Dorm decor gets serious this fall
There are easy ways to turn functional into personal Thursday, August 31, 2017
When Young Huh left for college in the 1980s, she brought “one giant poster of The Cure, bedding from the local bedand-bath store and maybe some desk accessories.” Like so many Gen-Xers, her one creative touch was asking a supermarket for leftover milk crates to use as bookshelves.
Now an interior designer, she has helped her own children decorate their dorm rooms, and she’s amazed at the design expectations among college students.
“It’s a level of decorating that did not even exist in my world view when I was in school,” Huh says. Today, there are lots of products “that cater entirely to the college crowd,” she says.
Interior designer Jon Call sees the same phenomenon: While his main business is designing luxury homes in Manhattan, he also gets asked to design college living spaces. “This new generation has grown up under the influence of home magazines, HGTV and the virtues of ‘democratic design.’ They understand the value of creating unique spaces for themselves,” he says. They want their dorm rooms “not only to function, but also to reflect who they are.”
We’ve asked Huh, Call and small-space design expert Theodore Leaf, host of the Design Network series Living Big in Under 1,000 Sq. Ft., for advice on infusing a college dorm room with style and personality, while keeping budget and function in mind.
Choose your vision As with any design project, Huh recommends beginning with an overall vision for the space. “Is it all one colour and soothing? Is it boho and eclectic? Are you going for pink extravaganza? Clip some pictures or start a Pinterest page,” she says.
Then, choose a focal point for the room, something you would like to see every day. “It could be your bed with an oversize art work or a fun suzani wall hanging over it,” Huh says. “Having something overscaled or very interesting to look at distracts the eye and makes you forget the size of the space.”
If your focal point includes saturated, dramatic colour, it will also help disguise the fact that a room is small.
“This could be a red bed in an otherwise neutral room,” Call explains. “It allows the eye to focus on one thing and the defining walls to disappear.”
Call also suggests adding a beautiful headboard to the existing bedframe, elevating the look of basic dorm furniture.
Another trick: Keep your colour scheme to just three colours to help make a small space feel bigger, and “focus on fewer pieces of furniture at a larger scale,” Call says.
To create an inviting and functional living space in a college dorm, add some extra seating for friends who may visit, says interior designer Jon Call. “Nothing makes a room feel smaller than guests awkwardly standing in a room,” he says. Below: Call suggests adding a headboard to the existing bed frame and investing in distinctive bedding.
small-space specialties Leaf says the few furniture pieces you bring should do double-duty, such as a storage ottoman large enough to function as a mini coffee table or as seating.
Call agrees: “Your end table may have a drawer that is outfitted with chargers and cords to make it an electronics station. Your bed could have bolsters on it to convert it into a daybed for additional seating.”
Huh suggests adding a loft to lift the bed, or at least adding risers to create under-bed storage space.
You can also use window draperies to make the room seem larger. Dorm rooms often come with vertical blinds, Leaf says, and you can transform the look by adding inexpensive sheer curtains hung high on a tension rod over the blinds. To make it even more dramatic, use a larger rod (even a tension rod made for a shower curtain) and run the sheers across an entire wall.