65 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.
Dress Up Your Dorm Room
Going away to college can be scary — especially when your new "home" is a drab dorm room. Transform your school-issued living quarters into a haven with our best dorm room decorating tips. Personalize your dorm with our wall art ideas, bedding picks, lighting ideas and more. Then, keep your space tidy with must-have dorm organizers and college kitchen essentials.
Stylist and mom Jenny Reimold transformed her daughter's dark and gloomy dorm room into a bright and cozy bohemian-style retreat. Talk about a glow-up! Snag her smart tips and DIY decorating hacks below to recreate the look in your own college living space.
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.
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 parent instincts, go faux with realistic-looking greenery you never have to water.
Set the Vibe With a Collage Wall
Transform your half of a shared dorm room into your dream aesthetic by curating a gorgeous collage wall. Collage kits like this one from Tezza include a blend of 75 photos and text-based designs printed on 8x10 matte premium paper that you can then apply directly to your wall. Inspired by a neutral-chic color palette with images that span from flat lays to landscapes to Tezza’s own designs, the combination of refined creams and beiges will seamlessly match any college dorm room. Shop this kit and more of Tezza's one-of-a-kind designs at the link below.
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
Double-Duty Desk + Vanity
With so many shared spaces in college, grooming areas are often crowded and unpleasant. The solution? Have your desk pull double duty as both vanity and workspace. To create a vanity on a working desk, stylist Jenny Reimold rested a mango wood round mirror against the wall, stashed skincare and makeup products in acrylic drawers and organized brushes in a geometric, metallic canister from the craft store.
Hang a Tapestry
Show off your free spirit with an 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.
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.
Add Some 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 textures like wicker, leather and chunky knits.
BUY IT: Tassel Throw from Amazon, $45
Upgrade Your Light Fixture
Instantly give your dorm room a designer look with this DIY lighting trick from stylist Jenny Reimold. Use hook-and-loop tape to attach a remote-controlled puck light to the hardware inside a seagrass pendant, then tie white, rubber-coated electrical wire to the pendant and hang it from a brass screw hook (twine and removable hooks would also work). In less than 10 minutes, this easy DIY lighting project will take your space from basic dorm room to stylish retreat.
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.
Set Up a Serene Sleep Space
Twinkle lights, fluffy pillows, a tufted headboard and a comfy white duvet are the ingredients needed for a cozy dorm bed you'll never want to leave. But don't get too cozy — we don't want you to sleep through your 8 a.m. psych class.
Get Organized, Stylishly
A cramped closet does not have to be an eyesore. Stuff all of your favorite dresses, shoes, scarves and more into a tiny space with our stylish (and genius) organizing ideas for small closets. Once your clothes are stylishly stored, grab a tension rod and curtain to tuck everything neatly out of view when not in use. Watch the step-by-step video, below.
WATCH THE VIDEO: Genius Small Closet Tips
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.
Put Walls to Work
A multi-hook wall shelf and mirror is the perfect spot to store those last-minute items needed before heading off to class. The hooks can hold keys, a light bag, necklaces and scrunchies while the shelf is the perfect spot for a small jewelry box or diffuser.
Create Your Own Space With a Room Divider
A room divider can work wonders when it comes to personalizing and adding privacy to a dorm room. Here, a space-saving shelving unit divides the room, while adding much-needed extra storage. The result? Two separate spaces that look and feel totally unique. We especially love the addition of signs displaying the occupants' names.
See More: 40 Clever Room Divider Ideas
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
Chad Mellon Photography
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.
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, collect fun greeting and postcards or download a selection of prints from our free collection linked below. Curate several pieces and sprinkle in a few printed Instagram photos to create a well-arranged gallery wall.
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
Decorate on a Dime
Looking for a creative way to dress up your dorm room walls without breaking the bank? Pick up some clipboards from the dollar store (these were $1 each), print off a selection of our free, downloadable art prints below, then hang the clipboards gallery wall-style using removable adhesive strips. You can change the art out easily throughout the year by simply unclipping the existing prints and replacing them with fresh ones.
Put Everyday Objects to Use
When a space is primarily white (like most dorm rooms), simple everyday objects like a well-made chair or your favorite puffer jacket can become a colorful focal point. Less is more when it comes to Scandi-style, so choose what you put on display carefully and you’ll love the final result.
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.
