Between stressful college classes, extracurricular activities, homework and part-time jobs or volunteer projects, you probably rarely make it back to your dorm just to relax. But even though you have to share it with one or two other students, your room should be a safe space for you to rest and recuperate from your crazy days. With a little love and DIY-fueled attention, you can turn your boring, industrial dorm room into the perfect spot for studying, sleeping, and socializing. Here are 50 practically free ways to decorate your dorm room, even on your poor man’s budget.
Walls and Windows
Turn your walls and windows from jail-like cells into colorful expressions of your personal style.
- Make a magazine collage: Save your music, fashion, art and travel magazines to make collages all over your doors or over an entire wall.
- Christmas lights: Christmas lights are pretty cheap, and you can keep them up all year to bring in a festive, welcoming atmosphere to your room.
- Postcards: Save postcards that friends and family send to you to make a collage hang in an artistic arrangement.
- Bulletin board: You can use your bulletin board for reminders, phone messages and notes, but you can also use it to hang up photos, charms, and postcards.
- Wire Photo Wall: Turn your dorm room into a photo gallery when you take on this simple project.
- Make your own curtains: You can make curtains out of any fabric you want, even old patterned or newly bleached or tie-dyed sheets.
- Sponge paint: Paint is relatively cheap, but just remember to paint it back to its original color before you move out.
- PCB Collage Screensaver: Makezine shows you how to make a collage screensaver from your Flickr feed to make your computer screen pop against white walls.
- Ask retailers and theaters for old posters: Movie theaters, music and movie retailers, and even clothing or accessories retailers are usually willing to give away old signs and posters, so don’t be afraid to ask.
- Just use the frames: Get a bunch of decorative art frames from a vintage store and hang them up (sans pictures) for an interesting art project.
- Colored chalk: Write all over your walls with colored chalk, which should wash off easily.
- Frame your cards: Casasugar recommends hanging all of your holiday or birthday cards in a framed corkboard display.
- Ribbon board: Similar to a bulletin board, this easy-to-make memo or photo board looks way prettier with some extra fabric and ribbon.
College students never neglect to decorate their doors, and here are several easy ways to turn it into a creative addition, inside and out.
- Blow up a photo of you and your roommates: These roommates took a picture of themselves standing in their doorway, then blew it up to life-size proportions and taped it to their closed door.
- Full-length mirror: Unless you know how to cut glass, you’ll have to actually buy a full-length mirror, but they aren’t that expensive (and are definitely worth it). Mirrors bring more light into the room, and you can decorate the borders with paint pens.
- DIY Whiteboard: Follow John Murch’s instructions to make your own whiteboard for your door. You can leave different messages or designs and invite others to draw on it as well.
- Silhouettes: Make silhouettes of you and your rooommate to hang on the outside of your door out of wrapping paper.
Furniture and Bedding
These decorating tips encourage you to make your own furniture and accessories, be strategic when it comes to picking out bedding, and more.
- Build a loft: Instead of buying a new futon or loft bed, make your own with 2×4 boards.
- Make a throw pillow out of an old t-shirt: If your favorite t-shirt is getting too raggedy to wear, turn it into a throw pillow for your bed or couch.
- Corner shelf: You can make a pretty corner shelf in an urn shape with wood, wood glue and wood screws only.
- Bean bag chair: Threadbanger’s video tutorial shows you how to make your own colorful bean bag chair, a dorm room must-have.
- Scavenge for free furniture: You’re in college, which means there’s no reason to be ashamed of picking up free furniture left on the street (as long as it’s in semi-good condition).
- Get a reversible comforter: When shopping for dorm bedding, ask your parents to buy a reversible comforter, so you can switch it (for free) any time you get bored.
- Bed risers: Bed risers make your room look larger. Paint them a fun color to make them fit in with the rest of your room.
- Switch up your sheets: If you get board with your bedding, it will be cheaper to buy new sheets, so buy an extra set in a bright color or unexpected pattern. You can also try dyeing them for a more economical solution.
- Give your night stand a makeover: If your night stand is cheap and ugly, sand and paint it so that it’s something you’re proud to show off.
- Feng shui your bedroom: Rearranging your furniture is 100% free, and if you apply feng shui principles, you’ll promote the free flow of positive energy.
Parties and Holidays
When you throw a party or study group session in your dorm room, you want to make sure everyone is impressed with your style and creativity. Here are simple hacks to improve lighting and create the perfect party atmosphere.
- Spray paint pine cones and branches: Clean up your quad by picking up random branches and pine cones, and then spray painting them gold or silver for a winter arrangement.
- Sun Jars: These four sun jars create very cool lighting for a party, and cost under $20 to make (if you have basic tools).
- DIY Wine Rack: Impress your friends by pulling wine from your own homemade wine rack out of recycled belts and wood.
- Make your own beer pong table: There’s no limit when it comes to decorating a beer pong table. Check out 33 of the best designs ever, right here.
- Laundry line: String up a laundry line and clip Christmas lights, ticket stubs, photos and other knick knakcs for extra decoration that you can easily take down.
- Lava lamp: You can make the Poor Man’s Lava lamp with mineral oil, rubbing alcohol and water.
- Use candy: Buy colorful candies like M&Ms or Sour Patch Kids from your dining hall, and pour them into clear bottles or bowls for extra color.
- Make your own ornaments: This pretty ornament was made from a plastic bottle.
- Disco ball: This guide explains how to make a disco ball out of a coat hanger, clear plastic cups, Christmas lights and an iron.
- Use shot glasses as votives: Whittle down a small candle until it fits inside a shot glass, and then put them up all over your room. Just make sure you keep them clear of curtains, papers and other flammable items.
In a small space, decorations should also be functional. These decor tips will keep your keyboard in place, insulate your floors, and separate closet space.
- Wooden Keyboard Enclosure: This design is a little random, but if you hate the industrial look of most dorm rooms and want something a little more rustic or homey, make a wooden case for your keyboard.
- Duct tape projects: This list contains 100 awesome ways to use duct tape in your dorm room for decorations, organization, accessories and more.
- DIY Cardboard Hipster Frames: Switch up your picture frames every once in a while with these hipster designs.
- Get a rug: Find a decorative rug at a consignment store to add color to your room and insulate the floors so you’re warmer in the wintertime. Just make sure you wash it first.
- Magnets: This guide explains how you can make your own refrigerator magnets out of magazine cutouts, photos and more.
- Dividing curtain: Use sheer fabric or a pretty shower curtain (hung up properly) to divide space, close off an open closet, or over your windows.
- Book stacks: Instead of leaving all your textbooks and library books in a heap on the floor, arrange them in an architectural stack like these.
- Wrap your storage containers in fabric: Turn ugly storage boxes into pretty, stackable decorations when you wrap them in fabric.
- Glow-stick lamp: Fashion a reading lamp out of glow-sticks you’ve collected at holiday parties and concerts.
- Turn wine bottles into vases: Clean empty wine bottles or interesting beer bottles, and then use them as candlestick holders or flower vases.
From freshening up your room to keeping things simple, here are even more practically free ways to make your dorm room more stylish.
- Get a plant: Plants add color and life and can even improve air quality.
- Scented candles: Candles can get expensive fast, so try making your own to brighten and freshen up your room.
- Remember, less is more: If you have a very small space, you may need to streamline your decorations and use cooler colors to make it look cleaner and more relaxing.