NEW YORK — For the uninitiated, outfitting a college dorm room can be a dizzying experience. Doing it at a time of high inflation can make it even more daunting.
The first step: Carefully review what the school allows and provides. If you want a microwave and mini fridge, are the energy saving combo models required? Do you need foam pool noodles to avoid hitting your head under a top bunk and if so, could the school provide them? Exactly how thick can a mattress topper be?
“You can see the look of terror on the parents’ faces,” said Marianne Szymanski, an independent product researcher who sent two children to college. “You know, did I get the right mattress pad? It’s crazy.”
Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson said that self-expression is top of mind for kids going into bedrooms in things like faux headboards and unique dresser knobs.
“Two of my favorite bedroom trends right now are mood-enhancing hues that incorporate bright, energetic colors like neon hues and heritage styles, a nostalgic trend that embodies the traditional college look with elements like plaid bedding, wood-toned furnishings and monograms,” she said.
LIGHTING AND CHARGING
The bedrooms have notoriously poor lighting and very few electrical outlets in convenient places. Many schools do not allow extension cords. For power strips, which are almost always allowed, consider going vertical with a tower that offers surge protection, USB ports, and outlets that can accommodate a variety of differently shaped plugs.
It might be time to get a three-way charger. There are plenty of load-bearing storage carts, headboards, and racks.
Use double-sided tape or Velcro straps to attach a strip to the frame of a raised bed for easy access.
For such inclined students, putting on makeup can be a problem that a lighted makeup mirror can solve. A desk or clip lamp is a must for studying. Consider a shared floor lamp. Neon signs are also popular as decorative lighting.
SHELVES AND HOOKS
Expanding storage with shelving is a bedroom-sized puzzle. Is there shelf space above the bed? Does the school allow rabbit hutches above the desks or provide them?
Pro tip: It’s not a good idea to trade in sturdy shelving for an over-the-toilet bathroom version that might not be able to handle something heavy, like a microwave. Also, if a bed is going to be raised but not quite, a tall nightstand with additional shelves or drawers can be helpful.
Ask the school: Can shelving or stands of any kind be placed in front of windows?
And remember those locker shelves from high school? Use them to expand the space on a nightstand or desk.
Those Command adhesive hooks? Bring so many, along with removable poster strips made not to damage walls. Also pick up a couple of hangers for bags, coats, robes, and hoodies.
CLOSETS AND OTHER STORAGE
For the closet, consider sturdy vertical hanger extenders and storage for hanging shoes and clothes. Yes, such storage takes up space and adds weight. Can an extra bar be installed?
Storage bins can triple as seats and stools, unlike a decorative pouf that’s just pretty and comfy.
Storage drawers under the bed or in the closet are essential, along with extra baskets, or at least one bin for smaller random items that are easily lost. Medium plastic baskets for scarves, socks and the like can be used on the top shelf of the closet.
BATHROOM AND MISCELLANEOUS
Consider buying some scented Steripod toothbrush covers. The bedrooms are dusty. Bathrooms get gross. Toothbrushes may need to be brought. It should be changed every three months.
Bathrooms are often shared and things get mixed up. An organizer is essential. Pro tip from the trenches: use an over the door organizer for bathroom stuff. Dormify sells one with a small built-in face mirror.
Kirkham suggests a rolling toilet cart with just the essentials for quick trips in and out.
Mini fridge tip: If you have wiggle room on which type to use, choose one with a separate freezer compartment. It could protect against food freezing below. Some kids forgo the freezer altogether to get more space in the fridge.
Kirkham, whose show opens July 24, suggests a mini-fridge base that elevates the unit and includes additional storage.
“Everything in a bedroom has to have multiple functions,” he said.
A small, portable, battery-powered blender might be helpful. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and helps students eat healthy options stored in room refrigerators. Szymanski likes the Blendi.
A tool kit is helpful, as is a first aid kit. To help raise a bed, Szymanski said, bring a rubber mallet.
And instead of a bedside canvas cart, try an attachable bunk tray table. It can hold a drink, a phone, and more.
Last but not least: a permanent marker good for labeling fabrics and plastic.