Dorm Room Evolution

As a sophomore in college who attended high school at a boarding school, I am currently in my 6th year of living in a dorm room. It’s safe to say that at this point I know the ins and outs of dorm living and the secrets to decorating a room in a way that makes it look more like one at home. The trickiest thing about it has been keeping up with what’s popular at the time and changing my space accordingly, while still keeping my favorite components present in unique ways. Below are several pictures of my rooms from high school and college, and some  explanation behind the thought process of each room’s decor.

Freshman Year (High School) 2014-2015

During my first year of boarding school, my inspiration mostly came from Pinterest, which was big in 2014. My vision centered around the Christmas lights, which you’ll notice have made an appearance in every dorm room since then, in an effort to provide an alternative option to the harsh commercial lighting of campus buildings. I was also super into these string lights, which I created using some twine, clothespins, and pictures of home and friends from Shutterfly. Most of my bedding was from Urban Outfitters, and you’ll notice this duvet and fluffy pillow appear consistently throughout high school. I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of desk decorating at this point, so my blank desk is definitely a source of disappointment for me in this photo; but, if I recall correctly, it was decorated by the end of the year. While I do like certain aspects of this room, I think it lacked the cohesiveness that my dorm rooms since then have possessed.

Sophomore Year (High school) 2015-2016

In my second year living in a dorm, I definitely amped up the decorations. I don’t have great pictures of this room, but my roommate––the same one from freshman year and also conveniently my best friend––and I tried our best to create the cozy home vibe that our freshman year room had somewhat lacked. The wall in the first picture was our attempt to channel positive vibes while remaining aesthetically pleasing. We ordered most of these decorations from BedBath&Beyond and Urban Outfitters, and customized our letters so that the room had a more personal feel. This room was significantly smaller than our room had been the previous year, which is why our beds were what we called “L’ed” (as opposed to bunked). I was lucky enough to secure the bottom bunk, and I made sure to maximize the benefits of this by decorating the underside of the upper bed as well as the little nook I lived in with lights and photos. One thing in this picture, which may not stand out but has remained extremely important throughout the past five years, is the little bedside table drawer set. Having that small space for my phone, a box of tissues, a book, and a lamp, always made the room feel more homey. 

Junior Year (High School) 2016-2017

My room junior year of high school was undoubtedly one of my favorites. It was a single, which definitely changed the spatial dynamics of the room, and I made the most of it. I bought a futon couch for underneath my bed so that my close day student friend and others could hang out and sleep over with ease. I did this partly for decoration and comfort purposes and partly because I felt it was a way to make my single inviting for friends to hang out in. This room’s emphasis was on things that I felt defined my identity. Pinterest-style mood boards were trending out and posters, pictures, and objects that define an individual’s personality had begun to dominate the dorm room scene at this point. I combined a mixture of posters depicting places that were special to me, with a symmetrical wall of square photos of people who made me happy. I hung medals from sports achievements next to my desk, and motivational quotes and memorabilia on the desk itself. My bed’s height made it easy for me to separate the place I slept from the place I did work, something I’ve always found important for my productivity. I came to love this tiny square box that I called my home for 9 months. And, though its representation in the picture does not do it justice, the importance of having a rug to cover the floor of my dorm room has always been important. This faux fur animal rug has always been one of my favorites.

Senior Year (High School) 2017-2018  

This tiny dorm room was another favorite for sure. By far my favorite part of it was the window right next to my bed, providing me with both a sill and a view (and some natural light!). I think the curtains were a fabulous touch to this chaotic but cozy space because they made it feel so much less like a dorm. You might have noticed that my bedding was almost entirely the same as it was freshman year, but the rooms could not have looked more different. The large couch, which folded into a bed, helped make this room the primary hangout space for my friends. Without a doubt, this couch is a primary reason that I associate positive vibes with my senior year living space. I had some similar posters, updated but comparable photographs and my bedside table. I also had the addition of a nice lamp, an iHome, and some succulents on the window sill, which I loved and have tried to incorporate into my rooms since then. It’s hard to tell from these photos but this room had a lot going on in terms of patterns, pictures, posters, etc. so at times I wish I had made it a little less busy. That being said, I feel like the hectic decor worked for the vibe of the year, and I don’t think that it necessarily detracted from its aesthetics. I also felt the need to cover up the heinous yellow cinder block walls that this dorm was built out of, so I do think that the purple and blue tapestries were an improvement from that. You’ll also notice this room has many sources of light. Over the years, I’ve found that incorporating lights––whether they be desk lamps, floor lamps, string lights, candles, or even just little light up decorations––has made all the difference in terms of my mood and ability to work efficiently in the room. The room came with wall to wall carpets, but I still laid my animal rug over it to create a more welcoming vibe.

