Dorms can go from grim to glamorous

August 18, 2007 

When you get your first look at a dorm room, your instinct might be to run away.

You’ll probably have four grim walls, most likely concrete block painted in a color suggesting that you’ve been involuntarily committed; two twin beds that might give off the faintest air of mustiness; and a set of battered desks and chairs.

And from this, you’re expected to concoct a cozy little nest that’s so alluring you never want to return to Mom and Dad’s?

“Pretty much it’s a nightmare when you first walk into a dorm room,” says Jeff Gawronski of the online retailer DormBuys.com, which offers everything from space-saving gadgets to combination packs of bedding or cleaning supplies for the college student who wants it all selected, collected and ready to go.

Even so, prettifying a dorm room can be a daunting task.

Fortunately, hundreds of thousands of students have done it before.

Lexington decorator Beth Harper, aka “The Lone Rearranger,” says the key to dorm décor is covering up the room features you don’t like and making a very small space seem more open and inviting.

The solution: color, fabric and light. “You definitely want to do color in everything possible,” she said.

Here are some tips:

  • Put fabric on the walls and windows — even bedsheets, a fine source of cheap and colorful covering, will work. They can be dressed up with tension rods or Velcro. An added benefit: Fabric muffles the sounds that ricochet off the block walls.

  • Accept that your dorm bed is going to double as a couch. Jazz it up with big pillows — and coordinate bedspreads with your roommate if possible.

  • Add clip-on lights around the room, because you and your roommate rarely will be doing the same thing at the same time.

  • More-masculine colors — orange and brown, or black and brown and taupe — make a room look updated and fun without being what Harper calls “froufy.”

  • Cover the walls with posters, which are cheap and abundant. And if you’ve ever seen The Learning Channel’s Trading Spaces, you know that a digital camera, a printer and some inexpensive framing can yield stunning effects on the wall.

  • Do something about the floor. Your dorm floor is likely to be some variety of tile or linoleum that has seen years of dormitory furniture dragged across its surface. Luckily, carpet remnants are affordable, abundant and sound-muffling. If there’s carpet, don’t hesitate to put an extra layer of your own newer, brighter and cleaner carpet on top of it. And if you don’t want to go the route of full carpet, remember, the neighborhood Wal-Mart carries washable area rugs.

  • Light it up. Your standard dorm room probably will include only an aging overhead light and possibly an anemic built-in desk lamp. You can do better. Harper suggests freeing up desk space by suspending lights from above the desks. Target and Home Goods sell trendy fixtures that also are fairly cheap.

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