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College student working on a design plan for dorm room.

One of the most exciting parts about moving into a dorm is decorating! You want your dorm to feel like a home away from home. We spoke with Chaza Hoffmeister, principal designer at Chaza Hoffmeister Design, a residential and commercial interior design firm located in Lincoln, Nebraska, for all the tips and tricks to deck out your dorm room on a dime.

Pros and cons of lofting your bed.

Depending on whether you are going to make a bunk bed or whether the room fits two separate beds determines how you are going to be able to use the space. One of the biggest pros to it is basically that it’s going to free up some space. You’ll have more room to make a cozy little seating area. One of the cons is that whoever is on the top bunk might feel cramped being so close to the ceiling. It all depends on how the dorm is set up and the dimensions of the furniture.

How do I set up a color scheme?

When you’re doing your color palette, we try to stick to the 60-30-10 rule. 60% is your main color, your dominant color, so that can be your biggest items: your bed, walls, and even your rug. Then you move on to 30%, which is your secondary color. That can be a smaller accent chair or bedding. The last 10% is your accent color, and that can be your accent pillow or throw.

What should I do with my bedding?

With dorm rooms, you want something definitely practical. As far as a comforter goes, that can actually add a lot of personality to your room. It adds both texture and color. Use something that can be washed in a washing machine and doesn’t need to be dry cleaned. Your sheets are what’s going to be washed the most, so choose something that can also handle a washing machine. I’ve found that it’s easiest to get bedding that can all be washed together in one load with towels and other items; it cuts down on time spent doing laundry and cost if your building has quarter machines.

Should I get a rug for my dorm?

Adding a rug is nice, but typical design rules don’t necessarily apply because it’s not traditional furniture or furniture placement. In this case, the rug should cover a good portion of your flooring. Clearly, a dark color will cover stains. Something like a synthetic material, like nylon, would probably be the easiest and most practical thing to clean. That’s another opportunity to show your personality, add color, add texture, and cozy up the room, too.

What other items would you suggest?

I love curtains and highly encourage them in a room because they soften up the space. It’s another good opportunity to bring one more texture to the room. If you feel a space is too flat or cold, try bringing in more textures. Sometimes people make the mistake of adding heavy patterns and lots of decorative items, but all you need is textures. Curtains are a great way to do that. They can also provide an opportunity to use that secondary color if you have not found good staple ways to do that yet.

What should I do for wall décor?

I’m a big fan of mixing different sizes of wall art. It would be nice to coordinate with your roommate and try to go for a similar theme. You don’t have to have the same exact style, and it also depends on how much wall space you have. But mixing different sizes with large, medium, and small-size posters and frames can be eye-catching. Most dorms do not allow you to puncture holes in the walls, so I suggest using command strips or something with an adhesive backing to hang your items so that you don’t violate your dorm’s rules.

How do I stay on a budget for college shopping?

Start with how much you want to spend, and then make a list of your wants and needs. Once your needs are taken care of, then you go to your wants. For example, for bedding, instead of buying a comforter separately and then your sheets, buying them in a set is a lot more affordable. Also, consider bringing dorm room items from home. It will save you money, make your space more personal, and remind you of home.

There are also many sales, especially when school is about to start. I personally like home goods and Target. They always have those aisles for dorm rooms. So, I would go there to keep on budget.

What other advice do you have for dorm decor? 

Everything we’ve discussed is great for showing your style and personality in your room. I encourage people to put something more personal to fill the space. Focus on your bedding first to establish the color palette. If there are any items to bring that show your personality that you can tell a story about, I would definitely go that route.

Check out the full interview here.

By Sydney Burdick