Decorating a Fabulous Freshman Dorm Room

Date
Aug, 28, 2019

pretty gray and pink dorm roomHome Away From Home

Going back to school can be an exciting and anxious time of year. The start of the school year brings excitement of a fresh start with new friends, new classes, new responsibilities and a new living space! I am so happy to share with you how we transformed my daughter Chloe’s dorm room at Ithaca College from boring and bland to freshman fab. Let’s take a peak at her new HOME away from home. 

a freshman dorm room makeover in Hilliard Hall at Ithaca College College Decor

 Where do you start when decorating a dorm room? Dorm room decor has come a long way since I was in college. I had a few milk crates for storage, hung up a tapestry and called it a day.  Thinking back, I have had the best time designing all of Chloe’s rooms. Her college dorm room wasn’t going to be an exception.  Little did I know that I would have just as much fun as her shopping for college dorm decor. Here’s what we saw when we opened the door at Hilliard Hall. It was a far cry from her room at home. 

ithaca college dorm room makeover the before picture of a bland room Finding Your Look

The first thing I asked Chloe was “What look do you want to go for?  Bohemian? Preppy? Chloe and her roommate Sophie decided on a monochromatic theme. Gray, white, & gold  with pops of blush and turquoise for accents. We filled up just about three full carts at HomeGoods. We didn’t want to take away from the excitement of dorm room shopping for Sophie. There was plenty of FaceTiming and texting while shopping so that Sophie had an input on the design. Turquoise, pink and gold bedrooms are some of my favorite combinations!

SHOP CHLOE’s ROOM 

closet spring curtain rod | closet white grommet curtains  |  Gray upholstered headboard | faux fur blankets | similar fur desk chair | sherpa desk chair | Twin XL 500 TC blush Sheets | similar blush and gray striped comforter set

Fuzzy blush pillows | storage ottomans | stylish collapsable hamper  | rolling cart |  small closet bins | under bed storage | shower caddy organizer |  dorm door letter board   

what to buy when shopping for a dorm roomDorm Tricks & Tips

Painting Dorm Room Walls

I have to be honest. When I first saw the room I thought how in the heck can I pull this off? There were restrictions with the Resident Housing Department. We couldn’t remove any of the furniture from the room or hang anything from the ceiling, nor nail or drill into the walls. However, we could paint the walls with an approved color.  BINGO!  First off was painting the hospital cream colored cinder block walls Sherwin Williams Reflection (SW7661). pretty bedding for a dorm room, gray and blush twin bedding

Twinkle Lights

There are so many battery operated twinkle strand lights in the stores and online for under $10. These thin lightweight strands make the perfect nightlights. They can be hung with Command Strips and serve dual purpose as a photo gallery. 

hanging twinkle picture light strands in a dorm roomDorm Room Bed Hacks

The beds looked like separated bunkbeds. There was nothing appealing about them and we certainly couldn’t paint them. LOL!  Let’s be honest, even though the girls had desks teens prefer studying sitting up in bed. They needed a sturdy headboard to lean up against. These dark gray linen tufted twin sized headboards would do the trick. Because we couldn’t screw them into the bed we attached them with several heavy duty zip ties on both sides and the headboard sat perfectly on top. For a bedskirt, I purchased a pair of inexpensive curtains and tucked them under the bed. So that they stayed at the right height we applied double stick tape and safety pinned them to the spring coils. 

tips and tricks to making a dorm room cozy by adding removable wallpaper, a headboard and bedskirt Removable Wallpaper 

Does removable wallpaper work? YOU BET! The closets were a big massive maple slab. Removable wallpaper has been popping up on my Instagram feed for over a year now and it was the time to try it out myself.  Chloe feel in love with a gray speckle paper from Livette’s Wallpaper. Livette’s site is filled with papers in gorgeous patterns and colors. The gray speckle pattern gave the girls room an added touch of whimsy without getting too busy. In fact, it made the room visually larger with it’s white background. I have NEVER attempted to put up wallpaper and this was surprisingly easy!  I plugged in my square footage online and Livette’s send the the paper in long sheets. This is nothing like contact paper that you buy in the stores. This is thick, easy to remove and does not crease. I was hooked! Livette's bohemian girls grey speckle removable wallpaper on a dorm room closet

