dorm room

If your college-bound kid is depressed by the idea of the bland, beige dorm room that's about to become his or her home away from home, why not encourage some personal design creativity? DIY dorm projects!

Sure, you can buy a colorful bed in a bag and all the blindingly bright clothes hampers and rugs you can find, but nothing shows real style like do-it-yourself design done right.

Read on for seven low-cost and temporary dorm-decorating ideas.

Keep in mind these four important things about college dorms:1) Personal space in most dorm rooms is VERY limited, 2) most college dormitories have strict rules about what you may or may not bring in or hang on the walls, if anything at all, 3) furnished dorms usually require that you use the existing furniture; no removal allowed, 4) you'll be hard pressed to ever find a college dorm that will let you paint the walls or furniture.

Be sure to CHECK THE RULES before doing any creative decorating to your child's dorm room.

All this is good news, of course, cause it means you and your college student have to get really creative.

burlap DIY headboard bed dorm room

1. Make your own headboard.

Love this burlap-wrapped DIY headboard, found on The designers stapled old grain sacks onto sturdy insulation sheathing and added brightly colored pillows and bedding to make quite a statement. Burlap coffee bags would work great too. Ask around at your local cafes and coffee roasteries for freebies.

Other low-cost DIY headboard options: thrifted chalkboard headboard, painted canvas headboard, old shutter headboard, graphic adhesive headboards (they're removable), or this embroidered headboard.

bedding mixed sheets

2. Mix-n-match bedding linens.

Pre-packaged (and usually matchy matchy) dorm room bed in a bag sets are a cool idea -- for the uncreative college-goer... Instead, put together mismatched bedding from discount stores, thrift stores, and even the home linen closet to create a more creative bed. It's nice to stick to a minimal color palette and mix patterns, like we see with the blues above. 

3. Customize in temporary ways.

There are lots of low-effort ways to customize a dorm room with very little cash.

dorm room faux wallpaper

Create colorful faux wallpaper.

Love this bold but temporary geometric "wallpaper" created with round placemats. "Create your own pattern with a little double-stick tape," explains Taniya Nayak, celebrity interior designer of HGTV. (See more of Taniya's dorm room creations.)

Find bright-colored placemats ($1.99 each) and more muted-color placemats ($2.99 each) at Bed Bath & Beyond. Or get wild with animal print placemats ($25.99; set of 8) at These reusable DRÖMMAR Cake Doilies ($1.99; set of 4) from IKEA -- could also work well.

guy's dorm room

Make removable changes to the room.

Check out these removable painter's tape stripes added to standard dorm room furniture for a little flair, as found over at Kara Paslay Designs. (Also love the vintage suitcase storage idea)

Another fine idea: using pretty textiles atop a desk or bookcase to beautify ugly dorm furniture.

4. Express personal style through wall art.

Find a way for your child to express themselves on those blank dorm room walls. There are lots of easy ways to do so -- even in a temporary space.


Make a DIY pinboard.

Great for hanging photos of friends and family back home and for organizing jewelry or paperwork too. If there's no hanging allowed, prop it up on a desk or dresser.

clipboard wall Martha Stewart

Stay organized with clipboards (via Martha Stewart).

Hang a plain or decorated clipboard on the wall for each subject perhaps. Perfect organizing idea for above a computer desk or workspace.

deer head

Make a handmade deer head (via Going Home to Roost).

Your child's dorm room will be the talk of the student union. Love it!

shower curtain window covering

5. Add DIY window coverings or curtains.

Turn a cute shower curtain into a window covering -- a great option on a budget if you can't sew. Rebecca of greeen sheeep used this whimsical Home Vista Tree Shower Curtain ($24.99) from Target as a window covering. Isn't it adorable?

Take note: many dorms require you to use hardware-free expansion rods over standard curtain rods.

concrete block shelving

6. Find creative storage solutions.

Just by placing these concrete blocks a new way and in a solid formation, the folks at IKO IKO! in Los Angeles have given a modern twist to the old school concrete block shelving DIY of yesterday. I love this. With decor items or with books, this is a super-cheap and great-looking storage solution. (Found via The Improvised Life.)

Other creative solutions: turn old drawers into a bookcase, space-saving bedside shelf (instead of a nightstand), beautify a thrifted dresser,

feather photo

7. Add a touch of personal goodness.

A dorm room, while it is just a dorm room, is also going to be your child's home for the school year. It's nice to send along some SMALL but beloved collection, decorative item or piece of furniture from home (no family heirlooms, please!).

Another ideas to add personality: repaint a vintage desk chair for studying.

Are you helping your college student get a dorm room ready for the fall semester? Any creative DIY tips?


Top image via Lovely Undergrad, bedding image via Shari Altman, and feather image via Alicia Alferman.