Dorm Room Decor 101

If you have a child about to graduate from high school, at this point, you are probably just wanting to get through graduation and after that, you are envisioning a magical summer full of fun and relaxation. News flash…moving you precious child into the dorm and dropping them off at college is coming like a freight train. The earlier you start to gather things together, the easier move in day and just drop off in general will be. My oldest child is a rising junior in college. So, I have been right where you are and know what an exciting, emotional and bittersweet time this can be. Let me help you with a check list and give you a few ideas so that you can make their home away from home a place that they will be proud of and that you will feel good about. There is something comforting about picturing them in a room that you lovingly put together. Of course, it will likely never look as good as it did the day you dropped them off, but still you will have that heartwarming daydream.

My oldest child is a girl and the planning of the room was elaborate. When my son goes to college in a little over a year, he definitely won’t care about the decor, but there are things we will do to make sure his room is snug and homey. Boy moms don’t despair! This post still applies to you. However, because I have only dropped off a girl, my photos are all girly.

Dorm Room Decor 101

Must Haves

Before you start planning, check the school’s website. Usually, the dorm floor plans, complete with measurements and rules on what you can and can’t do are easy to find.

  • Mattress cover/dust mite protector

  • Some kind of topper - think memory foam

  • Two sets of sheets. Be sure to check, but most dorm beds are XL Twin or XL Full

  • 3-4 sets of colored towels. I sent my daughter with fluffy white ones and threw them away after the first year.

  • Comforter/Duvet

  • Dust skirt - a must since you will be hiding lots under the bed

  • Husband type (prop up) pillow or shams

  • small rug

  • bucket for shower supplies - if bath is community

  • Under bed storage containers - the ones on wheels from the container store are great especially if you can’t raise your bed. If they allow you to raise the bed, this is an excellent kit.

  • small stick vacuum

  • full length over the door mirror - the ones with a cork frame are fun

  • desk light , clip light, puck lights that can be attached to underside of hutch type shelf

  • desk hutch - it’s cumbersome and a pain to transport, but they will really appreciate having this

some kind of pin board

  • If they share a bathroom make sure they have gotten with the new roommate before and decided who would bring…shower curtain, rings, bath mat etc.

  • charging station/plug strip

  • laundry bin /dirty clothes bag- go ahead an put a bag of detergent pods and some dryer sheets in the bottom so everything is there when they need it

  • Some bleach cleaning wipes, gloves and a toilet brush with disposable cleaning tips - whether they use it or not, at least you have left them with the supplies

  • Lots and Lots of Command strips and hooks.

  • over the door shoe storage

TIP: If they don’t have one already, set up an Uber/Lyft account and tell them not to hesitate to use it in a pinch. This has nothing to do with decor, I just think it is important.

TIP: They tend to want to take ALL of their clothes - DO NOT. The key to a tidy room is not overpacking it (think Marie Kondo) with a bunch of clothes that they won’t even wear until the second semester. Keep closets seasonal. You can always mail them stuff if you need to.

How To Make It Pretty


The image above is from Room 422. They offer a wide variety of beautiful soft goods to take your room to the next level.

Dorm Room Decor 101

Now on to the fun part! Dorm rooms are not what they were when I went to school and neither is the decor. There are companies such as Pottery Barn Dorm, Room 422 and Dorm-Decor dedicated to turning dorm rooms into havens. While heading to college is exciting, for many kids its their first time really being away from home. Having a special place to go to after a long day can make all the difference.


Add a headboard. These are usually no more than a box cushion in the width of a twin or full mattress. The following is one that I had made for my daughter’s room her freshman year. We stuck it on the wall with A LOT of heavy duty double sided tape. Her room had an XL full bed. That is why this one looks bigger than some.

Dorm Room Decor 101
Dorm Room Decor 101

Wall Art

You are definitely going to want to put stuff on the walls. Most schools have their own set of rules so just be sure to follow policy. In general, you will be using a lot of command strips and double sided tape.

The photo collage pictured below is from Etsy’s 527 photo. They have lots of options that are beautiful and very reasonably priced.

Dorm Room Decor 101

Dust Skirt

A dust skirt will cover up all of the storage under the bed! This is a must, but be prepared to be creative when installing it you will not have your standard box spring/mattress situation. Most beds will have some form of platform to support the mattress. Here is a video demonstration from Dorm Decor on how to install “tie on” bed panels.

Dorm Room Decor 101

More lovely inspiration from Room 422

Window Treatments

Add some window treatments. Most rooms will come with mini blinds that offer privacy and light control, but adding a set of curtain panels will add color and personality. Hang them using 3 heavy duty command strip hooks and a light weight curtain rod. The pair below are so simple to make. Sew a rod pocket across the top of a with of 54” fabric. Next, band the remaining 3 sides with Wright’s double fold bias tape. You can even attach the band with fabric glue.

Dorm Room Decor 101

Additional Seating

It’s always nice to have a bean bag or some kind of additional seating in the room.

Dorm Room Decor 101

Millie was really sad to see this go to college.

I hope this post has provided you some helpful tips and inspiration to get you started. Good luck and thanks so much for reading.