Dorm decorating for dummies

Going off to college, especially if it’s GW, can leave students with little cash left to start the year. Luckily, turning a bleak dorm room into a cozy home away from home (or a sweet place to party) does not have to break the bank. Just a few key items, and a little creativity are all you need to make a total transformation, said interior design professor Sheryl Sodaro-Spomer.

1. A futon.
IKEA carries a perfect dorm-room sized futon with a super comfy mattress for less than $200. To save money, skip the boring cover and go for a colorful king size fitted sheet to put over it. Overnight guests will be very thankful.

2. Peel-off, draw-on wallpaper.
For $45, you can choose from 12 different colors to roll onto your common-room walls. Sodaro-Spomer advises not to choose a dark color, because it is the lighter colors that will make a tiny dorm room look bigger.
The wallpaper rolls, from Paperapartment.com, come with a white paint marker so you can personalize your space. You can even use markers or stickers to decorate the removable paper. To top it all off, they have free shipping.

3. Mirrors.
Sodaro-Spomer had that one item to mention in regards to making your dorm look larger. To really open up a space, she said, you should hang the mirrors on opposite sides of a room, where they reflect each other.
Target.com has some large rectangular mirrors for about $50, or if you want a more mod look, they also have a set of nine small, circular mirrors for $40. The smaller ones are great for dorm rooms because they are self-adhesive, and you can arrange them any way that tickles your fancy.

4. Tapestries.
On the walls left over after wall-papering and mirror-hanging, draping cheap tapestries is a great way to add some color. For $14, Simply70s.com has more than 60 different tapestry designs that range from loud tie-dye or more restrained celestial patterns.

5. Throw pillows.
Be it on the couch or bed, throw pillows are by far the easiest way to make your sterile dorm room feel like home. One idea is to find a really interesting pillow design with lots of colors, and pick out a bunch of different solid-colored ones that match it. The Web site Cafepress.com features thousands of different designs by hundreds of artists between $15 and $20 each.

6. String lights.
No dorm is complete without these little glowing balls of joy. As Sodaro-Spomer pointed out, these soft lights are decorative and also practical, working to set a relaxed mood when you want to turn the glaring fluorescents off.
With the lights, you can go traditional and use white or colored Christmas lights, or be more adventurous and go for margarita glasses, little Irish flags or rubber duckies. You can find these three and 400 more styles at Partylights.com, most for less than $20.

Keeping in mind the cost of furnishing, you may not be able to afford all of the things you would love to have in your dorm. But, Sodaro-Spomer has a good piece of advice for the motivated decorator who will stop at nothing to fulfill their dorm fantasies: “Find a dollar tree.”

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