Freshman Year (College) 2018-2019

The difference in my dorm room senior year of high school versus freshman year of college is quite apparent; that busy vibe of my earlier rooms that I’ve expressed a little contempt for has disappeared almost entirely, leaving in its wake a neat, clean, bright, and positive room that was such a haven for me throughout the year. My first fix was adding a ½ inch white border to all of my photos, making them look extremely even and neat, while still accomplishing the same sentiment. I also added in some bigger prints to the mix, mostly of my friends from high school, all with bright colors. My posters also contained brighter vibes with their cool blue and white tones. The bedside table and coordinated gray and blue drawers provided a surface for my photographs and lamp, just like a bedroom at home might have, and my pillows all matched the color scheme. I also had a very plush cushion as a headboard to make the bed more comfortable, which I highly recommend. This paired with the lumbar pillow made my bed such a comfortable surface both to sleep and hang out on. My desk was my outlet for the chaos that my earlier rooms possessed. I had several colorful stickers, pictures, memorabilia, and quotes in a collage on the backboard so that working at the desk felt pleasant. I also had little shelves in the hutch for succulents, bowls, diffusers, and other desk supplies. These pictured organizing bins have been such a key component of my neatness the past two years; they perfectly contain clutter into out-of-sight categories and look coordinated in the process. Altogether I was very pleased with this transitional room and it proved to be very comforting when I needed it to be.

Sophomore Year (College) 2019-2020

My room this year has 100% taken the top spot of the six rooms. It combines several aspects of my earlier rooms that I’ve loved, while still incorporating new details. Some say “extra”, but I say “cozy chic” 😉. In all seriousness though, I absolutely love this room for many reasons. It really does not look like a dorm room. My roommate brought a white fuzzy area rug that covers the entire floor, so the linoleum is both out of sight and out of mind. I have a Bruno Bed, Brown’s double bed, which makes all the difference in comfort, along with a new white comforter (after five years of the gray one!). The blue and white color scheme is really emphasized in this room, and it provides a sense of cohesion that my other rooms did not quite achieve. I also opted for posters and art over photos this year, so my wall looks a little bit more mature. I bought the little pouf stool at Target ($40 only!!) along with the hanging metal sunbursts, and I just love how grown-up they make the room look. I kept my trusty bin set, pillows, lamp, desk hutch, framed photographs, and of course, the Christmas lights. But, my roommate and I added some features that really improve the aesthetics of the room, most notably the flowers on the windowsill. We are lucky enough to have a six-foot long three panel window, so we filled the entire sill with colorful flowers which, juxtaposed with the white of the room, looks absolutely gorgeous. We also both bought orchids, which made us both feel mature and delighted with accomplishing our aesthetic goal. Finally, I made the collage of keepsake items on my desk much more neat and even. This tweak makes the desk feel like it’s actually organized when I clean it and makes it a pleasant place to work. The combination of all of these factors make this room the best one I’ve lived in yet, (it actually feels more like an apartment). 

If you’ve actually taken the time to read through my entire 2,000 word tangent about my dorm rooms, bravo! Also, I am flattered. I find it important to note that most of these items were purchased from Target, IKEA, Walmart, Dormify, Urban Outfitters, and other dorm decor spots that are, on the spectrum of decor, relatively affordable. Here are some key takeaways from my dorm room’s evolution in overview: keep things bright (there’s no such thing as too much light), add some nature (succulents, flowers, natural light, etc!), choose a color scheme and stick to it, choose pieces that make you happy, and eliminate clutter. Happy decorating!