How To: Decorate a College Dorm Room + Checklist

By: Korryn Wingertsahn

Your Home Away From Home

Is that a fancy hotel room in Los Angeles or a college dorm room? Well, guess what?! The room pictured above once looked like your basic dorm. Keep reading to find out how to decorate your own dorm room!

Going to college is one of the biggest steps you will take in your life. Having somewhere to go to relax and study will help keep you stress-free throughout your time at college. College is a very exciting time of the year and brings new experiences, friends and memories.

I am going to guide you through how I styled my dorm room for my freshman year here at West Chester University. If you make it to the end of the blog, you will get to see a picture of the finished product!

Picking a Style

So, where do you start? You have to think about what theme you want to go for:

  • Oasis
  • Wildflower
  • After Dark
  • Golden Glow
  • Monochromatic
  • XO Room

You can even create your own theme, each with a different look and vibe. In my room, my roommate and I chose a gray and purple monochromatic theme. This is the first big step when learning how to decorate your dorm.

Room Layout

Using all of the space in your room, efficiently, is another really important step in learning how to decorate your dorm. Above is a picture of a room at Schmidt Hall. This layout is NOT the best way to set this room up.

This is the BEST way, I found, to set up this dorm:

I think that is the best way because it is the only way that you can set your TV up to see it from your bed, get into your desk and closet and fit both your microwave & fridge.

Organization with Drawers, Bins & Baskets

Organization is another critical point in learning how to decorate your dorm. It’s always a hard decision of which clothes to bring and what to leave at home, so I just bring it all.

I would suggest getting two sets of plastic drawers to put under your bed for extra storage. Also a few baskets to organize anything you want separated in drawers. You can get any of this stuff from Walmart or Target. Finally, I would recommend keeping a bin or two under your bed as well, for stuff like sheets, towels, blankets, etc.

Bed Hacks

Another key item to bring is bed risers. These make the bed higher off the ground so you can have maximum storage underneath. A small ottoman to get onto your bed is also very helpful. You can use this as a decoration, step stool to get onto your bed and use the inside for storage.

Bunking your beds in your room is another option and can help maximize your use of the space.

Other helpful items include:

  • Mattress Topper
  • Two Pillows (minimum)
  • Heated Blanket

Accent Pillows

You don’t want to have too many pillows, but accent pillows are a great way to add texture and color to a room. I would recommend four accent pillows and one “husband” pillow (pictured above on the left). This type of pillow is great for studying and watching TV in your dorm.

Your accent pillows should follow the theme of your room. So, since my room is a purple and gray theme, my “husband” pillow is gray and my other pillows are purple.

Desk Necessities

Having an organized desk will make a huge difference when you start having a crazy busy schedule. Start with getting small plastic baskets and organizers for items in and on your desk. I found plenty of different options at Marshalls.

You will also want to purchase a mirror, preferably with a light, so you can get ready at your desk and not have to go to the bathroom for everything. This was especially helpful for me because I lived in a traditional dorm with community bathrooms.

Other super useful items:

  • Seat cover (for comfort)
  • Desk lamp (with outlets for chargers)
  • Contact paper to cover desk (for style)
  • Shelf that sits on top of desk (for organization and extra storage)

LED and Waterfall Lights

Lights are a great way to add character to your dorm. My roommate and I got LED lights to go around our entire room and waterfall lights to go over our tapestry and curtains.

We purchased the LED lights from Amazon. They came with a remote so you can change the color to whatever you want. These really made our room stand out and helped set the vibe.

Our waterfall lights are from Five Below and have different settings such as twinkle, blinking, and fade. They bring attention to our tapestry and give intensity to our curtains.

Cozy Rugs

A rug is a great way to make your dorm feel like home. It’s way more comfortable to walk on a soft rug rather than the cold tile floor.

We got a fluffy purple rug to go with our theme. This not only added texture, but also color to the room. Our rug measured 5’ x 8’. This was a perfect fit between our beds to make for a flawless centerpiece.

My Dorm!:

Link to BEFORE and AFTER Transformation Video:



Command Hooks
Over-the-door hooks
Storage bins
Plastic organizers/ baskets
Desk shelf
Extra Set of Portable Drawers
Pencil/Pen Holders


Pencils/ pens
Power Cord
Laptop/ charger
Phone charger
Post it Notes
Index Cards


Disinfecting wipes
Laundry detergent & Dryer sheets
Hand sanitizer
Tide stick
Trash bags
Paper Towels
Mop/ Duster
Room Spray/ Air Freshener


Mattress Topper
Small fan/ noise machine
Curtains to block out sun
Air Purifier
Heated/ Weighted Blanket


Shower shoes
Shampoo & Conditioner
Razors & Shaving Cream
Face wash
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Shower Gel
Hair Dryer
Hair straightener & Curling iron
First aid kit


Plastic Silverware
Refrigerator & Microwave
Chip clips


I hope the breakdown of how I decorated my dorm room makes it easier for when you do the same! It only took about 4 hours for us to set everything up from start to finish. I was really worried about having everything when I moved away from home, and really wish someone had shared with me these tips and checklists to help me be fully prepared for dorm life!

Thanks for reading!