The first college semester of the year is almost here, which means it's time to think about dorm décor ideas to make the space your very own. Whether you're a college freshman or a senior who wants to make the best of your last term, decor ideas for small spaces can help you transform an otherwise dull, impersonal space.

If you've been on a college tour or checked out the brochures, you're already familiar with the layout of student rooms. These pictures show off beautiful spaces, an oasis for students to retreat to after a long day of classes or downtime. But dorms don't come pre-decorated. Usually, they come with just the bare necessities—a bed frame and mattress with no linens, a small dresser, and perhaps a desk. There are no thrills or frills when you enter your new room for the first time.

That means you're starting with an entirely blank slate–which is a fantastic way to make your college dorm a true reflection of your personality and taste. A returning student may know what dorm room decor they want, but you might be looking for some tips if you're a freshman. And likely, as a college student, you have to work with a budget.

At Old Time Pottery, we have affordable dorm decor that's big on style. With a wide range of products, colors, and textures, you won't be short on options. Get your creative juices flowing and find the best accent décor to bring along this year.

How Much Does It Cost to Decorate a Dorm?

College is all about making the most of what you've got. Cafeteria meals, money for weekend activities, and excursions with friends all add up. If you don't have a job throughout the semester, you know this is even more true. Pinching pennies is expected in these early years, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the look and feel of your dorm room.

When you shop at the right places and stick to items you need and love, decorating your space doesn't have to cost much. It's a small space, which means you don't need much. With the right items, it's completely possible to decorate your college dorm for under $100. If you want to go bigger, you certainly can. If you need to curtail your budget further, that's totally possible, too.

A great way to stay within budget is to list your necessities first and then add your "wants" at the bottom. Grab the must-have at the beginning of your shopping trip, and with any extra money, start going down your list of extras.

Dorm Room Décor Must-Haves

Start with the essential items that are functional but allow you to add flair to the small space in your college dorm. You might be surprised at how much they add to your room while providing you with essentials.

Dorm Room Decor Must-Haves Include:

  • Stylish & Comfortable Bedding. Your school may provide a basic pillow and blanket, but let's face it, they're not comfy, and they look bland. Instead, bring a comfortable pillow and find a comforter set that makes you feel more at home. Pick your favorite color and design to make it "you."
  • Storage & Organization Containers. You'll need things like a shower caddy and organizers for makeup and school supplies. Keep pens, highlighters, and scissors within reach with the right acrylic storage containers. You can also use compact tiered shelving on your desk or dresser to give yourself even more space.
  • Wall Decor. Dorm room walls are usually blank white. Add a splash of color to your space with wall art and décor. Since these items don't take up any floor space, they're an excellent way to add style without cramping your room. Consider adding a full-length mirror to the wall or door, a cute canvas print, hanging clocks, and artistic pieces like metal wall decor in bright and abstract installations.
  • Extra Lighting. Fluorescent ceiling lights are harsh on the eyes and give your dorm room a cold and sterile look. Add tabletop tamps with a softer glow for those late-night study sessions.

Once you have the basics covered, you can start on your list of extras, like string lights to add over your bed, throw pillows for your bed, area rugs, new curtains, and more. If you have room, you can add tabletop decor to your dresser or desk, like small sculptures, photo frames, etc.

When to Start Shopping for Dorm Décor

You can shop for dorm decor either before the semester begins or once you're settled in. Grabbing the essentials before the start of the year helps you arrive prepared and ready to get going off the bat. Things like bedding, essential storage, and a starting piece of wall art are great things to bring with you to start.

After you get into your space and see how much room you have, you can start shopping for more. Now it's time to grab those string lights, area rugs, throw pillows, and anything else that sparks your imagination. You can always add to your dorm room as you go, based on your needs, tastes, or space that clears up.

Tips for Decorating a Dorm

Getting the right measurements are key to decorating a dorm. Find out how much wall space you'll have and the dimensions of your dresser and desk. This will help you select pieces that add style and serve their function without cramping the area. Always leave yourself room to write and spread out study books, spots to hang jackets with removable wall hooks, and some open space to help create an airy feel.

More tips for decorating a dorm room include:

  • Pick a Color Palette. Hues of the same color or complementary shades on the color wheel create a look that's pulled together. Add a pop color here and there for something different.
  • Talk to Your Roommate. Most colleges put new roommates in contact with each other before school begins. Returning students can often put in roommate requests. Definitely chat with them before you go all-out with a design scheme. If they have something totally different in mind, your individual spaces may clash. It's best to get on the same page ahead of time. For things like curtains and area rugs, decide together.
  • Select Textures for the Space. Do you want satin pillowcases? Or 100% cotton sheets and comforters? Perhaps a shag rug? What about table lamps with crystal-esque shades? Maybe you love shiny, or perhaps you love neutral tones and texture.

These are all things to remember when shopping for your new dorm décor ideas. However, remember, the sky is your limit. As long as you have enough room to move about, store your items, and keep some open space, you're good to go. Have fun decorating your college dorm, and have a great year!

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About Our Blog

When it comes to home decor inspiration, we think our shoppers have the best ideas! We have a passion for the unique and beautiful - whether it's decor, food, or furnishings. You'll find simple, inspired ideas to enhance your home and excite your family from real Old Time Pottery fans. Browse all of the looks from Instagram and Pinterest to others' #otpstyle, and use the hashtag to show off your own styles.