Staying in a dorm is a core part of the iconic college experience, but there’s no denying that this space’s interior looks downright drab. However, there’s no need to resign yourself to occupying less-than-stylish digs for the next year or two.

From Boho to minimalism, options abound. You’ll find plenty of enticing home decor products at Pottery Barn, Amazon, and even your local thrift store.

To help you navigate this process, we’ve compiled a few of the best dorm room essentials to bring your space to life. This goes beyond the expected mini fridge to include throw blankets, twinkle lights, and storage ottomans. Keep reading to discover all the hottest hacks for leveling up your dorm room.


1. Declutter Your Dorm Room

It doesn’t matter which dorm room decorating ideas capture your attention — if you’re prone to clutter, your college dorm room will instantly look unappealing. Yes, staying organized can be tough when you live in such a small space, but this can actually serve as motivation to keep the clutter to a minimum.

Every few weeks, take an hour to sort through items you’ve acquired and determine which you actually need — and which take up precious space. Add a few minutes of cleanup to your daily routine, and you’ll be amazed at how much more refined your space seems.


2. Create a Photo Wall

It’s only natural for college students to feel nostalgic from time to time. While you may typically browse through old photos on Instagram, there’s something to be said for a photo wall that brings precious memories to life.

This is easy to create within your dorm room: use a bulletin board or wall hangings with clips. Choose a variety of pictures that reflect your life both before and during college. Print at least one in a larger size to create a focal point. 

Dorm room with a photo wall.

Dorm Room” by Running Wolves is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


3. Use Removable Wall Decor

If you’re on the hunt for a simple, yet visually effective solution that allows you to skip complicated command hooks, look no further than removable wallpaper, decals, or murals. These vibrant displays can be customized to reflect your personal interests or aesthetic preferences. They are easy to apply and even easier to remove. Best of all, they don’t leave residue behind, so there’s no need to worry about damaging the walls of your dorm room.

Removable wall decal of a dog.

4. Add Some Greenery

Research suggests that indoor plants have a positive impact on mental health. As a stressed college student, you can use all the help you can get — so why not add a few plants to the mix? Don’t worry if you typically struggle to care for houseplants; several types are incredibly easy to keep alive. Try ferns, cacti, or succulents, all of which will hold up to neglect.


5. Enhance the Lighting

If you rely on dorm lighting alone to brighten your space, you’re bound to be disappointed. Add your own lighting to enhance the most attractive areas of your room and draw attention away from spaces that are prone to clutter.

Start with a desk lamp, which should provide excellent lighting as you study. A reading light can be attached to your bed so you can remain immersed in the pages of a good book after your roommate has gone to sleep. Don’t forget purely decorative options such as string lights, which bring a touch of whimsy to your dorm.


6. Get the Right Bedding

The right sheets and duvet can make the most bare-bones dorm feel luxurious. If there’s one place you should consider splurging with your dorm budget, this is it. That being said, you’ll probably only use these sheets for a year or two — so it’s always worth your while to seek a solid deal.

Be cognizant of sizing limitations, as dorm beds often feature twin XL mattresses. Cotton sheets are always preferable, as they’re more comfortable when your dorm inevitably feels hotter than you prefer at night. Don’t forget about your dorm’s color scheme. A pop of color will make your bed stand out. 


7. Add a Headboard

If you don’t yet have a headboard for your bed, this simple adjustment is definitely worth making. It can do wonders for upping the sophistication factor while also increasing the versatility of your design. DIY options abound, although you can also purchase ready-made headboards built with dorms in mind.

If you don’t have room for an actual headboard, you can create an approximation of one by hanging a tapestry or placing a removable decal where a headboard might otherwise exist. This provides a powerful focal point without taking up extra room.


8. Buy Throw Pillows

The effect that a few throw pillows can have is nothing short of astounding. Add a few to your bed or futon to bring personality to your dorm. These are notoriously affordable and versatile — and they can easily be swapped out when you’re ready for a change.

Consider investing in a single set of throw pillows and then opting for covers, which take up less space than purchasing extra pillows. These can be washed and changed as needed — and you can trade with friends in other dorm rooms when you crave something new.


9. Lay an Area Rug

When you wake up in the morning, are you forced to rest your feet on cold, unforgiving tile? Treat your feet to something a bit more comfortable. Look for a vibrant display to offset the minimalist appearance of your dorm.

Flatweave rugs are ideal because they’re so easy to care for, although there’s a lot to love about a classic shag design. Look for something that’s resistant to stains, as this is always a risk when you eat your favorite snacks or invite friends over to hang out. 


10. Make a Study Nook

While a stylish dorm is a worthy goal, the ultimate mission should be to make your space as functional as possible. Hence, the need for a study nook, where you can achieve maximum focus as you tackle difficult coursework.

Begin by getting rid of the clutter in this area, which should always be the first to receive attention when you get around to cleaning. Add quality lighting and an organization system for study tools, such as pens, pencils, and flashcards. A few subtle decorations can make this space feel pleasant without prompting unwanted distractions. 

Dorm room with a study nook area.

Dorm Room” by Birdies100 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


The Ultimate Dorm Room Makeover With Cardboard Cutout Standees

Are you ready to level up your dorm room? A few small changes can make a world of difference. For the biggest impact, try removable decals or murals. At Cardboard Cutout Standees, we offer a wealth of inspiration to help you create a dorm room that feels like home. Contact us today to learn more about our removable wall art.


  • Jason Frank

    Jason Frank is the Co-Founder and Vice President at Cardboard Cutout Standees. After 25 years of selling factory automation he started the company with one of his college roommates. The company has grown to one of the largest providers of large format custom printed products in the United States. Along with the namesake cardboard cutout standees, they also provide BigHeads, Point of Purchase Displays, Wall Murals, and Wall Decals to a diverse client base across the US and Canada. When not focused on the business, you usually find Jason either on the road biking or our in the woods and fields of western Wisconsin.

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