Dorm shopping feels both exciting and overwhelming.
Such big plans for such a small floor plan, plus there’s often a roommate to contend with.
Jill Martin has set up dozens of dorm rooms for friends’ kids. The “Today” show contributor for the “Ambush Makeover” and “Steals and Deals” segments said the small spaces can be everything students hope for, spending $25 or less on many items.
Martin, who sells her own home decor line on QVC’s GILI (Got It. Love It.) brand, says she knows students want to shop right away and parents just want it. But wait.
Before you get started, scroll through websites, Pinterest or magazines and get inspired.
“You’re making this your little house,” Martin said. “You’ll want to treat any space as your special place. It should feel as much like home and as comfortable as possible.”
Here are her recommendations for a stress-free moving day.
Choose a theme that starts with the bedding
“Do you want it cozy-comfortable? Or should it be something else? Everything is going to happen from there,” Martin said.
Themes can be based on colors, or a particular look such as country glamor. Make sure the look is cohesive, as too busy a look will make a small room even smaller.
Martin recommends taking the bedding as a starting point for the theme. From there, the students can work outside.
“People get overwhelmed and this is the place to start. If you decide you want to print on your bed, you’ll want to make plain fabrics for your room,” she said.
If you want to spend money somewhere, go ahead and buy quality bedding.
Go vertical for storage when horizontal space is limited
Take the tape measure and measure the space under the dorm bed, above the bed, above the space where a desk will be located, any closet space and basically any vertical wall space. Vertical space is a friend in a dorm room because horizontal space is precious.
Then go to The Container Store or a mass-market retailer like Target or Walmart and shop for cards, stackable boxes, baskets, shelves, or other storage units. These can be used to store clothes, snacks, school supplies and other items.
Once the students have decided on bedding, go to the desk and arrange it. Use the purchased containers to build vertical storage from the desk, she said.
“Everything in your dorm room should have a function,” Martin said. “If you get a stand for next to your bed, there has to be storage space.”
For the closet, Martin recommends felt hangers instead of plastic or wire, as they offer 30% more closet space.
Transform a room on a budget with these three things
Dorm room makeovers are so cute that parents are almost ready to grab the dorm room decor. But Martin warns against going crazy buying trinkets.
“There are ways to make the rooms beautiful without spending a lot of money,” she said.
In addition, there is no space and later students may find that they need the space for something useful.
These inexpensive items can easily transform a room:
Relief. The harsh glare of fluorescent lighting is not conducive to any kind of positive atmosphere. Christmas lights help set a mood, whether the student is extroverted or introverted.
throw blankets† Martin is a big fan of choosing a cozy throw to add depth and warmth to a room.
Lists: Leave frames blank if they’re just really cool on their own. Or fill frames with photos of friends and family, or rebuild them into a work of art with inspiring sayings. Photo and picture frames provide a landscape of possibilities.
Live in space and then make adjustments
These are the things that can really throw planning, shopping and decorating into disorder and dysfunction.
Don’t forget to measure your door space before shopping.
“You pull out that tape measure — in a dorm room, it’s your best friend,” Martin said.
Don’t expect everything to be perfect right away.
Martin recommends living in the dorm for a month and expecting to go shopping again.
“I think the mistake people make is that they move and you can’t expect everything to be final the first day,” she said. “You have to live in a room first. You may find that you need a bigger shower canister because your shampoo doesn’t fit. Or you need a throw pillow.”
Remember to reuse or reuse items from home to save money. For example, students often don’t need a full wardrobe makeover the first semester. The hooks hanging from the back of the doors can be reused, as can favorite picture frames, and baskets can be reused for storage or to hold rolled up towels.
Remember that roommates are preparing you for adulthood
Don’t forget to write things down with a roommate† Sharing space with a roommate isn’t easy, but one of those things that goes a long way toward adulthood. Martin suggests that we come up with the rules for the dorm room together.
“I think the most important thing is to respect each other’s idiosyncrasies and their needs to live happily,” she said. “I believe in writing it down. I think that’s very important.”