Your dorm room is the first space you can decorate yourself without hearing the nagging, yet loving, voice of your mother offering her daily input. That shouldn't be interpreted as the green light to ignore everything she's ever told you. Rather, it's more of a challenge. A challenge to express yourself personally while making the most of what will hopefully prove to be the smallest living space you'll ever occupy.
The key in accomplishing that lies in excellent organization. Brenda Prinzavalli, principal of Balanced Organizing Solutions, says it's all about eliminating clutter. "There's nothing more distracting than visual stimuli," she says. "The more organized you are, the more focused you are." And focus is essential. Don't lose sight of your ultimate goal here: graduating.
That's not to say it shouldn't be the fun, exciting place you fantasized about in high school. Your dorm room can represent all that and more with functional decorating, but keep in mind you may eventually long for the bedroom you left behind. "Bring a couple things from home that make you feel good. You'll regret leaving it all behind," says Jill Abelman, owner of Inside Style, a local interior design company.
Here are more tips from the pros to simplify your first official college assignment.
1. Plan Ahead: Call your roommate before you buy anything to avoid unnecessary duplicates. No need having two area rugs.
2. Get Dimensions: Find out exactly how small a space you have. This way you can avoid sending that desk back home with Mom.
3. Go Multipurpose: A calendar with ribbons to hold personal pictures or a minifridge with a dry erase board -- double-duty is key.
4. Think Compact: Anything you can collapse and store, such as a folding desk or colander, will only eat up space when being used.
5. Open Spaces: Prinzavalli stresses the desk should be clear. Let it serve its function or you'll end up studying in another uncomfortable space.
1. Less is More: This isn't your first apartment, it's your first dorm room, not much larger than your first high school locker.
2. Use Mirrors: They will open up the space. You can find one great mirror or group several small ones together for a more artsy look.
3. Art with Depth: Abelman uses paintings that create depth, such as an open field of flowers, to make a room seem bigger.
4. Build Up: When you run out of square footage, maximize your floor-to-ceiling space with wall-mounted shelves, hooks for hanging book bags, etc.
5. Go Horizontal: If you can paint your walls, use horizontal stripes to widen the space. If not, look for decorative pieces with this print.
6. Deco Storage: Find storage bins that coordinate with your bedding or pick up an ottoman with a lid to store schoolbooks.
7. Functional Design: Hang photos of friends and family on decorative cushion boards. Buy seating with visual interest.
8. Keepsakes: Abelman suggests hanging a blank canvas for friends to sign when they visit. By year's end you'll have a wall yearbook.
9. Safe Colors: Go neutral with large pieces and reserve the pops of color for smaller items, such as accent pillows.
10. Curtains: You can use them on windows to add personality or use decorative ones to separate your space from your roommate's.