Decorate your dorm room to express yourself

(ARA) – As a college freshman, you don’t have to over-think decorating your dorm room. Save all that mental energy for your studies. Creating inexpensive and interesting living spaces is easier than your high school finals.

It’s all about expressing yourself while working with your roommates. According to Keith McCleary, Academic Director of the interior design department at The Art Institute of York – Pennsylvania, “It’s best to have a sense of space before you arrive on campus with a carload of belongings that won’t fit or will look dreadful when combined with those of your roommates.”

Plan ahead with your roomies for smooth sailing during those first somewhat anxious weeks. Every college student has a bed, whether it’s a loft, bunked, or arranged to make as much floor space as possible.

“Neutral bed coverings work best,” says McCleary. “Then you can use interesting accents, such a quilt made of your old high school logo T-shirts or oversized pillows that double as seating when the first pizza party takes place.”

Those pillows will add color and texture to what might be bland cement block walls. Other ways to make wall space seem less institutional: use mirrors; hang miniature Christmas lights or use a floor spot lamp to create a dramatic feeling in the room, (always be safety conscious with High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps and extension cords). Also try suspending colorful fabric from the ceiling or bringing an old screen door in to hold jewelry (just add hooks) or to display treasured family photos. Heavy duty adhesive mounting squares are good for securing posters and will not damage walls.

Don’t be shy about asking people if they have “orphan furniture.” There’s nothing wrong with bringing some things from your home; it’s not necessary to get all new gear and accessories. Memories of home will help you feel comfortable in your new living space. If you have a green thumb, bring a few easy-to-grow plants: philodendron, cacti and snake plants require little maintenance, or simply use some attractive branches in a vase. It’s a good idea to remember an inexpensive fan to keep the air moving and fresh.

The old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” applies here. Many websites have “free stuff” categories offering unusual or shabby chic furnishings. Yard sales, used furniture stores, and vintage shops all have great finds for budget-conscious students; these items also make for great conversation starters. Deer antler hat hangers, an old picnic bench for seating with storage space underneath and artwork or movie posters from the past will add personality to your home away from home.

“Proper task lighting is critical,” says McCleary. “Incandescent desk lights are always preferred over any type of overhead ceiling lighting, as they provide more focus for studying and reading. Desk lamps are inexpensive and vital to a well-equipped dorm room.”

Storage can be a major issue. Bed risers are inexpensive and allow you to do some undercover stashing of items not often used. Head to antique alley to find storage cubes, old containers, a stack of antique suitcases or a trunk. These can be used for off-season clothing storage, non perishable foods and dirty laundry too.

“As you anticipate your approaching college experience,” notes McCleary, “keep in mind that your room is a place to study, socialize and rest – all important facets of your newest life adventure away from home.”

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