Cramped space and building regulations can really dampen your dorm decorating ideas. But a few easy DIY projects can take your room from bland to beautiful on a budget.
Paint strip wallpaper
It’s not the best idea to paint your wall in Thurston or Ivory (cleanup during finals is hell), but that doesn’t mean you can’t add color to your walls anyway. Turn some free paint strips into instant wallpaper by taping them above your bed or dresser. Sherwin-Williams has two nearby locations on Wisconsin Avenue and Connecticut Avenue, and Monarch Paint in Mount Vernon Square has big selections of paint strips you can snag.
Whether you use them to drink black coffee or scatter them around your room, mason jars provide endless opportunities for hipster decor. You can string lights inside them for a makeshift nightlight, or toss desk knick-knacks in them to save space. Skip the expensive Mason Jar Sippers at Anthropologie – because really, so mainstream – and order a set from Target, Amazon or Etsy instead.
Bigger is always better. Try blowing up your photos from your last family vacation or your favorite summer concert to hang up as murals. Not only does this save you the time of meticulously pinning up dozens of photos in heart-shaped arrangements, it looks pretty cool, too. The UPS in 2000 Penn and the FedEx at McPherson Square will print large photos without breaking the bank. FedEx photo posters start at about $28.
Lamps are a must to combat the dreary fluorescent lighting of dorm rooms. But rather than going for an expensive, pre-designed lampshade, get creative with basic craft items. Dress up a plain white lampshade by weaving ribbons across the front and secure them on the back. Doodling with colorful Sharpies is also a quick way to brighten up a lampshade and a room.
If a flat-screen TV is out of your budget, create your own iPhone projector instead. It’s not exactly HD, but it’s more than adequate for marathoning Arrested Development. All you need is a magnifying glass, a shoe box and a five-minute YouTube tutorial. Or, there’s no shame in befriending some engineering majors to figure it out for you.
Spray paint folding chairs
Channel your inner graffiti artist and liven up boring folding chairs with cans of spray paint. You can buy basic folding chairs from Target for $13, and Sherwin-Williams sells Krylon-brand spray paint. Try to get paint that works specifically with plastic or metal. Good luck finding a place other than your room to paint the chairs, but alleyways under the cover of darkness are always an option.