Small Space? Tight Budget? Welcome to University!

Small Space? Tight Budget? Welcome to University!

If you’re like me, one of the most exciting parts of going away to university was the opportunity to have a space that was completely my own. I couldn’t wait to have all my new friends over for movie nights, late night cram sessions and random hangouts. But moving away to university usually means heading to a new city, province or maybe even country all alone, and that can be scary. Thankfully, with a bit of planning you can ease some of that worry by taking steps to make sure your new room feels like home while reflecting your personality and individuality with some of these easy and inexpensive dorm room decor ideas.

 Furniture: typically, dorm rooms are all set up the same way – bed, desk, closet, dresser and sometimes, if you’re lucky, a chair. As long as the furniture isn’t attached to the wall don’t hesitate to move things around! Changing the layout of a room is sometimes the easiest and most budget-friendly way to make a space your own. It can also help make the room feel bigger, let in more light and optimize space. Once you have your room set up the way you want you can decide if there’s anything else you want to buy or bring in from home.

 Detail of modern interior with sansevieria plant in a clay pot.Plants: real or fake, greenery is a great way to add some life to your dorm room. Find or DIY a funky vase or pot and add any type of flower, cactus or plant you like. If being responsible for the life of a plant has you nervous, bamboo is always a great choice; it doesn’t need a lot of water or sunlight and most importantly it’s incredibly hard to kill. It’s also available at most grocery stores with floral departments as well as IKEA. Fake flowers are another good option. Though some can be quite pricey, dollar stores and other retailers like Walmart have a large and budget-friendly selection.

Colour: colour is the easiest way to personalize your space. Whether it’s with your bedspread, throw pillows or decorations, colour is the ultimate mood booster. The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of vibe you want your room to have. Calm and mellow? Why not try lighter colours with touches of green or yellow? Upbeat? Go for bright yellows, reds or blues. Go-to hangout spot? Have fun with patterns and bright colours. If you want the flexibility to change things up depending on the season, go for neutral tones and then play with your décor. To help keep costs down, host a DIY night for friends or have a décor swap in your building. Have a roommate? Why not try and coordinate. This can help your room appear larger and less scattered. Whatever colour scheme you choose, nothing is permanent and as your style changes, so can your room.

Photos: pictures are a perfect personal touch to make any new living space feel like home. Whether they’re photos of friends, family, pets or travel, they will add colour to your walls and act as great conversation starters while you’re getting to know people in your dorm. Some residences have rules about what you can and can’t hang on your walls but there are lots of easy and cost effective ways to get creative.

  • Picture clothesline – hang your photos out to dry…or at least for everyone to see, using rope, twine, string or yarn and tiny clothespins to show off your favourite photos. Tape or nail each end of the rope to the wall above your bed or desk and then attach photos with a clothespin.

Blank photos hanging on a clothesline over brick wall background with copy space

  • Gallery wall – this is a fun way to display your pictures and postcards but buying all those frames can be expensive, so why not make your own frames with Washi tape? Similar to masking tape, it comes in a variety of fun colours and patterns and won’t leave any residue on your walls – giving you the creative freedom to change things up whenever you want.

  • DIY Collage – so many photos and so little space? Make your own photo collage out of foam or cork board and double-sided tape. Start by painting the board whatever colour you’d like your background to be. Once it’s dry, measure out how much space you’d like in between each picture and then attach them using double-sided tape. (still sourcing image)

However you decide to decorate your dorm room, just make sure to have fun with it. University is your chance to figure out who you are, what you like and what you don’t like – your style is an expression of that.



Are you living away from home for the first time? How are you decorating your dorm room and do you have any favourite DIY projects to share?