Back to School & Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

*my bedroom from my house in Seattle

When it comes to dorm rooms, moving, and decorating your tiny space for school, I'm your girl. After living in the dorms for one year, I moved into a little apartment with 3 other girls, and from there moved into a duplex house with 2 other girls, then moved to Los Angeles and got to call this studio apartment home. Throughout the past 4 years, I've lived in 5 places, all with different looks, space, rules and regulations. One thing remained the same, however, and that would be the space.  All of them were tiny!

I know a lot of my readers are young girls who may just be going to off to college this year, or who might be moving into their first apartment or small house.  I have a few pieces of advice, as well as my favorite places to shop for decorating your dorm room and / or apartments for school:

- We'll just get this out of the way first. Even though we want to focus on the design of the place, function comes first. Namely, storage. Large containers, boxes and baskets to shove under your bed or in a closet for extra storage is KEY. You can get creative by getting inexpensive ottomans / seats with storage under the seat.  This way it does double duty by providing extra seating for guests and storing more sweatshirts, shoes, toiletries etc. I like these items for storage:

Clear boxes
Long clear box with wheels to roll under your bed
Ottomans with storage

- Because the walls will most likely be white or neutral in color, it's all about the patterned bedding and fun wall decor. I came to college my freshman year with a bulletin board I upholstered in coordinating purple fabric {that matched our bedding!} We loved putting up our pictures there as it was personal and went with the room colors. Finding inexpensive wall art and prints to tape up with washi tape is a great way to decorate the walls without making permanent holes in the wall, or sacrificing style.  Check out how my friend Stephanie did just that here:
via // shop: stop and smell the peonies

- You can find some cute washi tapes here.

- Get a cute lamp for your desk to do homework with at night if your roommate goes to sleep and turns off the big light. Try this Target one or these from Pottery Barn Teen here.

- Favorite places for dorm bedding (don't forget to buy Twin Extra Long if you're living in a dorm!):
Urban Outfitters
Pottery Barn Teen {This is where I got my black and white bedding you see above. They have great deals for bedding bundles. Pssst-- they're having a bedding sale now!)
West Elm

- When you can't paint or hang much on the walls, simple and colorful or patterned curtain panels are a great way to make the ceiling look taller and to spice things up a bit. Try the same places as listed above for these things.

Alrighty! Hopefully this helped a little bit! My last tip? Bake chocolate chip cookies on your first night in the dorms. You'll make friends really quickly. That's what I did :)

If you lived in a dorm already, how'd you decorate and what was the most helpful information you learned for small space living? If you haven't lived in a dorm or small apartment but are moving away this year, tell me all about it! I'd love to hear. If you need help finding special pieces for your dorm, I'm here to help and would love to send you my quick fix e-design packages.

Enjoy your day!



  1. I am totally going to show my cousin this blog post, she if moving UF this fall.

  2. This is such a helpful post! I'm getting ready to move into my sophomore year dorm. My roommate and I are already texting each other and sending pics back and forth of things we think would look good in the room. I'll keep all of this in mind when I am shopping!


  3. Lovely post and what a stunning room.

    Mel's Corner

  4. Hard to believe it is that time again. We are getting the finishing touches for Katie's new room. She is so excited!

  5. don't forget about the 3M Command hooks/strips! pretty much the best way to put anything on your walls, in my opinion :) they definitely helped me keep my dorm room looking interesting without having to worry about damaging the paint! [and thus paying ridiculous fines to the housing office...]

  6. I love seeing all the catalogs and adds with the back to college dorm room stuff. Such fond memories for me. My freshman year dorm was a disaster, since my roommate and I were not on the same page as far as our styles went - at all! I think living in college dorms is a lesson in living with less.

  7. I'm excited to move into my first apartment with 3 other girls. Except that it's in the Dominican Republic and I'm only bringing a suitcase there! We'll be there for 8 months while we study Spanish and do mission work. I'm planning on bringing some small prints and pictures to spruce the place up, but it's going to be a challenge decorating the rest! Did I mention the closest Target-like store is an hour away? It'll be an adventure... Any suggestions on easy DIYs or small things to bring would be great!

  8. Love your room! I miss decorating my dorm!

    PS - Be prepared to answer 534 questions on how you do your hair in September :)

  9. We have so many of the same decorating ideas! I love your style!

  10. Lovely post as always, thank you for the mention xoxo

  11. Great post! I've always been amazed at the way you're able to work with small, plain spaces and make them something beautiful!

  12. Why didn't I know you when I was living in a dorm?? No fair!!


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