric Memo Board

Dress 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.

BUY IT: Triangle Wall Decals from Etsy, $17.75

Save $$ With DIY Style

Add creative, personalized touches to your dorm room and save tons of money by handcrafting key decor pieces like this trendy rainbow headboard. Get this how-to and more at the link below.

SEE MORE: 100 DIY Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

Light It Up

Small or non-existent nightstands can result in no space for lamps. The solution? Plug-in wall sconces. These industrial-style lights mount to the wall and plug into an outlet for task lighting that takes up no room at all.

BUY IT: Black Wall Sconce from Overstock, $64.79

Say It With Signage

If your aesthetic is oh-so-80s, then this DIY is for you. Follow the link below to learn how to craft a neon-inspired sign that spells out your favorite word of the moment.

SEE MORE: 11 DIY Ways to Light Up Your Dorm Room (Without Burning It Down!)

Wow With (Removable) Wallpaper

Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a chic, stylish way to give your drab dorm space a quick and easy design upgrade. But if papering an entire wall isn't in your budget, install a floor-to-ceiling "headboard" that wraps up and onto the ceiling, instead. Learn how to install temporary wallpaper here, then follow the link below to browse some of our favorite designs.

Display Your Pics

Turn your memories into fun wall art by printing your favorite photos from your phone or Instagram and arranging them creatively. Here, snapshots become an eye-catching art piece when clipped up with clothespins. Change pics out regularly for a look that's equal parts pretty and personalized.

BUY IT: Photo Display from Dormify, $22

Hang Unexpected Art

Large pieces of art can be super pricey. Our solution? Hang a small, graphic rug on the wall instead. Choose a lightweight rug (flatweave rugs work best), and hang with removable, sticky, hanging strips that won't damage your walls.

SEE MORE: 10 Must-Try Dorm Room Storage and Decor Hacks

Go Faux

Chances are, your school-issued furniture won't include a headboard. If that's the case, go faux with a removable headboard like this one from Pottery Barn Teen, designed to be attached to the wall without the use of nails or power tools.

BUY IT: Faux Headboard from Pottery Barn Teen, $159

Double-Duty Upcycle

A side table that doubles as storage? Yes, please. Here, a metal file cabinet is given new life with a fresh coat of paint, then put to work as an industrial-chic accent table.

SEE MORE: 100 DIY Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

Divide & Conquer

Carving out your own space in a shared dorm room is key, especially when sleeping or studying. While your room likely won't have a sturdy partition wall like the cool watercolor one pictured here, you can pull off a similar look with floor-to-ceiling curtains. 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.

SEE MORE: No-Fuss Dorm Room Decor for Dudes

From: Bri Moysa

Splurge on Bedding

Repeat after me: sleep is important. Set yourself up for success and slumber with cozy, high-quality bedding you can't wait to jump into at night. Browse some of our favorite dorm bedding buys here or snag this leafy set at the link below.

BUY IT: Jungle Print Duvet Set from Urban Outfitters, $59

Choose Hardworking Furniture

No room for a table, footrest and storage? Get you a piece that can do all three. This versatile storage ottoman has a reversible lid, with one side featuring a cushion and the other a tray table, making it a perfect addition to any small space.

BUY IT: Amazon, $80

Make Your Room a Retreat

Your dorm room is your home away from home, so why not make it as cozy as possible? Outfit your twin-size in lush, layered bedding like the quaint quilts seen here, then pile it high with pillows. Add personal, stylish touches like a hanging shell chandelier and keep a bed tray handy for all your late-night studying snack needs.

SEE MORE: 26 Budget-Friendly Ideas for a Cozy Bedroom

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.

BUY IT: Pink Ombre Comforter Set from Dormify, $79

Check a Doormat List

Consider this welcome mat a must-have for anyone going off to college. Whether headed to class or grabbing a coffee with friends, any busy student is sure to appreciate this cheeky checkpoint outside their door.

BUY IT: Etsy, $39.00

Hang Your Hat

Combine style and function by transforming that empty space above your bed into chic storage. Use nails or removable hooks to display your favorite hats, alternating the heights for a designer look.

