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August 19, 2021
Can you believe that September is just around the corner? So long, breezy days in the sun. We’ll miss you, vacay. We aren’t really sure where the summer went, but there’s no denying it - the promise of back-to-school is looming.
Whether you’re sending a kid off to college, moving into a dorm, or getting ready to decorate your first off-campus apartment, you’ve got a big job ahead of you. Making your small space functional AND aesthetically appealing is no small feat, especially on a budget. It’s time to call in the big guns - namely, the Decorner team! We know how hard it can be to make a dorm room or rental space feel truly your own, so we’ve done the leg work for you and have a whole bunch of tips to help you trick out your space.
Read on for our top organizational, decor and DIY tips for parents and college-goers alike. It takes a village, but with us in your corner, it couldn’t be easier!
The months leading up to dropping a kid off at college for the first time are insanely busy - whether you’re a parent or a freshman, it’s endless lists, lots of trips to Target, and sleepless nights. And even then - chances are, you don’t know what you’ll actually end up with. Teensy-tiny room? Messy roommate? No closet space? Yikes!!!
First up: get your freshman to pack as light as possible. Keep it seasonal, bringing only what they’ll use in the next three months or so, and then they can adjust as they go. Don’t clutter up your vehicle with set-up essentials or toiletries - consider either buying those when you’ve arrived, or pre-ordering what you know you’ll need for pick-up.
Our second big tip: if at all possible, wait to buy decor or storage elements until you see exactly what you’re working with. There’s no way to predict exactly what kind of closet or storage opportunities there will be in the dorm room, whether it’ll be a regular or a lofted bed, how close or far the nearest bathroom will be. Spend your money wisely and make your choices after you’ve seen the dorm!
We recommend you let your freshman lead the way when it comes to decor, but offering a helpful hand when it comes to organization is definitely a parent’s right! Let’s go through some of the most important ways you can optimize your use of your small, often shared, space.
In most dorm rooms, the name of the game is maximizing your use of the space. Finding furniture that can do double-duty will help you get the most bang for your buck, and you’ll rest easy knowing your new college student has everything they need. Think about ottomans, large or small, that double as storage, or a three-tier cart instead of a nightstand (again, storage galore AND they can wheel it out of the way if they feel like bustin’ a move or working out). If they have the space for a standing lamp, opt for one with built-in shelving. And everyone needs a full-length mirror - get one that opens into an accessory storage compartment!
There may not be a ton of floor space, but luckily there are lots of ways to make the most of your vertical space. The back of doors can be perfect for various storage devices - hooks for clothing or bags, shoes, even shelves! Hanging racks or grids to which you can affix baskets are wonderful for smaller items, office supplies, even accessories. Don’t forget the tried and true bulletin board, which is perfect for displaying photos or other mementos, as well as important notes or timely documents. And, of course - COMMAND STRIP HOOKS. One of the most useful inventions out there. They come in all shapes and sizes and forms these days, and can be a very, very handy addition to a college student’s arsenal.
Once it’s just you in your room and you have a moment to breathe, it’s time to think about how you can make this sterile space your own. Start with the basics: fun bedding! (Never buy the sheets your college offers. Don’t do it.) A little rug! Maybe a tapestry, a poster, some fun curtains.
And then let’s take it one step further: read on for our primo tips for making a dorm feel like a home.
There’s nothing like having something to care for to make you feel more at home in a space. Most college dorms probably won’t let you have a cat or a dog (so sad!) and as cuddly as a teddy bear is, it really doesn’t do the trick. It’s time to bring some green into your life. Whether you’ve got a green thumb or not, there are tons of options out there that won’t break the bank. Besides, plants help cleanse your air, they reduce stress, and they bring a bit of the outdoors in. Just remember to be realistic about how much effort you want to put in, and pay attention to how much light you’ve got in your space!
Need a bit of a crash course? We’ve got your back - check out our blog about plants perfect for beginners to get you started.