Accent Pillows

How many accent pillows are too much? Well, that’s a loaded question. When shopping at HomeGoods we bought more than I thought we’d need. I wanted the bed to be more like a sofa. As we assembled the bed with all the varying colors and textures Chloe and Sophie decided to keep them all! As a special gift to make the beds more personalized I purchased two gray monogrammed pillows from EmbroideryDesignUltd. The dark gray pops against the sea of blush pillows.  This was a last minute idea and Cindy’s Etsy shop sent them within a week. We added a plush gray bed lounger pillow to make sitting up easier! monogram initial accent pillow in gray, blush, pink and whitegorgeous dorm room decorating ideas that make it cozy and feel like home

Baskets, Bins & Ottomans

Baskets and bins hold all of Chloe’s bulky sweaters, travel gear, and extra towels and bedding. Two gray upholstered tufted storage ottomans tuck neatly under this reclaimed wood and gold sofa table turned double nightstand, These lightweight ottoman are easy to move around and add more seating for visitors. 

decorating a dorm room with roommate and having matching bedding and decor

Two tall white lamps with pink watercolored shades were found in the clearance aisle of HomeGoods. Also on clearance was this sofa table. The reclaimed wood top and gold legs were perfect and the large drawers give the girls extra storage space for all their electronics and nighttime necessities. Any open bottom console or narrow table with drawers would work. using a sofa table as a night stand in a dorm room, creating a pretty vignette with a HomeGoods lampsharing the reclaimed wood and painted surface of a dorm room nightstandWe were ecstatic to fins Ithaca decor at HomeGoods. Chloe and Sophie are excited to explore Ithaca’s famous gorges. a painted ithaca is gorges sign from Homegoods with fresh flowers in a vintage vase

Closet Storage

We all know that teen girls have a lot of clothes. To make room for their new night stand we moved the dressers into the closet and added storage bins, shoe organizers, jewelry trays, make up containers and hooks to keep it all contained and organized. We added a simple spring rod and white grommet curtain panels keep all the clutter concealed. To see more of my favorite organizing finds head to my amazon Tools of the Trade page. 

 white and gray removable wallpaper from Livette's is put up on a closet and a chic organized college desk and coffee stationorganizing your dorm room closet in style with decorative baskets and storage bins

Rolling Carts & Desk Essentials

To the left of Chloe’s desk a rolling cart serves as a coffee station with the cutest stacking mugs. We packed the drawers with snacks, toiletries, and hair and makeup products.  We added gold desk accessories and a pivoting lamp with a USB charging port. Just above on the shelf we stocked apothecary jars with gold lids and glass canisters with coffee, tea pods and macaroons for late night study sessions.

using sheer curtains with grommets and a simple spring rod to cover up a closet doorhow to set up a college dorm room desk area with a coffee station and snacksMaking studying comfortable at your desk in a college freshman dorm room. how to make a desk in a college dorm room work for many tasks making a freshman college dorm room pretty and functional We added the Safavieh Valencia rug in gray with pops of pastel colors

Cozy Carpets

I have been drooling over these sun-washed carpets for a long time. When we saw the Safavieh Valencia gray carpet I knew it was the final piece that would tie the whole room together. An 8 by 10 fit under the bed and made the space seem larger.  The pattern, colors, durability and ability to hide all the traffic made this purchase a “no brainer!“

an upclose look at the Safavieh Valencia rug in gray with pastel colors.Studying in Style

It took us just under two days to get the room together. They were ready! The girls on the floor all came in to see the room. The RA Jamie said “I am sure this room is going to be a place where all the girls hang out in.” 
decorating the perfect dorm room with gray pink and white and still having space to entertain and study I feel better sending my “baby” off on a new adventure knowing that she has some of the comforts of home.  Saying so long was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I mean she never wanted to leave her bedroom at home!   Chloe’s been away for over a week now and we are counting the days to the next break when we all can be together again. I pretty sure she misses my mom’s home cooked meals the most! Thank goodness for texting and face timing. Love you Chloe Brown now go soar at Ithaca College! 

Ithaca college freshman in their sweatshirts holding up an ithaca is gorges wooden sign from HomeGoods

Pinning is Winning! Go ahead and pin your favorite images! 

all the little touches and decor that make a freshman door room cozy and inviting.

Sorority Living

Are you planning on living in a sorority next year? I have an amazing sorority room makeover that I did in just three days! 

