Students, spruce up your new digs

Press Enterprise, 8/18/07

Learn how to make your dorm a home without breaking the bank


The Press-Enterprise

Interactive: Spruce up your new dorm room

For most students, a college dormitory is the first place they'll live that isn't home. To make it a home away from home, students need to focus on how to express themselves.

"They may not be the same people they are at home," says Mona Williams, vice president of buying for the Container Store. "This is an opportunity to reinvent themselves."

And they're reinventing themselves to the tune of $36.6 billion. According to a National Retail Federation study, that's how much students spent on back-to-college gear last year.

According to the report, the average first-year college student spent $1,112.62.

Part of that is due to the upgrade from a high school look to a college look, said Denise Turner, a spokeswoman for the American Society of Interior Designers and for the Color Marketing Group.  High school students are wearing black and other muddy colors, Turner said, "more internal colors."

When they get to college, "the use of colors is them making a statement," said Turner, who is also the former president of the ASID-Palm Springs-Inland chapter.

As for color palettes, Turner said, "Chocolate brown is still the new black, but you need to put colors with it or you're just looking at a big hole."

Here are some top tips on crafting a functional den, study space and storage area in a bedroom that still looks great.


"The bed in a dorm room is typically the biggest thing in decor," said Catherine Gentile, with Bed Bath and Beyond. Gentile said students should bring an extra set of sheets.

Mario Godoy, a sophomore at University of Redlands, said to buy high-quality bedding. "You'll be sleeping in that all the time."

Good pillows are a must, said Melissa Bilbao, a Riverside native attending Cal Poly Pomona. "I have a body pillow I'm obsessed with." They're comfortable and can be folded in half for extra support, she said.

And a mattress pad will make the bed more comfortable.


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"Organizational products are good because when you're living with another person, you don't really know how much room you're going to have," said Sarah Kranz, a Riverside native who's a junior at UC San Diego. A lamp with room for supplies is good.

Use storage boxes, "or else everything gets all jumbled and messy," Godoy said.

Bilbao suggested a bulletin/white board for notes and reminders. "A calendar works, too, but you can have more fun decorating a white board."


Denise Turner, the color specialist, said chair slipcovers or fabric tacked to a bulletin board or draped over furniture can add color. "These are quick fixes that after they leave school, they can just toss," she said.

An ottoman can be valuable, Gentile said. "It gives seating options so your visitors aren't lounging on your bed all day." Plus, it has storage space. "Everything in your dorm room needs to multitask."

To make the place feel like your home, add personal items. "I very much like to express who I am, so things that remind me of home" are a must, Kranz said.


"Everybody needs to have a laptop," Godoy said. And since many college campuses have Wi-Fi capability, students can use them anywhere.

Movie and music players need to come, too.


Call your roomies to coordinate. "If five people end up bringing TVs, it's going to be ridiculous," Kranz said. Bilbao said, "I was afraid to call my roommates at first, but it really does help."

Snacks: Yes or no? Godoy had supplies -- such as Easy Mac -- he didn't end up using because he didn't have a way to make them. "I ended up buying stuff at the commons." But Bilbao said snacks are a must if you get too busy to go to the cafeteria.

Don't over-pack. Bilbao said one person brought an exercise ball. "But where are you going to use it?" Bilbao said. "The rooms are small. ... And there's a gym (on campus) available to you."


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