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8 Dorm Room Ideas When You Have a Roommate

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Table of Contents:

  1. Touch Base With Your Roommate
  2. Hang Removable Wallpaper 
  3. Add Curtains and Rugs
  4. Light Up the Space
  5. Add Personal Touches
  6. Get Creative With Your Storage
  7. Organize Your Desk
  8. Figure Out Seating

For college students, living on campus often means sharing a small space with at least one other roommate. While it can be exciting to be away from home for the first time in your life, living with a perfect stranger can also be a big adjustment. Since you won’t have free rein of the whole room, you’ll want to opt for a design aesthetic that suits your style — without encroaching on your roommate’s vibe. Here are eight affordable ways to elevate your new dorm room. 

1. ​​Touch Base With Your Roommate

One of the hardest parts of moving in with a roommate can be figuring out how to curate a space that is productive and personal for both of you. Touch base with your roommate before move-in day to see what you’re both planning to bring to college. (This will ensure that you’re on the same page with dorm room ideas and prevent you from doubling up on mini-fridges and other dorm room essentials.) 

You’ll also want to talk through whether you’re planning to split the costs of any shared items, such as a mini vacuum, water pitcher, or printer. If you’re able to do a walk-through of your dorm room before move-in day, you can figure out exactly how much space you have to work with and how many of your belongings will fit in the space. This will make it easier to figure out a setup that works well for both you and your new roommate. 

2. Hang Removable Wallpaper 

Rather than staring at boring cinderblock walls all day, why not liven up the space with some removable wallpaper? Before springing for stick-on wallpaper, make sure your roommate is on board with the idea. If they are, you can decide whether you want to use the same wallpaper for the entire room or choose some different yet complementary styles on each side. From brightly colored geometric designs to neutral aesthetics, wallpaper can completely change the look and feel of your room. The best part is that you can easily remove it whenever you’re ready to move out. 

3. Add Curtains and Rugs

Curtains are another great way to make the room feel less dorm-like. From sheer curtains to custom drapes, curtains can help your room feel more inviting and sophisticated — and you can easily take them with you from one dorm to the next if you end up moving off-campus. Rugs can also help the room feel more like home, so consider getting a large, light-colored rug to add some personality to the space.

4. Light Up the Space

Dorm rooms can feel notoriously sterile and impersonal, but you can avoid that issue in large part by investing in good lighting. Floor lamps can go a long way toward making a room look more elevated, but if there’s no space for that, consider a portable light instead. (It has a dual purpose: you can easily light up whatever area of the dorm room you need to study in, and you can also pack it to take to your friend’s all-night study session.) For a soft, inviting glow, consider adding some fairy lights or globe lights. And don’t forget to purchase a good desktop lamp so that there’s always enough light to study properly. If you really want to go all out, you can even add a neon sign to one of the walls. And since most colleges don’t allow you to burn candles, you might want to bring a candle warmer with you.

two roommates figuring out the placement of a plant in their college dorm room

5. Add Personal Touches

Living away from your family and friends for the very first time can be exciting, but it can also feel lonely at times. To curb your homesickness, consider adding design touches that will remind you of home. For example, you can put some pictures of your family, friends and pets on a photo board or wire wall grid. Postcards of your hometown, small mementos from family vacations and other beloved trinkets will add personality to the room and help keep homesickness at bay.

6. Get Creative With Your Storage

Since you probably won’t have as much storage space in your dorm as you do back home, you’ll need to come up with some innovative storage solutions. You can start by putting the area under your bed to good use. Invest in some stylish storage bins so you can keep textbooks and other items within arm’s reach. You can also make the most of the room that you do have by getting stick-on wall shelves, shoe storage boxes, shower caddies and other storage solutions. If all else fails, you can store some of your personal belongings in a nearby self-storage unit so you can easily access them. When you’re ready to head home for summer or winter break, you can also store excess belongings in the storage unit for safekeeping.

7. Organize Your Desk

From pens and Post-It notes to textbooks and late-night snacks, desks can easily become overrun with all of your homework-related items. To keep the desk from becoming clutter central, purchase some items that will make organization a breeze. You can start by getting a desktop organizer so you can easily organize your books and other belongings. Next, consider buying a wire wall grid so you can keep track of notes, homework assignments and other important details. If you still need more space, you can get some under-the-desk storage boxes or stackable organizers. Investing in the right kinds of storage solutions will prevent your room from being overrun with belongings and make it much easier to keep track of everything.

desk organization in a college dorm room

8. Figure Out Seating

From movie nights to study sessions, dorm rooms are a great place to gather with your friends. To make it easier to accommodate your guests, you might want to spring for some seating options. You and your roommate can discuss going in together on a futon or pull-out couch so that there’s room for friends to study or sleep. You might also want to consider getting a shoe storage ottoman, which gives your guests an extra place to sit and provides some much-needed storage. After your room is all set up, you’ll be ready to start your classes, meet new friends, and make some once-in-a-lifetime memories in the process!

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