Jennie Andrews Photography
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
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
Create a Calm Common Area
Many dorms now offer four-bedroom suites where students have their own bedrooms but share a common area. Stylist Jenny Reimold gave this shared living room a quick overhaul with an inexpensive rug, textured throw blankets, a faux plant, neutral curtains and decorative accents. The result is a calm, curated space where roommates can gather for dinner or to cheer on their favorite sports teams.
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
Courtesy of the blogger
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.
Tomas Espinoza Photography
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.
Try a Faux Headboard
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, that's designed to be attached to the wall without the use of nails or power tools.
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: 40 Clever Room Divider Ideas
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.
Create a stylish and convenient spot for your keys, backpack and favorite hats with this accordion-style hook rack. If you mount it by the door, you can create the illusion of an entryway and easily grab what you need on the way to class. The piece is crafted from mango wood and is available in two different colors, too.
BUY IT + MORE: 17 Dorm Room Organizers You Need for College
Gather Kitchen Essentials
For those days when you don't feel like trudging down to the dining hall, a mini kitchen stocked with everything needed to whip up a quick dinner can be a lifesaver. Check out how we pulled this dorm kitchen together by watching the video below, then click here to shop all of our favorite dorm kitchen essentials.
WATCH THE VIDEO: The Perfect Dorm Room Kitchen
Choose Hardworking Furniture
No room for a table, footrest and storage? Get a piece that can do all three. This versatile storage ottoman features a removable wood lid that allows it to function as a table, smart storage or extra seating, making it a perfect addition to any small space.
BUY IT: 95
Cody Ulrich/Cool Springs Press, She Sheds
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.
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 space, a pink and blue palette is open-ended enough so each roommate can express her personality while still keeping the room pretty and balanced.
"Paint" Your Walls (Ok, Not Really)
Infuse bright color into your space by adding an accent wall in your favorite shade. In just a matter of minutes, you can get the look of paint without the mess or stress by using peel-and-stick wallpaper in a solid hue. When hanging solid colors, we recommend applying this wallpaper to a smooth, flat wall. To calculate how many rolls of wallpaper you will need, check out Dormify's handy calculator at the link below.
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.
Upgrade Bedside Furniture
In a small dorm room, every inch of space is valuable, so it's important to pick furniture that's both stylish and functional. As an alternative to the common square cubby system seen in many dorms, stylist Jenny Reimold chose this Alex 9-drawer unit from Ikea to serve as both a nightstand and a dresser. It's large enough to hold undergarments, socks, rolled T-shirts, leggings and small electronics.
Cassidy Garcia Photography
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
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 the most-used belongings visible.
BUY IT: Bed Bath & Beyond, $35.99
Rustic White Photography, LLC
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.
Incorporate Upcycled Pieces
Save money without sacrificing style by incorporating upcycled pieces into your dorm decor. Here, a lattice panel was painted and leaned against the wall to display photos and house a pretty potted plant.
Stash a Shoe Tray Under the Bed
Floor space is limited in a dorm room and can become downright perilous when crowded with discarded clothing items, like shoes. Keep your most-worn pairs on-hand, yet tucked away on a small tray stored under your bed. Any old tray will do — you could even use a plastic tote lid. For easier accessibility, hot glue a drawer pull or handle to one end.
Stylishly Store Makeup
In a dorm room, your desk often serves multiple purposes as a workspace, dining table, makeup vanity and more. Keep the clutter contained with clever storage solutions like this DIY magnetic makeup storage system. All you need is a magnetic sheet, a piece of fabric and some magnets. Watch the step-by-step video below, then go here to check out more clever makeup storage solutions.
WATCH THE VIDEO: Dorm Room Makeup Organizer
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.
DIY Embroidery Hoop Art
Fill your walls with color while putting your favorite photos on display with this easy embroidery hoop art DIY. Simply fill embroidery hoops in various sizes with fun fabric, then use small magnets to secure photos to each hoop. The best part? You can easily swap out photos whenever you like. Watch the step-by-step video at the link below.
WATCH THE VIDEO: Personalize Your Dorm Room
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.
Put Repurposed Pieces to Work
Show off your eclectic style and save a little money by using repurposed items as furniture. Here, vintage suitcases are stacked to create a nightstand and can serve as extra storage for off-season clothes.
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.
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.
Dormify for Macy's. Photo by Dan Whipps.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jennie Andrews Photography
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.
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.
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