Monday, August 19

DORM ROOMS: Decorating A Small Space With Style

One of the best things about college dorms is that you get to leave them eventually. They’re bare, they’re cramped, they’re never at the optimum temperature – in other words, they’re not home. There are a number of ways you can make this shoe box-sized blank canvas feel more comfortable. Bringing personal items from home, photos of friends and family, cushy bed linens, good lighting and generally making the most of what little space you have been allotted. For college-bound students, the key to establishing a happy new domicile is learning how to maximize a small space on a minimal budget while also adding style. Not a small order, but doable! In your future home away from home you are assured of two things, a bed and a desk. If you think creatively about the limited area you've been given, you just may discover more than enough space. How so? Look up and look down for the answer. 
How about an over-the-bed bookcase? No extra floor space has been used, yet you've gained a great place for books, photos, a cork board, clip on lamp, even a few study snacks to stave off the late-night munchies. With the right tools, this over-the-bed bookcase is much cheaper to make than buying metal shelving. It can easily be painted to match any bedding and is aesthetically pleasing. Tip: Save yourself time by purchasing white particle board - no need to paint. Use beadboard as the backing for the shelf to add visual interest. Make sure to find out the width of the beds in the dorm. Many universities have these measurements available on their Web sites. Check out these design cuties.....Moxii was the inspiration for our daughter's dorm room. Sadly, they are no longer in business.
Now that you've gotten smart, look not only over your bed for added space, but under it as well. Pop your bed up on risers and you have garnered more space for yourself without encroaching on your roommates half of the room. Storing everything from a refrigerator, laundry hamper, cleaning supplies and clear plastic storage bins is a smart use of your real estate. Dress it up and make it look nice by adding an inexpensive bed skirt - keeping out of site the clutter most college students collect. Tailored or frilly, male or female - it really doesn't matter as long as you've captured extra storage space with style and can keep things nice and tidy as well. You can quickly and easily make your own custom bed skirt to match the height of your bed and you don't even have to know how to sew! It's even more simple to make than the bookcase. 

  • 1 - 4 by 3 foot Piece of thin plywood; We bought a thin piece of plywood at Home Depot, pre-cut to fit under the mattress of a twin-sized bed, it cost all of $4.98.
  • Fabric - Measure around a twin-sized mattress and double or triple the length depending on how full you want your skirt. If you want a more tailored look, buy just enough fabric to fit around the bed OR allow a foot or two extra for a couple of box pleats. Tip: If your bed will not be on risers you can cut your material in half and save money.
  • Staple Gun and Staples
Remove mattress from the box springs. Carefully place your piece of plywood on top of the box springs. Slowly begin stapling your fabric down to the plywood, gathering as you go. 
To keep mine straight I placed my first staple on the top left of my piece of plywood - towards the headboard, Second staple was placed on the top right - towards the headboard and the Third staple was placed on the bottom middle - towards the foot of the bed. As fabric already has a finished edge, there is no need for sewing the skirt bottom that touches the floor or the top that no one will see. 


If you cut your material in half, just make sure the cut-side is facing in and will be the edge you staple onto your plywood and placed under the mattress. Not knowing for sure how tall our daughter's bed would be, we decided to wait and assemble her bed skirt on the day of move-in. Being such a breeze to make, it truly was 'custom-fit' to her particular needs. 

Living in a designer inspired dorm room, for very little money, can't replace the comforts of home.....but it sure as heck makes a pretty good dent in it wouldn't you say??
Photos: David Bundy


  1. I really like the way you have explained the whole article. it is very informative..
    Pre-laminated Particle board

    1. Thanks Karan. We built these above the bed shelves for our daughter last year and all of her friends wanted a set when it came time to move back into the dorm last month! We used pre-laminated white particle board, no painting - it was so easy!

  2. Is there a link that shows how to make the desk and bed shelves?

    1. Alexis,

      I have searched for that post for the last 45 minutes.... it's driving me batty! I know I wrote a post and shared the instructions for the over-the-bed bookshelves. My husband made a set for our daughter when she went off to college. Hopefully I will come across them and when I do I'll share them with you.

      Sorry for the inconvenience.


  3. Could you please post a copy of the plans asap? I am oving to college soon and I would LOVE to know how to build these for my new dorm!!!

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  5. Wow, cool post. I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real hard work to make a great article... but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. clothes storage bag

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