How to decorate a dorm room and take it from drab to fab with decor and pictures from homeHigh School Send-off

I wanted to share this illustration from 3bearstudio that I commissioned for Chloe’s thank you cards. Just a few of her favorite things. Pittsford Sutherland Field Hockey, Ithaca College, Ice Cream from The Pittsford Farms Dairy and our beloved rescue dog Bo. Decorating her graduation cap was so much fun and the custom IC cookies from Wegmans went like hotcakes! going from Pittsford Sutherland Hight School graduation to a freshman at Ithaca College , decorating a graduation cap and grad cookie ideasa freshman dorm room makeover with before and after pictures

dorm room essentials list, checklist for going back to college

Download the Dorm Room Checklist.

Amazing photographs by Kristin Lynn Photography. 

38 Comments

  1. Reply

    Kristy

    August 29, 2019

    Amie! This room is so amazing… I wish I could go back to college and design my dorm room all over again, don’t you?!? Love the soft color palette – you are so talented!

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      August 31, 2019

      Thank you so much Kristy! Me too. We never really had much decor way back when! Hope you are enjoying the long weekend! xo

  2. Reply

    Kimberly

    April 9, 2020

    What great transformation!
    Where did you get the study definition wall decal?

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      April 10, 2020

      Hi Kimberly! I saw the quote online and custom made one to fit the soffit at Signs.com. It was very east to install. You can pick out your fonts, size, and color.

  3. Reply

    katie

    April 25, 2020

    what is the name of the rolling cart that you got? where can i get if from?

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      April 25, 2020

      HI Katie There is a link for the cart in my tools fo the trade list. Here it is https://amzn.to/2zv2CBx She stored all her snacks, cithcen stufff, toiletries, and so much more in there!

  4. Reply

    Phil

    May 16, 2020

    Great job Amie on Chloe’s room. How long did it take you to paint before you rearranged?
    How much were all the materials approximately, from soup to nuts?
    My daughter will attend Ithaca in the fall. Would you consider helping out with her room, provided the students are allowed on campus this fall?

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      May 16, 2020

      Hi Phil-It took Chloe and myself about 2 hours to paint before we started setting up. The hardest was getting the paint in all the nooks and crannies of the cinder block. Just a gallon of paint and supplies cost us under $100. Congratulations on your daughter! If you do paint you will need to get the paint color approved by the Resident life office. I am praying that these kids get back on campus this Fall! Feel free to email me at [email protected]

      • Reply

        Phil

        May 17, 2020

        Thank you Amie. Sent you an email.

  5. Reply

    Victoria

    May 26, 2020

    What is that type of bed called ???

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      May 26, 2020

      HI there Victoria- Its just a normal dorm room bead that has been elevated so that the students can store stuff underneath. Are you looking for the headboard? There is a link highlighted in the blog post.

      • Reply

        Victoria

        May 27, 2020

        I wanna buy that bed for my room, do you know where can I buy it or what is it called??

  6. Reply

    Michele

    June 26, 2020

    Looks amazing. 2nd time around decorating for my youngest who heads to college in August. What did you do with the desk chair that comes with the dorm room? Did you take them and store them at home? We’re out of state so no can do, but those chairs are always so gross-would love to get my daughter and her roomie nice chairs.

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      June 28, 2020

      We did have a space in the common area where we stored it. Also if they allow to raise the beds, hiding the chair underneath is a great solution. Also the closet. Not many college kids hang their clothes so it can act like another shelf to hold things…..

  7. Reply

    Pinky

    June 28, 2020

    Hi Amie. You did an incredible job with your daughter’s dorm. May I ask what brand the rolling cart is? Maybe I can find it that way. The link that you have provided takes you to a similar cart but not the same. The cart that the link takes you to is wider and the drawers are different sizes which my daughter doesn’t like. She LOVE’s how deep all of the drawers in your cart are and she like’s that they all look the same. Also the width of your cart would work beautifully in her very tiny dorm. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      June 29, 2020

      Hi there! I just looked and there is not one name or logo on the cart. I will continue to look for one similar. We did however still have the price tag on it and it was $79. and from HomeGoods. Now that they are open you may find one in the stores or online at TJMAxx.com? I will let you know if I find one!

