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Transforming a boring dorm room

Jenna Johnson

Today's guest blogger is Illana Strauss, a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a regular contributor to Campus Overload.
Your dorm room is probably small, oddly shaped and may or may not have air conditioning. But it's yours, and you'll spend a good deal of the year there. So why not make it right for you?

Decorating your dorm is a good investment, because you'll spend more time looking at it than anything. Except maybe your homework, of course. Of course...
ilana_strauss.jpgBefore buying anything, choose a theme. Your theme will determine how you put together the rest of the room. Don't try and get items separately, hoping everything will all just come together. It won't.

Picking a theme
It is really up to you (and your roommate.) A color can be a theme. So can a sport, a place, even a culture. If you have a piece of furniture that you are definitely planning on bringing, it's a good idea to plan the theme around that. Your beloved red polka-dot chair just won't work in a blue-themed room. Choose something that brings you comfort. Crazy diagonal orange stripes might sound artsy, but at the end of the day, you come to your dorm to relax. If your dorm reflects that, you'll enjoy spending time there.

If you are planning on purchasing a lot of new items for your dorm anyway (furniture, bedspreads, lamps, pillows, etc.), it's easy to make your room look put-together by simply buying things in the same color and with the same patterns. Many stores sell ready-made sets, making this even easier.

Of course, you can always decide what to buy on your own -- as long as you stick to one or two colors, you'll be fine. Just as a heads up, if you are buying everything in one color, it's all right to use different hues of the same color. But if you are using two colors, it's best to stick to a specific hue for each color -- mixing too many will just lead to a mismatched-looking room.

If you are not planning on purchasing many new items this year but still want to add a nice overall look to your room, don't feel the need to go out and get new furniture. A few small accessories will do.

For the floor
If you want a rug, begin your search early - these can be expensive. Look on Amazon or EBay if local stores don't carry what you want at the prices you're after. Also, ask around - family and friends might have old rugs they no longer use. Additionally, many colleges allow students to rent rugs for the year.

For the walls
Buy some posters online. Or, if there's a relatively inexpensive place to get posters in town, go with that.

For the shelves
Get some knick-knacks that fit your theme. If you're going with an Oriental look, get a pot of bamboo and some paper lanterns. Chances are, you won't need to go to specialty store for this stuff. Walgreens and other stores around town carry plenty. Plus, if you see an object that only partially follows your theme, chances are it will blend in perfectly when placed with all your other items.

For the bed
No need to go out and get a new set of sheets, blankets and pillowcases. Instead, buy a few yards of fabric that go with your theme from the local fabric store, hem them and voila -- you've got a throw for your bed. Make a pillow case out of a same fabric. If you can't sew, go to Target or Walmart and get a set all in the same color.

Don't go *too* crazy
If you are not going with a color-related theme, make sure not to overdo it. Doing so gets a bit overwhelming and makes your room look more fanatical than well-decorated. If you really want your room to look like horses, not every piece of furniture or decoration need have horses on it. Instead, make sure a few pillows / your rug / your bedspread is a plain color that goes with your theme. Going with the horse example, use a green rug to match the grass in the poster of the horse you are hanging up.

How to pitch the theme to your roommate
Demanding to make the room look like the African savanna just won't work if your roommate wants polka dots everywhere. But there are a few things you can do.

1. Offer to pay for everything and do all the decorating. If your roommate isn't all that keen on room decoration anyway, she'll probably gladly accept the offer.

2. Come up with a theme together. Neither of you will get exactly what you planned on, but you might both land on something new and interesting.

3. Combine themes. If one of you wants a color theme, and the other wants a non-color theme, you can easily combine ideas. If you want a soccer related-room and your roommate wants everything to be green, put up some soccer posters and have soccer balls on the shelves. Then get a green rug and green bedspreads, etc.

Or if you both want color themes, use both colors. As long as you don't use too many hues or wacky shades, the room will still look well-planned.

If you both want non-color related themes, use both and make sure most of the furniture / decorations are the same color. Doing so will pull the room together, making it not so apparent that there are two different themes going on.

Happy decorating!

About Ilana
Ilana Strauss is a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has interned at the Jerusalem Post, the Scripps-Howard Foundation and Ilana's last Campus Overload columns were about cliche D.C. attractions and intern fashion.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  |  August 25, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  College 101  | Tags: University of Illinois  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Navigating admissions with a learning disability
Next: Moving (and tweeting) into college


My daughter is growing TickleMe Plants in her Dorm. It is the only pet she is allowed! Well its more like a pet then a plant anyway. Tickle It and the leaves come together. Wait a few minutes and it reopens!
If you are a plant lover then this is big news as The TickleMe Plant can now be easily grown indoors year round. Just search TickleMe Plant to order the Greenhouse that she grows it in. Great Gift idea too.

Posted by: GoGreen3 | August 27, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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