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Easy Steps on How to Decorate College Dorm Room

These easy steps on how to decorate college dorm room will equip you with what you need for that home away from home. Get tips and style suggestions from a former college student who knows what it's like to make your first big move.

How to decorate college dorm 2023

As soon as I figured out where I was going to college and we had a dorm set I couldn't wait to decorate with my best friend. We picked out matching comforter sets and brought all the college essentials based on what we thought we would need.

We didn't have a dorm room checklist but our moms helped us think through what we might need. But you don't have to take the chance because after living in a dorm here are easy steps on how to decorate a college dorm room.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission if you purchase using the links below at no extra cost to you. All opinions are all my own.

How to Decorate College Dorm Room

There are so many exciting things ahead of you as you venture off to college. As you graduate high school and enter into your “freedom” of schooling, moving into a dorm is not only fun but something long-awaited, however, it can also be a little challenging.

But, fear not! We are here to give you some college decorating tips and tricks to help you pull off any style of college dorms! Before you know it the school year will have just begun.

These are simple steps that will help guide you in following what dorm room essentials you might need depending on your space. Which by the way is not much space. I wanted to break the essentials down into more detail in order to help you through the process of decorating your room. Let's start with determining your style.

How to Decorate College Dorm Room FAQs:

How Do I Decorate a College Dorm Room?

Decorating a dorm room may seem a little bit daunting but I've broken it down into 6 easy steps.

  • Determine your Style
  • Make a College Dorm Room Checklist (hint – you'll find one below!)
  • Where to Shop for your College Dorm Room
  • Create your Dorm Room Design Plan
  • Dorm Room Staging
  • College Move In Day

Keep reading for our best ideas.

Where are the Best Places to Shop for a College Dorm Room?

Amazon, Pottery Barn, Target, and Walmart are great places to start your shopping. It's a great idea to ask for some help. You can even make a wish list so your parent, grandparents, or anyone who want to get you something can pick from your list.

Step 1: Determine Your Style

Determining your style is a great way to begin, depending upon your space you might have the opportunity to decorate in a big way or learn how to simplify but also keep it a pleasant living space. It is a good idea to use simple decorations because the majority of rooms don't have a lot of living space.

Go to Pinterest and start pinning cute dorm ideas that you really like. I have a board of bedroom ideas on Pinterest you can look through or search for dorm decor ideas.

Have fun and pin away!

When you're finished and you have revisited the ideas you pinned, look for a common theme and that is your style.

In our case, we decided to go with an elegant, crisp, crafted, white, neutral, and gray look. Here is a photo we found that was the foundation for our inspiration. A neutral color scheme is popular among college students.

Neutral color scheme college dorm room idea.  Inspiration photo from Pottery Barn of a white trunk
Photo courtesy: Pottery Barn Teen

Step 2: College Dorm Room Checklist

The next step in dorm room styling is your checklist. Since we have already created a list for you, this is the simple part!

Feel free to add or take away from this list, but this gives you a great place to start.

  1. Comforter set
  2. Twin extra-long sheets (many dorms have twin xl so make sure to check with them)
  3. Pillows
  4. Pillowcase
  5. Memory foam pad
  6. Decorative pillow
  7. Throw blanket
  8. Rug
  9. Towels
  10. Bath mat
  11. Mini Refrigerator
  12. Coffee pot
  13. Microwave
  14. Coffee cup
  15. Mirror hanging over the door
  16. Key hook
  17. Crates
  18. Art, Monogram or Tapestry
  19. String lights, fairy lights or curtain lights
  20. Utility Cart
  21. Fresh Wave
  22. Projector (optional)
  23. Command hooks
  24. Desk lamp
  25. School supplies
  26. Wall decor like wall art, posters, tapestries, removable wallpaper, photo wall pictures
  27. Storage ottoman for extra storage space (optional)
  28. Bedside table if your dorm doesn't provide one
  29. Organizational pieces like drawer dividers (a cheap place to look for these is the Dollar Tree)
  30. Desk organizers

Step 3: Where to Shop for your College Dorm Room

how to decorate college dorm with pottery barn
Photo courtesy: Pottery Barn Teen

Now you're probably wondering why I suggest Amazon, out of all the millions of places out there. Well, mainly because it saves loads of time and is very easy. Plus, Amazon has just about everything you will ever want since many companies you love selling on Amazon too!

Pottery Barn is another favorite because they are usually spot on when it comes to trends. Target and Walmart have some of the best essentials at great prices and for most of us we have these stores nearby for easy pick up.

Step 4: How to Decorate Your Dorm Room Design Plan

Next, start with the one item that has the most patterns. You might find that because dorms do not allow you to paint, you will want some type of accent colors or staple pieces for your small or large space. You can also consider temporary wallpaper. If your comforter has the most design, begin by purchasing your bedding then select everything else from that color scheme.

Remember, I recommend shopping at Amazon, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, and Target. Look at this cute lamp they have at Pottery Barn. Not only would this lamp be great for late night study sessions, but it would also add a pop of color to your space. They have the best dorm room ideas and dorm room decorations.

And they also have amazing bedding for guys and girls. This bedding set is perfect for a guy's dorm room.

When searching the Pottery Barn site, check out their white bedding sets for girls. With a white bed set, it will allow you to add accent colors but have a simplistic look to it.  

This dorm room bed gives a neutral color palette for men who want to keep it subtle yet sophisticated for any type of college student.

Shop the post:

Step 5: Dorm Room Staging

Once you have all your items, it's time to give them a dress rehearsal!

Take everything you have purchased and try to see how it goes together.  It's better to try it out now than when you get to your new dorm room. Plus, you can experience that new dorm feeling before you even get to your dorms.  And truth be told it is a whole lot of fun.

Step 6: College Move In Day

Before you begin, use some odor removing spray on the mattress, let it sit for a few minutes, and then apply your memory foam. Here is a recipe for a homemade mattress spray or there are great products available to purchase.

I recommend the Fresh Wave.  It is an all-natural product made with oils and water so you don't have to worry about breathing in severe chemicals which will help if you are in a small space, and it's perfect for when you feel your sheets need freshening up.

The other items, like the trash can pods, that will come in your kit are ideal for everyday use. With a small space to live in for the next year or more, you will find the pods to come in very handy when your fast food is left in the trash one too many days.

Cute Dorm Ideas Fresh Wave

Once you have disinfected your room, start decorating with all your fun decorations.

Dorm Room Design Ideas

Here is one of our favorite examples of a girl's dorm room decorated by tapestry girls. What cute dorm room ideas, and we have many more in our chic girl's dorm room decor post.

If you want to add some excitement and mood to your room, you can add curtain lighting to give it that fun hangout spot vibe for your freshman year of college!

But this year, cottagecore or vintage aesthetic is trending along with dopamine decor. I have pulled together a design plan of what is trending, along with links to all the products.

College decor 2023 cottagecore vintage cottage aesthetic

To learn more about these college decor and dorm decor items simply click the links below.

Shop the College Decor Design Plan


Congratulations! Your dorm room will look beautiful because you have done your homework. Before you know it, the big day will come and don't be surprised if you are nervous.

My advice is to go with the flow. The vision you have in your head is probably going to turn out a little different, so go with it and enjoy every moment. I hope this how to decorate college dorm room tutorial has gotten you excited to start planning and shopping.

If you need more inspiration, try my college dorm decor ideas, guy's dorm room decor ideas, and college dorm checklist of all checklists.

Do you have experience decorating a dorm room or are you about to? I'd love to hear your ideas and how it's going!

Happy Decorating!

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