Dorm room decorating 101

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

By Debbie Arrington
Sacramento Bee
It may be small (and shared). But for at least one academic year, for thousands of college students, it’s home.
Over generations, the dorm room hasn’t gotten bigger. But the amount of must-have stuff — including technology — that needs to squeeze into that space has morphed into a much longer list.
“All our rooms now have Wi-Fi access and satellite TV packages,” said Peggy Luers, coordinator for housing administration at California State University, Sacramento. “That was not an option when I was in school.”
“Students need to be aware that the space they’re moving into is probably smaller than they’re used to — and they’re sharing,” Luers said. “Don’t bring everything all at once. You don’t want a crowded room. You need a place to study.”
Each college has its own variations of dorm do’s and don’ts with some constants. No nails in the walls. No painting. No pets (except maybe fish).
But that leaves plenty of decorating options.
Major companies have taken notice, fulfilling dorm needs as part of their teen marketing. According to retailers, the average incoming college freshman will spend more than $900 this year to outfit a dorm room.
For example, Bed, Bath & Beyond partnered with Sacramento State to create sample dorm rooms for prospective students and their parents to tour. Target carries XL twin bedding and Room Essentials foldable furniture. Tuesday Morning made dorm living key to its back-to-school push.
Catering to this youth market, Pottery Barn offers the PBdorm line.
“The PBdorm line is a little more sophisticated,” said Nancy Guettier, vice president of visual merchandizing for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen. “The colors are more muted; a lot of plum and gray.”
Dirt is an important consideration. Dorm life means laundry.
Said Luers, “My advice to parents: Teach your teens how to do laundry before they arrive in the dorms.”
Distinctive linen patterns or colors can help roommates tell items apart. PBteen also offers a monogram service for its linens.
Bedding and towels start the list of must-have dorm items. Pillows (especially an oversized back-rest variety) are a plus. “Your bed is not only a bed, but also your couch and study spot,” Luers said.
Most dorm rooms come in basic off-white. Area rugs are another way to add a splash of color and personalize its small space.
Extra seating welcomes friends who stop by. That’s where beanbags and collapsible chairs come in.
Lighting is important, particularly for study time. Consider task lights for desks or clip-on fixtures for reading in bed.
To keep clutter under control, maximize the dorm room’s small space with organizers, another product area that’s expanded greatly in recent years.
On the walls, poster putty and removable adhesive allow students to put up decorations and practical bulletin boards without messing up the paint.
A well-equipped dorm room needs a mini-fridge, microwave and television, but not two. That’s another area where technology comes in.
“In years past, you didn’t know anything about your roommate until you got here,” Luers said. “Now, you can coordinate colors if you want to. You avoid duplication. That means less stuff that Mom and Dad will have to lug back home with them.”
Dorm Room 101
• Read the rules. Every college has its own handbook for student residents. Look online for a copy.
• Start with the bed. Most dorms provide extra-long twins. That means you’ll need XL twin sheets (preferably two sets). Other standard twin bedding (such as blankets, quilts and duvets) will fit the XL beds. Get a good mattress pad.
• When shopping for linens, get two sets of towels. Label or monogram linens to avoid roommate confusion.
• Organize from the beginning. By giving everything its own place, you get more space.
• Make room for school supplies and a place to study with a good task light. After all, that’s why you’re here.
• Think vertically. Claim the wall space. Use hanging storage in the closet. Get stuff off the floor and the room will seem larger.
• Get a good power strip. Outlets are limited. Your gadgets will need a charging dock, too.
• The item most students forget when they move into the dorms? Coat hangers. Other must-have basics: Laundry basket, detergent, shower caddy and shower shoes.
• Bring something that reminds you of home, such as a family photo.
• Don’t try to stock up supplies for an entire academic year. You won’t have enough room for that much bottled water and shampoo.
• Make room for snacks as well as items for in-room dining such as plates, cups and silverware.
• Small microwave ovens are another popular option for in-room dining, but no items with heat coils are allowed. Forget the deep fryer.