Budget decorating tips from the dorm

My neighbor’s daughter is graduating from her dorm room to her first apartment. During a recent conversation with her, I realized just how much I learned about budget decorating during my college years. So, what could bean bags, icky carpet, and a severe lack of space possibly have taught me about decorating?

Function is as important as form. Before you buy something beautiful, ask yourself if it is going to work in the space. In college, you may have had to buy a futon instead of a couch just so you have a place to sleep. Kids and/or pets later, you might opt for an easy-to-clean chair over the upholstered white settee.

Lighting makes all the difference. Great lighting makes everything look better (even you!) Instead of dusting off your lava lamp, you might consider illuminating a favorite picture instead. Fairy lights are a timeless budget-friendly choice for setting a festive mood both indoors and out.

You don't have to go it alone. In a dorm, there is never a shortage of people to offer their opinions. Don't let distance keep you from turning to a friend for advice today—photos and videos are a great way to stay in touch if an in-person visit isn't practical. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help you see things more clearly.

Don’t be afraid of change. Constant moves during the college years were hard, but they also were an excuse to change things up a bit. Today, instead of uprooting, consider some low-cost home improvement ideas to spruce up your space. For example, painting a room is an inexpensive way to make a dramatic change.

Borrow before you buy. Dorm residents are constantly borrowing from, lending to, and trading with each other. While you might not feel comfortable borrowing furniture from your neighbor today, you should be sure to always ask about a store’s return policy in case your new purchase looks better in the showroom than in your home.

Take care of your things. During the college years, you can’t always afford to replace something that gets broken or stained so trying to minimize damage was a smart strategy. Today this might translate into something like changing your air filter regularly to improve the quality of your air and the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.

Express your creativity. Finding yourself is hard to do if you simply copy a style you saw in a magazine. Try to focus on a few key elements that reflect your personality. Remember that displaying photos is a quick low-cost way to personalize a space.

What did you learn about budget decorating during your inflatable furniture years?


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.