It was depressing to walk into my freshman college dorm room and see what seemed like an endless expanse of plain white cinder-block. So, naturally, the first thing I did, before I unpacked a single thing, was put up my pictures. Cast shots from plays and musicals I had done in high school, programs and posters from the shows, a get well card my choir sent me when I was out sick for a month, laminated magazine clippings, and a panoramic view of the Australian coast so broad you can begin to see the curvature of the earth. And that’s just what I can see as I type this out. But so many rooms I saw as I walked down the hallway remained blank and bare. People who saw my room loved how colorful and inviting it was, and even said they wished they’d brought more photos from home. Instead, many of them spent a ton of money on weird modern art pieces and “dorm lighting” appliances that began to flicker out after a few weeks or so.
Presented here is a guide for incoming college freshmen: Make your room your own. Make it seem inviting and happy without spending fifty dollars on “dorm lighting.” My only warning is this: I am a girl, so most of these ideas may seem a bit feminine. If you’re a guy reading this, I’ve tried to add some more masculine thoughts toward the bottom. Finally, ALWAYS make sure you know your hall or house’s policy about decorating, decorations, adhesives, and furniture, etc, and FOLLOW THEM!
ARRANGING YOUR FURNITURE
If your room does not have movable furniture, please ignore this. If you do, by all means read on. It was surprising to me the way the furniture in some of the halls was configured prior to move-in. I saw a hall where two dressers were stacked to block out the window, and the bed made it impossible to get into the closet. If you can, move your furniture around (always, always, always talk to your roommate about how the furniture will be arranged; this is such a silly thing to get into a fight about, especially right after you’ve met). If you can loft your bed, you may consider doing this and placing your desk underneath it to create some space. Do you like to wake up to the sun? Try to arrange your bed and bedding so that this is possible? You’re a vampire and don’t like sunlight? Just sleep in the closet. Find a situation that works. Remember, this will probably be your home base for at least one semester, most likely a whole year.
COVER YOUR WALLS
Bring pictures from home.
These can be posed family shots, team pictures from senior softball, random candid shots from your best friend’s wild eighteenth birthday party, PR or show shots from the best theater production you were ever a part of, anything that will make your room feel more like home. You’d be surprised how much difference this can make in helping you feel at home in your new digs.
Bring pics and posters of things you like.
I am currently looking at an 8 x 10 glossy postcard of Audrey Hepburn. There’s a poster of James Dean facing my bed, and a signed photo of Rita Moreno is on the backboard of my desk (among myriad other photos). Bring relics of things you like. That giant Radiohead poster, the countless computer-printed pictures of James Franco (he’s popular, right?), even the huge world map with marks on places you’ve been or want to go. They all qualify. Bring them with you, and display them where you can see them. It will put you in mind of home and keep you from feeling displaced. Also, a healthy dose of James Franco (though he’s no James Dean) never does anyone any harm…
Another suggestion (though more time-consuming) is quotations. Sayings you like, that make you think, or even that just bring a smile to your face, make great decorations. Type or write them out, mat them on colorful paper, and pin them on your walls.
Add some color without the cost.
Suggestion One: I’ve seen lots of rooms where girls have taken large swatches of sheer, colorful fabric and draped them on the ends of their desks, their bedboards, even just hung them on the walls to accent other things. Fabric is generally cheap, and if you have relatives who sew, they may be willing to give you some swaths, free from charge.
Suggestion Two: Christmas lights. If your dorm allows it, chances are you have some Christmas or other holiday/decorations lurking in your basement. If not, they can usually be gotten cheaply at Wal-Mart, Target, and similar stores. String them at the top of your desk, around your window, or even just on your wall, accenting the other decorations on it.
FOR THE GENTLEMEN
Most guys I’ve met have not been to interested in this topic and, honestly, most male rooms I’ve seen have not had space for decorations underneath the messiness. Posters of sports teams and bands seem to be the norm for decorations. Occasionally you’ll see the standard poster of a large-chested, small-waisted, wide-hipped, scantily-clad blonde splaying her legs across a Ferrari, or else bending over suggestively. One boy in my building took what looks like a flannel sheet with a hunting-themed print and hung it like a tapestry over his bed. But in all seriousness, “mess” is the hottest decorating scheme I’ve seen for guys since coming to school.