Let’s break this down! I’ve now moved into and set up six different dorms, apartments, and bedrooms in the last five years and have learned a few things along the way (remember when Teen Vogue featured my dorm rooms & my sister’s?!). I always get asked what my dorm room favorites are around this time of year, and how I got the idea to put a mini table and chairs in my sophomore year dorm room (read more about that below!). I pride myself on being able to fit a LOT of things into a very small space, and do to it in a aesthetically pleasing way. I always opted for a practical, cozy, and homey dorm room and really put in the effort to make it my own. I was so excited to get my freshman dorm room together I started planning it like six months out, ha (pls have more chill than I did).
Below are my biggest take aways, tips, and recommendations for moving into your dorm room, decorating it, and making it your favorite space to be!
What are your tips for moving in?
Get there as early as you possibly can– if you can move in at 8:00 AM, then arrive at 7:15 (Venti Starbucks in hand) and scope out the scene and figure out your game plan for getting into the building, unloading your car, etc. See if you can coordinate with your roommate ahead of time so you’re not moving into the room at the same time (I’ve done this before and it can be chaos– it makes much more sense to split up the morning/afternoon if you are able– this is easier to do if you’re not a freshman and are moving in at different times). Have a “supplies bag” that contains things like scissors, Scotchgard, command hooks, a hammer + nails, and garbage bags. Having all of these essentials in one common tote bag that you can have easily accessible is key (my mom always did this and it was a lifesaver!). It’s going to suck, you’ll probably sweat a lot, and I’m betting you’ll argue with your parents (ha). Remember how they’re helping you (and they LOVE you) and if you put in the tough work for the first 48 hours to really get it all unpacked and make it special, you’ll appreciate it for the next nine months! SO worth it.
Where do you find bedding?
I had different bedding every year I was at college (not the most practical thing, but definitely the cleanest… I did eat pizza once or twice in my bed if I’m remembering correctly 😉 ). Over the years I used a variety of brands for my bedding. I almost always went with a fluffy duvet (this one was my favorite!) and then a quilt that I folded at the bottom of my bed. I just think that duvet/quilt combo looks the most put together. I had bedding from Urban Outfitters my freshman year (it’s unfortunately sold out!), this PB Teen duvet my sophomore year, this Ikea duvet (when I lived in Prague) and then this Karma Living quilt paired with this PB Teen duvet my junior year (when I lived back on campus at Richmond) and then the same combo my senior year. I truly loved all of my bedding combinations and think that you should start by deciding on that and then build your room décor around the vibe + colors of your bedding. If I were to be shopping for dorm room bedding this year, I would choose one of the below duvet/quilt combos.
(this was so much fun to think about so I hope you love these options!)
Should I match my bedding with my roommate?
I personally think that this is a given! It really does make all the difference for you to match, or coordinate, bedding with your roommate. First decide on a color scheme, then a duvet, and then both get your own throw pillows that are slightly different but coordinate. If you’re living with someone that you don’t know well, then just bring this up (totally normal thing to talk about!) and say how fun it would be to coordinate your bedding so the room looks FAB. Then figure out what direction you want to go in from there. It’s a fun way to break the ice.
Where did you shop for dorm room décor?
HomeGoods for throw pillows, Target for chic storage containers, towels, and a non-dorm room piece of furniture like a nightstand, TV stand, and lamps (their “Room Essentials” section has the best, very inexpensive basic items!), and Etsy for those personalized details like a monogrammed throw pillow for your bed. A few favorites that I would be putting in my dorm room this year would be these:
What are the best storage hacks?
Put a set of plastic drawers in your closet and rolling bins under your bed for things like sweaters, scarves, and extra books (i.e things that can’t necessarily be hung up in a closet or that you don’t want laying out because they ain’t cute). Use a shoe rack on the inside of your closet door (I use that one now and couldn’t love it more!), and get an over-the-door hanging rack as well so you can hang towels and a robe on the outside of your closet. Also, switch out your wardrobes a few times a year. You do not need to bring your whole wardrobe to college to start. Bring your summery/fall clothing and switch them out for your winter items after Thanksgiving break. Then switch out your winter things for your spring clothing after Spring break!
Some of my top storage recommendations are the following (note the chic jewelry organizers as well!):
How do you raise your bed?
There are a few ways you can raise your bed successfully– in the past we’ve used cinder blocks (they often sell these outside of dorms on move in days), stacked bricks, and these 8″ bed risers from Amazon (my apartment bed is on these now!). The more you raise your bed, the more room you’ll have underneath it for storage. I always raised my bed as high as I possibly could with out bunking it. I had to have a small step stool to get into it, ha! Such a smart way to increase your storage space though.
What “makes the difference” to create the best space?
I believe that white curtains really pull the room together and make it homey (these are white pom pom blackout curtains!). The white shag rug gives it the coziest feel! Plus, if you keep it clean it encourages your friends to sit on the rug rather than on your bed. I had countless nights drinking wine with my girlfriends all sitting on the shag rug in my dorm room (best nights ever). Tip: spray it with Scotchgard as soon as you lay down the rug. That will prevent it from staining– also keep a mini vacuum on hand to run through your room as often as you feel needed! Twinkle lights are so much fun to have and are the perfect lighting for when you’re laying in bed on a Saturday afternoon and aren’t quite ready to get up and get dressed for a night out. They’re soft and immediately make the room softer and calmer. My dad always got stuck with the task of hanging my twinkle lights… he’s a good man.
A non-dorm room piece of furniture can really make all the difference in transforming your dorm room. What I mean: add in matching nightstands, a swivel chair to replace the wooden desk chair you get in the room, a chic TV stand, or if you have the space, a mini table and chairs for a “breakfast nook” (I’m serious, I did this in my sophomore dorm room, ha!). Bringing in an outside piece of furniture, that doesn’t come with your room already (i.e. standard furniture that your school gives you), will take your room to the next LEVEL. Figure out out what your school’s policy is on replacing furniture in the room– you may be able to have them take out things like your desk chairs on move in day so you can easily replace them with something a bit cuter. 😉
Here are a few ideas of non-dorm room pieces of furniture (“POFs” as my dad as dubbed them, ha!):
What did your dorm rooms look like?
If you are going to college this year, I envy you SO much. I really hope this post helps in some small way to take away some of the stress & craziness that comes with moving your whole life into a tiny, seemingly bland room. But if you put in the #werk to plan a space that you love, and then get it all situated on move-in day, it will become your most favorite cozy little spot ever. And all of the memories you will make there will live with you always. In the end, it’s all about the experiences you have in your room that make it so special. xx