Create - Live - Style

Small Spaces Dorm Edition | Tips & Links

September 1, 2016


I was a bit lazy with last week’s post- I had an idea and just didn’t like how the project turned out. So instead of rushing & pushing through with a ‘meh’ post, I now bring you the clincher to this year’s Back to School series and the perfect Labor Day weekend project, The Ultimate Dorm Makeover!


So ‘ultimate’ is a bit of a stretch, but I do love how much my sister & I were able to accomplish in ONE DAY. Seriously. I helped my sister move back on campus for her last year of college and she was kind enough to lend me her dorm room. AKA I got to make strong design suggestions in exchange for the use of my car ;). Above is a before shot of the dorm, pre-curated. Not the worst by far, but with a few small space tips, we made this cinder block cube a verifiably cozy class retreat.


Tip 1 | Make An Entrance
A clean, organized entrance sets the tone for the rest of your room. Carving out a dedicated small niche can help you get out the door quickly. We used a bookshelf to give Cam a drop off surface to throw keys, middle shelves for bathroom items (her room has a sink! so lucky!), and bottom shelves for organizing shoes.

And ff course the space above can be useful too! We used Command Strips to tack up a clipboard where she can post daily memos or her class schedule.


Tip 2 | Look High, Look Low
To feel make the dorm feel less, well, like a dorm, we kept her bed un-lofted. This didn’t leave too much of a footprint for extra furniture besides a futon. The good thing about dorms though is the ceiling height!

The standard wardrobes always seem to have extra space on top, and even an un-lofted bed has space underneath for storage boxes. If you plan on living on campus for a while, invest in cute, durable storage so you won’t have to buy new every year & you’ll already know how they’ll fit next year!


Tip 3 | Add Storage Where You Can
My sister’s dorm came with only a small wardrobe- no dresser, no nothing in way for folded clothes. We picked up these durable woven baskets from Target (where most things in this post are from! Did I mention we did this in one day?) that can really take being hauled up & down from her wardrobe and used it for anything too bothersome to hang.

These adorable wood tags are a Target Spot find (my actual weakness). Maybe the tags will inspire her to be organized for more than just the beginning of the year ;).


Tip 4 | Hobbies As Art
There is nothing Command Strips can’t do- with a few well placed hooks, you can turn hobby pieces into interesting wall art! You’ll have a storage place for your most loved pieces & an easy conversation starter.

I just love how the ukulele adds texture to the otherwise very flat & boring desk!


Tip 5 | Make Pieces Work Double Time
We saw this a bit before with the entry way bookshelf, but non-dorm issued furniture is a great way to break up the visual sameness & make a room cozier. And if you can get those new pieces to work double time, even better!

We used a stool as a bedside table with the idea that if Cam needs extra seating, she can quickly clear the stool and be good to go.


Tip 6 | Outlet Outreach
Outlets always seem to have a knack for always being in the most inconvenient places… but that’s nothing a little Command Strip (true god send people) and a cheap extension cord can’t fix! Stick one to your best post or side table for your phone.

And no more falling out of lofted beds trying to plug in phones (just me?)

dorm room

Tip 7 | Spray Paint Is Your Friend
I promised a mini fridge makeover at the start of the post, and here is a sneak peek! Spray paint is a great way to get a cohesive color palette or theme going even if you can’t find exactly what you want.

This retro mini fridge was just a regular, off the shelf piece that now is a focal point of the dorm room. A quick tutorial is coming soon! But really, it was just spray paint & a few well found pieces 😉


Bonus Tips | Shower Curtain As Headboard & Dressed Up Pillows

There are a few other gems hidden around Cam’s room I forgot to photograph/ran out of daylight for (the one day deadline really rushed things..). As an alternative to a headboard, we hung up a cotton shower curtain behind her bed (it’s the white & gold thing in some of the pictures). By skipping the window curtain section, we were able to find a cheaper & longer solution! The curtain is a nice option that makes the cinderblock disappear.

Also not shown is her futon. Instead of throw pillows (which are kind of a waste of money in a dorm), we bought an extra sleeping pillow & a fun cover. This cheaper option still dresses up the futon but also is nice for dorm sleepovers!


This dorm makeover was a blast! I feel like stores have really upped their back to school offers since I graduated & it was fun to shop for another small space! Sidenote: this post really made me realize I need a wide angle lens for interior shots and to take a couple steps back from macro haha.

Are any of you guys headed back to the dorms or just stopping by for small space tips? Let me know what tips you have for dorm living in the comments!

Leave a Reply