Decor on a student budget? It’s a no-brainer - go with DIYs! Not only will you end up with something totally personalized, but you’ll get it for less; besides, if you’re a crafty type, it’s also a fun project (maybe one you can do with your roommate or a new pal to get to know each other better!)
If your dorm room allows thumbtacks, choose an expanse of wall, plant some tacks in random places, and grab some string or yarn - have fun making a random grid with the string, then hang photos, mementos or even pieces of jewellery from clothespins or binder clips! Get yourself some washi tape and go to town. Hit the dollar store - canvases, paint, jars, dishware. Make collages with magazines you like, or thrifted comic books. Frame tickets, pages of books, cards from loved ones. If there’s a farmer’s market near by, pick up a bouquet and hang it upside down to dry. Learn to knit or macrame and make a wall hanging (and then, of course, scarves for all your friends.) DIY is your absolute best friend when it comes to making your dorm feel like YOU!
It’s finally time - you’re moving into your own apartment. Whether you’ve got roommates or a place all to yourself, it’s your first time renting a spot on your own, and as much as you want to trick it out, you NEED to make sure you get that security deposit back.
No worries! We’ve got a whole lot of tips for you, and we covered some of them in this blog. Let’s give you a bit of a refresher, and give you some new ideas while we’re at it!
There are lots of things you can do to a space that you’ll love while you have them, and can take with you when you go. You can easily replace any fixtures or knobs in your place, as long as you keep them safe and replace them before you move out. Showerheads, faucets, door knobs, cabinet handles - just make sure you remember where you put them for safekeeping!
If you’ve got a slightly larger budget and just HATE the flooring in your space (a truly vile linoleum, perhaps) you can think about taking on a bigger DIY - installing a click and lock SPC! The process is super easy, the flooring is low-maintenance and super easy to clean, and you don’t have to do ANYTHING to the floor below! You can’t install it directly on top of tile, or on top of carpet, but any other existing floor can be out of sight, out of mind with SPC. We’ve got a TON of different options, from light to dark, natural to more dramatic - check out our SPC options here.
And then, of course - peel and stick wallpaper. There are SO MANY USES for this awesome product - do a whole room! Do one wall or just an accent shape! Frame some wallpaper (or, if we’re honest, some wrapping paper) for an art piece! Wallpaper your cabinets, the door or the inside. And just take it down when you’re ready to move - or to change your mind.
Painting your place is another really fun project you can take on. Be sure to check your lease about whether you’re allowed to paint, but even if it says you can’t - check with your landlord! They might like where your head is at and give you permission.
If you can’t paint the walls, think about upcycling some furniture. Whether you’ve got something you’re ready to flip or you want to take a shot at thrifting, repainting a piece can give it a brand new lease on life. Don’t be afraid to paint a table or a chair a bright, eye-catching color - it can add a whole lot of excitement to a space.
And if you’re not ready to take the plunge into painting actual furniture, why not take on something smaller - a frame! A bulletin board! Some canvases! It’s a fun project and a conversation starter. Imagine that surge of pride when you get to say, “Thanks, I painted that!”
For any of these projects, check out our Refuge Recycled Paint. We’ve got 15 gorgeous colors in a low sheen finish that’s perfect for walls and furniture - and, might we point out, it’s RECYCLED, which means you’re doing your part for our environment while you beautify your space!
It’s a big thing, moving out of the family home and starting in a new place! College life comes with a lot of adjustments, for parents and students alike, and having a space to let your hair down and breathe at the end of a busy day is absolutely integral. Let your space, whether it’s your dorm or your college apartment, reflect your needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all here. Maybe you need extra shelving, or maybe you need to maximize your closet space. Got a lot of shoes? Sports equipment! Whatever you need, give yourself the room to figure out exactly what will work.
We hope you’ll make the most of these last weeks of August before it’s time to pull on your backpack and get to class (or get your kid to class). What was your dorm room experience like? Got other ideas on how to personalize or maximize that space? Any tips for first-time renters? You know best - let us know in the comments, or send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org!
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