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Dorm Tour + 10 Steps to a Stylish Bedroom

Dorm Tour + 10 Steps to a Stylish Bedroom

What does spending all summer addictively reading interior design blogs get you? A transformed sensibility, a college dorm that looks like this, and the following list. Whether you’re designing a bedroom from scratch or just reenergizing your space, these ten renter- and wallet-friendly tricks can transform your bedroom into a retreat you’re happy to call home.

1. Frame your bed.

You don’t need a headboard to make your bed a focal point. Using colored pillowcases for your backmost pillows and using a neutral palette for the rest of your sheets creates a similar effect to that of a headboard, especially if you use stiff pillows and prop them up. (Thank you to Megan Pflug of Weekend Decorator for the inspiration.) You can add further visual weight to the head of your bed by using throw pillows and wall art.

2. Print your own wall art.

Thrift stores sell SO MANY frames, usually containing ugly or faded artwork. Find frames you like, and replace them with your own photos or extra-large images you find on advanced Google search. The cloud painting above my bed came from Wikipedia. I like to order prints from Walgreens/Duane Reade, who will print 24″x36″ posters for $15-30, depending on their promotions. For full instructions, check out my post on DIY wall prints.

3. Make heavy use of Command strips.

If you use enough of them, Command strips can hold up some seriously heavy wall art. The piece hanging above my bed weighs a little under twenty pounds, and I mounted it using the largest strips, which can allegedly hold up to 16 pounds, by using more strips than were recommended.

4. Arrange your room into distinct areas.

My bedroom is divided into the bed area, the sitting area (where you see the rocking chair and stump), and the work area. You can create divisions using small area rugs, by grouping your furniture, by using curtains on suspension rods as room dividers, and by adding task lighting.

5. Buy plants.

Plants are one of the least expensive sculptural pieces available, and they add an energy and vibrancy to a space in a way only living things can. I have found palm plants, especially the majestic palm, to be the most difficult to kill.

6. Upgrade your lighting.

Rentals and dorms generally come with insufficient, industrial lighting. Get some lamps, and outfit them with warm light bulbs. It makes such a difference.

7. Play with texture.

Combining textures creates excitement in your design, and, unlike many other strategies, is just as effective in a small space as in a large one.

8. Create moments. 

Also described as staging vignettes, all this really means is placing the items you own in such a way that they thematically speak to each other, graphically complement each other, or turn an otherwise forgotten corner of the room into something that makes you smile.

9. Frequent thrift stores, and be patient.

Almost everything in this room came from a thrift store or a yard sale. What you can find second-hand is almost always more interesting, more beautiful, and less expensive than what you would buy at a department store. The primary trick to thrifting is to visit often, preferably on days after restocking, and to live with empty space in your home until you find the perfect piece to fill it. (A great article on the importance of patience here.)

10. Keep it tidy!

Not to sound like my mother, but she was totally right when she told me when I was little, “You can do all the room makeovers in the world, but none of it will matter if it’s covered in piles of crap.” Keeping your things in order and free of dust and crumbs will make all your design work shine and make your bedroom feel like a true retreat. (For more on the importance of tidiness, read this manifesto by Marie Kondo.)

What design rules do you live by?