Dorm Sweet Dorm! – On the House

Dorm Sweet Dorm!

By on September 16, 2015

It’s back-to-school for scores of college students and with that come a kaleidoscope of emotions and expectations, not the least of which involves one’s habitat.

Though some 30 years later, we vividly remember cramming our then 11-year-old Buick with all of our worldly belongings and sharing a tearful farewell with our folks. In retrospect, we believe that our tears had less to do with separation anxiety and more to do with the thought of sharing a dorm room that was slightly larger than our bedroom at home. Adding to the stress was the anticipation of where to put everything and how we could go about making the space our own. Would our roommate be a ‘meticulous Felix Unger’ or ‘sloppy Oscar Madison?’ Ironically, less critical was any trepidation that we may have been feeling as regards to the academic demands that lay ahead.

Upon arrival at school, we discovered that our overflowing car was the rule and not the exception. A desk lamp, a small television, a stereo (combo 8-trac-phonograph-radio), an alarm clock, a piece or two of furniture, clothing, school supplies, linens, a pillow and a few other odds and ends seemed to fill every square inch of that old Buick. We weren’t alone. The parking lot just outside the dorm looked like one big swap meet!

Our dorm room consisted of vinyl tile flooring, acoustic ceiling tile, off-white walls, two small closets, matching built-in dresser-desk combos and two desk chairs. There were two twin beds, a large window with vintage plastic accordion-style window covering and a ceiling mounted fluorescent light fixture. Needless to say, the decorating possibilities were endless.

Fortunately, our roommate had essentially the same ‘middle-of-the-road’ organizational outlook and neatness temperament, thus, the prospect of making our place ‘dorm sweet dorm’ grew increasingly more positive.

Some of the steps that we took to personalize the space then can well be applied today. With increased flexibility from school housing officials and the array of electronics, gizmos and gadgets, a dorm room can make for, errr, one ‘hip crib.’

First, luggage can have a dual purpose. A suitcase can double as a great night stand and, at the same time, act as a terrific source of storage. In addition, a sturdy trunk placed at the end of a bed can act as a neat occasional table for books, magazines, blankets or even as a TV stand. As with the night stand, the trunk can also double as an excellent source of storage.

In our day, cement blocks and boards made an excellent bookshelf/entertainment center. However, the blocks grew increasingly cumbersome by senior year and today, most dorm rooms don’t have the space to accommodate for such. Today, a better alternative consists of small stackable plastic hollow plastic cubes. They are both decorative and offer lots of storage space. Besides, the need for lots of shelving for a stereo, speakers, etc. no longer exists with today’s modern electronics.

A notebook computer has, more than any other single factor, changed the space and appearance of a dorm room. For many, the computer has replaced TV as the primary source of visual entertainment. It has also done away with the need for 8-tracs, cassettes, the vinyl LP and even compact discs – and more importantly, the need to store them. Plus, once huge audio speakers are now either built into the computer of consist of small space-efficient cubes. A notebook, digital music player and cell phone have done loads to eliminate dorm room clutter and give students the best that technology has to offer to assist them with their studies.

Linens and bedding can play a BIG part in the appearance of a dorm room. It’s okay to use the standard issue housing white sheets, but mix things up a bit with a colorful comforter and pillow case. Consider an inexpensive blanket to add yet more color and texture – and warmth when you need it!

Bean bags were big in our time. Almost every dorm room had one. Today, a chic and colorful alternative are a mix of colorful pillows that consist of different shapes, sizes and fabrics. They are inexpensive and, when scattered around a bed – especially one that is placed long-ways against a wall – can be as useful as they are attractive.

You can warm up an old tired-looking and cold vinyl floor with an inexpensive carpet remnant, area rug or a couple of colorful throw rugs. Since retro is in, the shaggier the rug the better!

Posters, pennants, photos of family and friends, and cheap artwork have been the dorm room decorating standard for years. They continue to be as popular today as they were when they covered our walls AND ceiling.

Thus far, our decorating suggestions have had minimal impact on your pocketbook and will leave the space pretty much as you found it. If your decorating sense leaves you longing for more, then a trip to the local home center may be just the trick! Note: Be certain to check with the housing department with regard to what you can and can’t do to alter the appearance of the space.

Some of the things that you can do include:
Paint – an accent color on one wall; window and/or door trim can give the space a big boost. Use water-base paint for ease of application and cleanup and less fumes.
Paneling – inexpensive faux wood paneling along one wall or as a wainscot with chair rail can give the space a real ‘homey’ feel. Use super duty double stick tape to fasten the material to the walls to prevent making nail holes that must later be repaired. Use a hair dryer to remove the tape at year end.
Window Treatment – installing your own ready-made, cut to fit window treatment can give the space pizzazz and help block out light so that you can sleep late after, err, studying into the wee hours of the morning.
Appliances – a small microwave and a mini refrigerator have become ‘standard equipment’ for dorm rooms. Be sure that there is plenty of ventilation for both to keep them operating efficiently.
Closet Organization – we have yet to hear of anyone complain of having too much storage. An inexpensive do-it-yourself closet organization system will maximize the amount of wardrobe storage space, possibly eliminating the need for a chest of drawers, thus creating more floor space in the room. Perhaps a place for your bean bag chair.
A Potted Plant – a little greenery can camouflage a blemished wall and can add a bit of beauty.

Now that you’re comfy, it’s time to crack the books, get to class and improve the ‘space’ that’s between your ears!

For more home improvement tips and information search our website at or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.

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