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July 14, 2023

Top 7 Tips for Decorating Your Dorm Room

For first-year students, there are so many new and exciting college experiences ahead, but starting life on campus can also feel a little daunting. Residence assignments and roommates are one side of a two-sided coin. Many students feel nervous about living with a new person in a new place. But depending on the style of living space you are assigned, there are several fun ways to make your new space feel like home — keeping in mind that you are not the only person who needs to feel comfortable there. Here are Berry College’s top seven tips for decorating your home away from home. 

1. Set Ground Rules

Before you start thinking about what color your bedspread should be, talk broadly about your expectations for your shared space with your roommate. Think through how you can accommodate the needs and ideas of both individuals. Start by talking about when you expect to sleep, study and socialize. Knowing each person's sleep or study schedules might help you figure out what you expect day to day. From there, discuss room volume and lighting at different times of the day. These issues may seem like small details, but they can also begin discussions around lamps, microwaves and other smaller items not provided by the college. When figuring out who will bring each item, use this time to also talk through shared spaces and items vs. private spaces and items and who will be responsible for them. For example, just because one person owns the microwave shouldn’t mean they are the only person responsible for cleaning it. Although these conversations may not feel connected to décor, they will help set the tone for how you will likely decorate together, cohesively or individually. 

2. Discuss Functionality

Based on the ground rules, you’ve already set the tone for how your living space functions with areas for sleeping, hanging out, relaxing and studying. So, keep this in mind as you consider functionality. Talk about the main priorities for your room. If you both like to study in the library, you might not need to prioritize this as much as a study space. For example, roommates who both like video games might set up their room and their beds, prioritizing their TV and the couch. Another set of roommates might bunk their beds and have a sofa with a coffee table, so they have space for game night. Whatever you choose, make sure your decorations don't interfere with the functionality of your room. 

3. Talk Budgets

Now imagine you’ve discussed your house rules, you’ve got your functionality and measurements all squared away, and your roommate shows you an expensive matching quilt set from a high-end interior designer that they want you to buy. Looking uncomfortably at the photos, you realize that you need to discuss a budget with your roommate. Don’t let this happen to you! Before you both get your heart set on a certain décor item, talk about how much money you can spend on your room. Maybe everything doesn’t have to match. Maybe you can get someone to help you build shelving. There are lots of ways to decorate on a budget, but you and your roommate won’t know how to work together if you don’t begin by communicating about how much each of you must spend. 

4. Think "Feel" — Pick Color and Lighting

So, you are not planning a baby’s nursery, but hear us out on this tip. There is a lot of research on color psychology, including evidence to suggest that the colors in your room and environment can affect your mood and behavior. Colors certainly affect us all differently but on a large scale, coordinating a little bit will create a less chaotic-looking space. 

Choosing different types of lighting can also add character to a room and give it depth without cluttering the space. It can make a room bigger or brighter when there are not strong sources of natural light. Do you have lamps for task lighting at the desk or for a softer feel than the overhead lighting? Small wire fairy lights are also very popular in residence halls. 

5. Personalize Your Space

Once you finally have your broad vision for the room and your defined spaces, you can begin personalizing your space. Start with a rug to help soften and define the space. Using mirrors as décor can also reflect light and help a small space feel bigger. Whether you have a theme in mind or want to surround yourself with the people and places you love through photography, there are many fun, cheap ways to make your space feel like home. If you are living far away from home, consider ways to incorporate home into your design. For example, things that are related to your hometown might feel cheesy when you are in your hometown, but having such images or reminders at college can be comforting and are good conversation starters. Remember, this is likely your most personal space during your college years. Fill it with soothing items like good pillows, plants, aromatherapy and weighted blankets. 

6. Leave These at Home

This may also be the first time a student has lived in a large community, and with this come faulty fire alarms and unidentified smells and more. For many reasons, your college has likely posted a list of items that you should not bring to college for good reason. These policies may feel frustrating at first, but keep in mind that your choices and actions will affect the lives and possessions of way more people than they ever have before. Here’s a common banned residence hall list, but check your college’s website for their do-not-bring items:

  • Candles and incense
  • Pets (not including service animals)
  • Weapons
  • Alcohol and illegal drugs
  • Grills, toasters and hot plates

7. Must-have dorm hacks

Want to know some of the items other college students say they cannot live without? Here is a top-ten list sourced from several popular college blogs:

  • Door stopper
  • Blackout curtains
  • Bedside caddy or shelf
  • Lap desk
  • Extra-long bed skirt
  • Bed risers
  • Storage-filled nightstand
  • Noise machine
  • Electric kettle
  • Command strips and binder clips

REmember, it's temporary

Not excited about the feeling of your residence hall room yet? Don’t stress, and keep in mind that during your college years, you will likely move at least two to three times on or off campus depending on your school. After your first year, you will have an even better understanding of your living and learning needs. You are only going to get better at creating a home away from home. 


At Berry College, we often receive these as our most frequently asked questions. They may spark other conversations for you to research as you ask questions about your own residence life assignments. 

  • Do you have residency requirements?
  • May I see my room before the move-in date?
  • When can I move in?
  • What furniture is provided in my room?
  • Are students allowed to build loft beds?
  • How can I change my room?
  • Are telephones provided?
  • Will I have cable television access and an ethernet connection?
  • What is a resident assistant (RA)?
  • Are laundry facilities provided?
  • Does my room have curtains or blinds?
  • Do I need to move out during breaks?
  • When will I find out my room assignment and roommate?
  • How can I find out more information or ask specific questions?
  • Can I hang pictures, posters, etc. on the wall?
  • What are the visitation hours?
  • What type of security exists in the residence halls?
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