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      July 2, 2020

      Hi Pinky! This one is thinner but has the same size drawers. Maybe it might be a better fit. https://amzn.to/2VCgGBu https://amzn.to/2ZsxjRb or this one https://amzn.to/3ims7qw. Good luck!

  8. Reply

    Paula Byrd

    July 1, 2020

    Amie, your daughter’s dorm room is adorable. I purchased the same Study quote from Signs.com because it’s the cutest thing ever! The installation video/directions look difficult for a decal that is that long. Did you cut into more manageable pieces or did you do it all in one strip? I don’t want to mess it up! Thanks so much.
    Paula

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      July 1, 2020

      Hi Paula! So awesome! No I did not cut it upon the beginning. I wanted to make sure the words were all level, straight and had the proper spacing. I did however use a 4 foot level to make sure everything was in the level and centered on the wall. Once I had it in the final spot I taped the top of the stencil and cut as I finished adhering the words. Does that make sense???

  9. Reply

    Paula Byrd

    July 2, 2020

    Yes, I think I understand. You taped it up like it says in the directions ( tape across the top like a “hinge”), then as you finished each word or two, you cut that off, and continued on till finished. Am I correct?

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      July 2, 2020

      Exactly! Send me a picture once you get it up! Would love to see it.

  10. Reply

    Pinky

    July 3, 2020

    Hi Amie,

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I did see that one on amazon but unfortunately I think the narrow one is too narrow on top. I’m not sure that it would fit the coffee machine and stacking mugs. I will check the measurements again. I will also go and check HomeGoods and TJ Max but if you happen to ever see one that is similar to your daughters, can you please send me an email? I really appreciate your help. I feel like i’m really over whelmed trying to decorate my daughter’s dorm without being able to see it through a school tour due to COVID. I know we only have one shot at move in day to get it right. Her college really doesn’t have much to go by virtually so I think i’ll have to buy extra things to see what fits and return what doesn’t. Thanks again 🙂

  11. Reply

    kelly

    July 21, 2020

    Absolutely gorgeous!!! How fun and fancy for creating a home away from home!

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      July 21, 2020

      Thanks Kelly! This year she is only allowed two bags and one backpack! UGH!

  12. Reply

    Kaitlyn Malone

    August 5, 2020

    im a incoming freshman who will be moving into Hilliard this fall! what room # was this?

  13. Reply

    Kaitlyn Malone

    August 9, 2020

    incoming freshman at IC! I’m staying in Hilliard! Do you know if they paint over the past walls after the previous students move out? I’m hoping to get a pre-painted room! I’m so excited!

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      August 9, 2020

      HI Kaitlyn! Chloe had room 207. Good luck this year!

  14. Reply

    Kris

    August 20, 2020

    Where is that desk chair from? I love it!

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      August 20, 2020

      Hi There Kris! The chair is from HomeGoods but I linked a very similar chair in the blog post. Look under SHOP CHLOE’S ROOM

  15. Reply

    Sandra Wagner

    August 20, 2020

    Hi Amie, great job with the room! My daughter is moving in next week, and your ideas are super helpful! While we did have 2 tours prior to COVID, we didnt get to actually see her bldg so not sure what we are working with 🙂 I only get one afternoon to make it wonderful!! Wish us luck!

    Thanks so much 🙂

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      August 20, 2020

      best of luck! Where is your daughter going to school?

  16. Reply

    Paula Byrd

    August 30, 2020

    Copied your idea for the “study decal” for my granddaughter’s dorm room at Baylor. It’s adorable and is a hit with the girls. I will try to send you a picture. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      August 31, 2020

      Thank you Paula for sharing! I am excited for her! Stay safe and healthy. Amie

  17. Reply

    Nicole

    August 31, 2020

    How did you mount the shelves to the cinderblock? Incredible room!

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      August 31, 2020

      HI Nicole! The shelves came already up in the room. Amie

  18. Reply

    Angie Berg

    November 15, 2020

    Super cute! My oldest will be going off to college next year. Her dorm room will be very similar to this one. How did the removable wallpaper do coming off? Was there much clean-up?

    • Reply

      memehillstudio

      November 15, 2020

      HI Angie! I am not going to lie it was tough to take it off. We did not put it on drywall so I dont know about that. We applied it to a wood closet. It did not damage anything! There were a few spots where the sticky stayed on and we easily removed it leaving the wood the way we found it when we moved in. Best of luck! Amie

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