A bare dorm room before decorating with two twin beds and a desk.
Laurey W. Glenn

Dorm Room Makeover

Everyone wants to have a cool dorm room. But, typically, standard college dorms include only bare necessities, resulting in a no-frills space void of personal flair. Decorating a dorm room can be overwhelming for any new student.

We found a team of experts to point out what you need for your room and show you how to make the most of dorm living. You'll find decorating ideas, small space storage solutions, and bedding basics. With this dorm checklist, you'll have the best room on the hall.

A cool, cute dorm room after decorating.
Laurey W. Glenn

Chic, Functional Dorm Room

With expertise in dorm makeovers, Alabama-based designers Katherine Bailey and Melissa Manifold of Moxii Design Studio share their secrets on maximizing style -- and square footage -- in a typical dorm setup. Plus, they give us the scoop on dorm essentials and need-to-know info, regardless of your school’s locale. Check out Moxii’s selection of stylish dorm must-haves at www.moxii.com.

Flooring options including rugs and carpet help to hide dorm room floors.
Laurey W. Glenn

Hide Dorm Floors

Provide panache underfoot. “Don’t be afraid to add personality from the floor up,” says Melissa. Decorative rugs, carpet squares, or bound carpets make an eye-catching focal point and bring warmth. Be sure to leave clearance for door swings, allowing air to circulate. Insufficient ventilation quickly causes condensation and mildew, which are common visitors to campus housing.

Layering dorm room linens helps with comfort.
Laurey W. Glenn

Layer Linens and Bedding

The designers chose heavily textured fabrics for bedding and headboards because they hide dirt and disguise stains. Katherine and Melissa advise purchasing two quilts with a washable layer of sheets underneath because dorm occupants have little control over the room’s temperature. “You can layer according to the indoor season,” says Katherine. Additional bedding also separates sleeping from lounging activities.

Use foam board and fabric to make your own dorm room headboard.
Laurey W. Glenn

Make Your Own Headboard

Mix and match. The designers constructed a tall headboard from old grain sacks to add interest and elevate the eye. Burlap fabric wrapped and stapled onto sturdy insulation sheathing makes an earthy, bohemian statement and contrasts the room’s sterile feel. “The curvilinear headboard balances the room’s hard lines and sharp appearance,” says Katherine.

Raise the bed with risers to gain added dorm room storage.
Laurey W. Glenn

Elevate the Bed

Raise the standard. The Moxii design team suggests elevating beds onto risers, allocating a minimum clearance of 24 inches above the floor. The added height allows space for storage bins underneath the bed. Plan on purchasing an extra-long bed skirt between 24 and 30 inches in length to hide risers and storage containers.

Make your dorm room bed comfortable with these ideas for bedding basics.
Laurey W. Glenn

Dorm Room Bedding Basics

Check with your institution first to determine whether the school-supplied beds are standard or extra-long. Moxii recommends the following for each bed:

  • 1-2 Euros (shams and inserts)
  • 2-3 decorative pillows (shams and inserts)
  • Sleeping pillow (sham and insert)
  • Top sheet
  • Fitted sheet
  • 2 quilts
  • Egg crate for additional cushion from hard mattresses and springs.
  • Zippered allergen mattress protector, guarding against mold, mildew, and bedbugs.
  • Feather topper- (Moxii recommends a down alternative feather bed with baffled channels).
  • Mattress pad to hold everything in place.

Add personality to a dorm room by decorating with accessories.
Laurey W. Glenn

Decorate with Accessories

Think smart with accessories. Always check first with your college to verify their regulations. Find out whether or not items can be adhered or nailed to walls and if it is permissible to bring in additional furniture, electrical appliances, and bed risers. If personal objects are allowed, consider functional items first. This spray-painted bamboo ladder adds personality but also holds scarves, jewelry, and head wraps.

