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How to Style a Dorm or College Apartment on a Budget

I am currently a senior in college living in a small apartment near campus. Throughout my past years of college, I’ve lived in various living situations. First, I lived on campus in a tiny dorm with a shared bedroom with linoleum floors and harsh lighting. Then, I lived in a nicer set-up: a cozy, cute, but too snug of an apartment with my own room. My junior year, I moved into a slightly bigger three bed, two bath apartment with two of my friends, and have lived there since. Throughout my different living situations, I’ve had to learn how to style each in a way that I enjoy. Working with what I had and being a little thoughtful was how I got results that I am happy with.

Living in an environment that speaks to you and is representative of your style can be so fulfilling. Sometimes though, for us college kids, it’s not that simple to style your space in a way that speaks to you. A lot of us live in dorms or tiny apartments that don’t allow us to paint the walls, put nail holes in the wall or make other drastic changes to the space. It doesn’t help that people in college usually don’t have the types of funds to be able to run to Ikea and Anthrolopogie and spend hundreds on making their space completely decked out. Most of us are working 15 hours and are making nine bucks an hour (if we are lucky.)

Thankfully, after my different experiences of college-living situations, I have learned that there are definitely ways to style your space without breaking the budget or compromising your personal style. With these tips, you can successfully live the college life in a space that is relaxing and feels at home.

First off, I recommend thrifting. Go to various thrift shops around your area and keep in mind what it is that you are looking for. Thrift shops have fab, one-of-a-kind pieces that are budget-friendly. You may have to dig a bit for what you want, but in the end it is so worth it! Thrift stores are great for finding functional storage pieces, dining and seating. 

Some of my favorite home decor items to find at thrift stores are little pieces of art. Thrift stores are full of hidden gems. I love finding little knick-knacks that speak to me! These pieces, whether they are sculptures, paintings or toys turned into statues, are a great way to represent your personality through home design. If you love the eclectic look like me, re-sell, thrift and vintage shops are the best places to go to get that look!  

More great stores to go to decorate your living space without breaking the bank are TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Homegoods. These are all sister stores and specialize in offering marked down, fashionable goods. They have such great storage pieces and are also a good option to shop for linens. If you need new sheets and comforter, these places are perfect to go to. The difference of a bedspread that you love in your room completely changes the tone of your bedroom. They also have affordable throw pillows and rugs that completely brighten up a space. The fun different textures of pillows and rugs offered are fur, braided rope and suede and they can change the tone of a room. These places also offer a lot of different pieces of wall art at cheaper prices than most retailers.  

Something I have done personally with my bedroom to give it flair is by not only decorating my walls with thrift finds, but also by decorating them with postcards. I get my postcards here in Richmond for free at art galleries like Quirk Hotel. I also love finding them at Mongrel and World of Mirth. Postcards are cheap, colorful and can convey what music, celebrities, art, places and styles you love. I have collected a ton and have made a gallery wall in my room. This works for dorms too since no nails are needed!

We all know that college-living situations can sometimes be a struggle. Having a space that feels totally you can be a challenge at this stage in our life. Fortunately, there are ways around this. With a keen eye, prioritizing budget and being a bit of a treasure-hunter, you too can have a space that is truly yours!


Image credit: Sydney Spencer

Sydney is a senior in VCUarts studying fashion merchandising with a minor in media studies. Her passions include music of all forms, social justice, and doggies! She hopes to one day have a career that combines her love of fashion and helping others.
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