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Dorm Decor: Damage-Free Ways to Bring Your Personality to College

College dorm bed with tapestry on the wall
@samonstage / Twenty20

You’ve just moved into your first very own place, and the excitement is not lost on you. Well, except for the fact that you’re not only sharing your place with someone-you’re sharing a room.

There’s no experience quite like dorm living, but there’s also no one quite like you. We totally get that you’re dying to customize your side ASAP-keeping damage-free decor hacks in mind.


Cue our guide for how to bring your personality with you to college and into your dorm. We can’t promise your roommate won’t want to spend all their time on your side of the room. Sorry!

1. Improvise your bed accessories

Many dorms aren’t blessed with some of life’s simple pleasures-headboards first and foremost. Improvise by hanging (with removable hooks) a large piece of art or two slightly behind or above the bed. Looking for a softer option? Hang a colorful wall tapestry. If you want to get as close as possible to the real deal, use a faux peel-and-stick headboard to have those walls speaking your language. Since it’s likely you’ll crave privacy, create the illusion that you have some (because, let’s face it, it is an illusion). Use command hooks to cascade material above your bed or create a curtain canopy for an airy feel.

Don’t forget to up your bed game: risers under your bed frame posts will expand your storage space-and you’re going to need it after you’ve exhausted the one armoire. While you’re at it, Amazon Prime yourself a bedside pouch to keep essentials at your fingertips when you just can’t get up. The best hack of all? A bed that makes itself. Search online for “zip-up bedding” that’ll force you to make your bed (a.k.a avoid ticking off your roomie). Not that you would ever.

2. Cover walls in your own brand of happiness

Most dorm rooms come with the disclaimer that you’re not allowed to hang things or it’s practically impossible (brick is a little bit of a diva). Don’t let this rule shatter your gallery wall dreams just yet. Washi tape just became your best friend-and it’ll not only keep your favorite pictures up, but it’ll give them an artistic edge. Choose a variety of designs and colors for instant frames that’ll showcase your personality. If your Instagram is a snapshot of your favorite photography, print some to use as the foundation for your gallery wall. Here are 13 services you can use to print them. No filter necessary.

3. Multipurpose your utilitarian items

Decorating isn’t as fun when it comes to eye sores like outlets, chargers and that mini fridge your family obligated you to take, but finding ways to use them wisely goes a long way in a small space. Desk lamps and side tables with built-in charging ports will help streamline your many cords and limited outlets. Anchoring a magnetic dry erase board onto your mini fridge will give you a place to jot down random to-dos in a place you’re forced to see it-on the door you open the most. Speaking of doors, your dorm or bathroom door can become the backdrop for even more organization. Hang an over-the-door full-length mirror on one and a shoe or toiletry organizer on the other. That is, if you win the coin toss for it.

4. Use a file holder for anything other than files

Let’s face it: as a college student, most of your files are going to be electronic-and you’re not exactly a file-sorting connoisseur anyway. That file or magazine holder can be used somany other ways. Ideas to get your creativity flowing: to organize hair dryers and straighteners; to divide purses; to hold water bottles; flipped sideways as a corner wall shelf; and even as a toilet paper holder. File that in your “to-do” section.

5. Divide and decorate

Back to the whole privacy illusion concept. If there’s one piece of furniture you bring with you to college, let it be a shelf that can double as a room divider. IKEA shelves (such as the KALLAX) work wonderfully for this. If you’re feeling generous, offer your roommate a few shelves to display their own decor on-or even merge pieces from both of your lives to create your dorm’s new story. They might just become your new best friend.

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