Maximize space by using multi-purpose dorm room furniture, like a dresser as a vanity.
Laurey W. Glenn

Use Multi-purpose Furniture

Katherine and Melissa recommend utilizing the dresser’s top as a vanity to maximize space. Check to see if your college provides a wall-mounted mirror. If not, Moxii recommends placing a sturdy framed mirror above the dresser.

Use dorm room dresser drawers for small space storage for things like toiletries.
Laurey W. Glenn

Compartmentalize Drawer Space

Because community baths are the dorm norm, expect the dresser’s top drawer to house everything from shaving cream to toothpaste. Opt for drawer-sized baskets or containers to separate items according to purpose. “You don’t want your soap to end up with your toothbrush,” says Katherine.

A cute laundry bag or basket is a must for carrying laundry from the dorm.
Laurey W. Glenn

Do Laundry in Style

Remember to bring a savvy laundry bag or basket for transporting laundry to the central facility. The designers suggest a laundry bag in lieu of a basket because it’s stylish and easy to carry. In addition, laundry bags may be suspended from closet doors or bedposts, which saves coveted floor space.

Storage ideas for dorm room closets include shoe racks, shelving, and baskets.
Laurey W. Glenn

Organize Closet Storage

Check to make sure your school’s dorm closets have swinging doors (some dorms omit them and need a finishing or shower curtain). Utilize the closet doors as another option for storage. A hanging shoe rack doesn’t take up floor space and can also be used to store socks, t-shirts, and undergarments. Be sure to purchase a closet rod extender with adjustable height and width to maximize the height of the closet. Organizational or decorative baskets are a must in any closet. Moxii suggests a box of dryer sheets to keep things smelling fresh.

Add to dorm room lighting with table and desk lamps.
Laurey W. Glenn

Add to Dorm Lighting

Lighten up. A fluorescent fixture attached to the ceiling is the primary source of lighting in most dorm rooms. Eliminate the need for harsh overhead lighting and provide a softer glow by placing small desk lamps or task lighting within the space.

Decorate the walls of a dorm room with lightweight art and message boards.
Laurey W. Glenn

Decorate with Wall Art

Select easy art. Check first with the college and be aware of their guidelines before installing wall art. Colleges commonly provide tack strips for suspending or attaching lightweight art (glass must be removed). For areas without a tack strip, the designers suggest using double-sided adhesive squares. Wire message boards double as three-dimensional art and are ideal for housing photos, mementos, jewelry, and mail.

Learn how to make quick and easy curtains
Laurey W. Glenn

Make Your Own Curtains

Assemble quick and easy curtains. Drapes bring pattern, texture, and color to any space. Moxii suggests suspending fabric from curtain rings with clips from a decorative tension rod. The look can easily be changed out with the season or mood. Katherine and Melissa chose fabric panels, which may be repurposed as a throw or tablecloth.

Decorate a bulletin board to create a custom message board.
Laurey W. Glenn

Create a Custom Bulletin Board

Personalize your entry. Liven up your door and stand apart from neighbors with a custom bulletin board. Here’s what you’ll need:

- 1 yard or remnant of fabric

- Decorative nail heads

- 3 ½ yards of trim

- Double stick adhesive

- Fabric shears


Decorate a bulletin board with fabric and ribbon to create a custom message board.
Laurey W. Glenn

Cute Dorm Message Board

Measure the bulletin board and cut fabric an inch and a half larger than the board on all sides. At the outer edge of the cork, fold fabric under and use pushpins to tack the fabric into place. Line the board’s frame with decorative trim and use double-sided adhesive squares to secure the trim to the frame. If a cohesive look is preferred, cut pieces of the fabric and use them as edging (shown top). Don’t forget a lightweight picture frame (with glass removed) to showcase occupant names.

Pictures of a dorm room makeover full of dorm room decorating and storage ideas.
Laurey W. Glenn

Dorm Room Redo

Special thanks to Birmingham Southern College for providing dorms and assisting with the production of this story.

Dorm room and interior design consultation and products available through Moxii.com or 334-821-1100.

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