SEE MORE: 36 Fresh New Ways to Decorate Above the Bed

Bring Your Favorite Things

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.

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.

BUY IT: Over-the-Door Storage from Nordstrom Rack, $39

Warm Up Cold Floors

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.

Pile on the Pillows

Color is the easiest way to bring life to a room. And the easiest way to add color is by piling your bed high with bright, bubbly pillows like these. Not only do these pretty poufs add a layer of coziness to your corner, but they can easily be swapped out to fit your ever-changing style.

SEE MORE: 15 Designer-Worthy Throw Pillows You Can DIY in a Day

Use a Garment 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.

GET THE HOW-TO: How to Make a Chic Copper Garment Rack

Carve Out a Dining Area

The dining hall is great and all, but occasionally you just want to order takeout. Instead of chowing down on your bed, consider carving out a tiny dining area for you and your roomie to sit, eat and bond while binge-watching the latest season of House Hunters. The extra seating will also come in handy when friends come to visit or when you need space to spread out and study.

SEE MORE: Fun and Function Define This Interior Design Student’s Eclectic, Black-and-White Manhattan Studio

Keep Your Desk Organized

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. A chic and comfortable desk chair doesn't hurt, either.

BUY IT: Pegboard Desk Organizer from Ikea, $36.99

Rearrange 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."

BUY IT: Tie Dye Comforter Set from Macy's, $72

Create Space and Storage

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.

BUY IT: Cube Shelving Unit from Ikea, $89.99

Fly Some Flags

Show your school spirit by decking your dorm room walls in stylish, vintage flags in your university colors. String up multiple flags in various shapes and sizes by pinning them to inexpensive aircraft cable looped over removable wall hooks.

SEE MORE: 12 Unique Ways to Fill the Space Above Your Sofa

Roll With It

As you know, dorm room space is at a premium, so flexible furniture is key. Rolling storage like this handy cart can be moved around the room or bathroom as needed and neatly stores everything from beauty products to office supplies to kitchen essentials.

BUY IT: 3-Tier Rolling Cart from Amazon, $51.99

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.

BUY IT: Bohemian Tapestry from Urban Outfitters, $49

Use Gorgeous Greenery

Forget posters! Bring a calm, natural aesthetic to your dorm room by decorating the space above the bed with a simple, dried eucalyptus garland. The best part? This lightweight strand can be hung without putting nail holes in the wall.

GET THE HOW-TO: DIY Eucalyptus Garland

Add a Multi-Purpose Pouf

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.

BUY IT: Textured Pouf from Target, $49.99

Transform With Tape

Give school-issued furniture a temporary upgrade by creating a trendy pattern on drawer fronts using thick white tape. And while you're at it, swap out those knobs for something a little more stylish. Just make sure to put the old ones back on before you move out.

SEE MORE: 100 DIY Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

Dress It Up

Every bit of space offers design potential. Walls, ceilings, even closet doors can be instantly transformed into your room's next great focal point. Feeling bold? Take your dorm from "temporary living area" to "customized home" by dressing up blank spaces with mod palm tree decals like these.

BUY IT: Palm Leaf Wall Decal from Etsy, $39.50

Beautify 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 "Hello" washi tape pattern that instantly turns a contractor-grade door into a welcoming entryway.

BUY IT: Watercolor Washi Tape from Amazon, $9.59

Be Inspired

Let's face it, sometimes it's hard to stay focused. To help stay on track, surround yourself with inspirational quotes and affirmations like the one seen here. Simply find a handful of quotes you love, type them up in a fun font, print them off and hang on a cute clipboard for daily motivation. Keep the momentum going by changing up the quote monthly or even weekly.

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 or inexpensive sheers onto a tension rod and hang in front of shelves. Voila! Clothes and supplies stay tucked away and the room appears instantly tidier.

SEE MORE: 10 Must-Shop Shower Curtains for Every Style

Stack Your Tomes

Organize textbooks stylishly on a simple, chic spine wall shelf. The thin floating shelves allow you to sort books by class subject so you'll never have to dig for your math book again.

BUY IT: Wall Shelf from IKEA, $59.99

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