When a young person heads off to college, the dormitory becomes his home away from home -- the place where he studies, sleeps and relaxes. Dorm rooms are tight spaces, and creativity is the decorating key, according to Robin Wilson, president of Robin Wilson Home in New York City. Room decor isn’t typically at the top of a young guy’s priority list, but his parents can encourage him to create a comfortable, functional space that reflects his personality.

Wall Decor

A traditional dorm room is designed as a sterile environment, so a splash of color can liven it up and make it feel homier, Wilson says. If rules permit, paint the walls. If painting is not an option, fill the walls with pictures and posters. A boy who is a movie enthusiast might want to hang posters of his favorite flicks. He can create a gallery of special quotes and pictures of friends and family. Removable wall decals add pizazz, and some have write-on, wipe-off surfaces for leaving messages. Your son can hang colorful personal items such as head wraps on removable hooks.


College dorms typically come equipped with beds, dressers and desks. If possible, raise the bed off the floor to create a storage area underneath for your son’s sporting equipment and supplies. An ottoman can double as a coffee table or night stand. Today’s bean bag chairs are the perfect addition to a boy’s dorm room, according to Karin Tuerlinckx, founder of Loopee Design in Washington, D.C. They are multifunctional and can serve as extra guest beds, alternative sofas or relaxing havens. Water-resistant types are fit for indoor and outdoor use. With the latest micro beads and fabric covers, the bean bag won’t even make noise that disturbs roommates.


Wilson says dorm rooms aren’t always known for their cleanliness, so she recommends buying hypoallergenic bedding products to eliminate dust mites, bed bugs and other unwanted dirt and bacteria. A dark-colored duvet cover is a good choice for a young guy's comforter, so he can wash the cover rather than the entire comforter. It can also serve as a sun shade when he pulls it over his head for a snooze in the morning. Wilson recommends adding a throw to make the room a more comfortable living space.


Your son will appreciate familiar objects during this transition period from home to college. Encourage him to take a few keepsakes from his bedroom so he can mix the old with the new. Dorms typically have fluorescent ceiling lights, so add a soft lamp for when he wants to wind down in the evening. If your son works out a lot, buy a dirty clothing hamper that’s air-tight so he won't olfactory-challenge his roommate, quips Wilson. She also recommends a few plants to add some green, and an inexpensive area rug to cover cold and unattractive dorm room flooring.


Space is at a premium in dorm rooms, so one approach is to arrange items vertically when possible. For example, place the TV on top of a dresser. Use plastic storage containers with pull-out drawers that can be stacked high and still accessed. Hang a decorative laundry bag on the bedpost or in the closet.

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