Designing Your Dorm Room


Published:

Retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond have turned dorm room size constraints into opportunities to market bedding, accessories, furniture and other items designed for small spaces.

Photo courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond

In the not-so-distant past, before Pinterest and HGTV, the average college freshman arrived at his or her shared, 170-square-foot dorm room with a basic set of twin bedding, a couple of posters and a desk lamp. Some freshmen went all out, adding a beanbag chair for guests or a throw rug to keep their toes toasty.

This month, as students move into college residence halls across the nation, you’d be hard-pressed to find a minivan or SUV that isn’t stuffed with stylish comforters, fuzzy throws, plush rugs, custom-made headboards, curtains, ottomans, framed art and possibly wall-sized monogram plaques. Teens, it seems, are as caught up in sophisticated interior decor as many adults, at least when it comes to designing their first home away from home.

Customized Comfort

While students’ attitudes and expectations may have changed, one fact remains constant: Dorm rooms are small, furnishings are spare, and the walls and floors typically scream “institution.” Retailers such as Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Pottery Barn have turned these constraints into opportunities to market bedding, accessories, furniture and decor items designed for small spaces and double-occupancy living, with personalization and comfort in mind.

Raleigh resident Olivia Liacos spent her first two years of college at one of the country’s most dorm decor-focused schools — the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss — without succumbing to designing her dorm room as extravagantly as many of her classmates had. In fact, she matched with her freshman-year roommate, Taylor Farley, in part because neither wanted to go as “all out” as some Ole Miss girls do.

Instead, they focused on comfort, choosing queen-size comforters to make their twin beds cozier and more luxurious, and they paid a friend of Farley’s family to build padded headboards for their rooms in Crosby Hall. The two also agreed to personalize their halves of the room by displaying signs, pictures, flags and plaques paying tribute to their home states — North Carolina for Liacos and Texas for Farley.

Today, “I’m still using my comforter set,” says Liacos, who is back in the Triangle working part-time and planning to transfer to either North Carolina State University or Meredith College.

Boys Will be Boys

Julie Nickens of Raleigh is an old hand at sending children off to college. Three years ago, her daughter, Markie, moved into a freshman dorm at Appalachian State University. This month, she and her husband, Eddie, will move their son, Jack, into UNC-Chapel Hill’s Granville Towers. Her advice for parents of boys: Make sure they have a pop-up laundry hamper that serves double duty as a laundry bag. Making it easy for boys to keep their dirty clothes off the floor and take them to the laundry room will go a long way toward ensuring they have a clean room and clean clothes.

Another must-have for boys: a scent diffuser. While girls like these because they create a pleasing ambience, boys can use them to mask the locker room odor that permeates the boys’ halls in every dorm.

Finally, “Don’t send anything that’s really nice or that you care about,” Nickens says. “You’ve got to be OK with it ending up in a dumpster” at the end of the school year.

Keep Priorities Straight

Don’t forget what’s important. As NCSU Director of Student Housing Susan Grant points out, “living on campus is one of the best opportunities for new students to engage with their school and develop lifelong friendships.”

NCSU administrators are so convinced of these benefits, Grant says, that beginning this fall, all first-year students under the age of 21 must live in university housing for one year. This includes students from the Triangle who might otherwise commute to class.

Twenty years from now, your child won’t remember the color of his comforter or what was hanging on the wall. What he’ll recall, instead, is the fun he had with his roommates and friends.


How to Make the Most of Small Spaces

Here are some tips from colleges, parents and retailers to help your college student transform her small, shared room into a comfortable space that reflects her personality — and won’t annoy roommates or break the bank.

1. Add homey touches. Heidi LeCount, director of residential life at Meredith College, notes that few decorations are as meaningful as framed photos of a student’s family, friends and pets. Make sure your child takes at least one family photo to stave off homesickness while personalizing his space. And not everything has to be new, except the sheets. Most families don’t have spare sets of extra-large twin sheets in their linen closet. Send your child with his favorite comforter, pillow or blanket.

2. Maximize and multi-purpose. Consider purchasing a bed riser that doubles as an electrical outlet, an ottoman that contains a storage compartment and a thick mattress pad to make a thin mattress more comfortable. When it comes to making a shared space more livable, choose items that do double duty and use every square inch of available space.

“Luckily, there are some great ways to create more room by using storage and organizational items under the bed, over the door and in the closet,” says Jessica Joyce, a spokeswoman for Bed, Bath & Beyond. “Over-the-door is an easy place to maximize space with a full-length mirror, an extra closet rod or hamper. A shoe organizer is a great multipurpose item that can hold T-shirts, toiletries, accessories and, of course, shoes. The under-bed space is often forgotten, but it’s a great area to add stacking drawers for extra clothes or store unused luggage.”

3. Divide and conquer. If your child hasn’t already been in touch with her roommate, encourage her to do so. There’s no need to duplicate items that can be shared, such as refrigerators, microwaves, TVs, area rugs, full-length mirrors or guest chairs. Rather than splitting the bill for each item, divvy up the list between the two families, with each student keeping what her family bought when May rolls around. Nothing derails comfort like a small space crammed with stuff that isn’t being used.

On the other hand, don’t bring everything at once, LeCount advises. “If you need two cars to bring (your stuff), you’ll need six to get out,” she warns. “Let the room evolve.”

4. Refer to room specs. Most colleges offer specifications about room dimensions and furnishings to incoming freshmen. Even if you don’t plan to customize anything in the room, it’s good to know the following:

  • Can bunk beds be configured as two singles? If so, consider buying bed risers, or lofts, to allow room for under-bed storage.
  • Do closets have doors? If not, some students might want to bring a tension rod and curtain or bed sheet to fashion into a closet “door.”
  • Are nails allowed? If not, better stock up on adhesive strips to attach wall décor.
  • Need an area rug? Know the room’s dimensions before deciding what size and shape to get.
  • Does the room come with a microwave, refrigerator or both — or are they even allowed?

Photo courtesy of the Liacos family

Raleigh resident Olivia Liacos (left) and her roommate, Taylor Farley (right), in their dorm in Crosby Hall at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in fall 2015.

 

Suzanne Wood has moved one child into and out of a dorm and an apartment, and is three years away from sending her twins off to college.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Tech Gifts for People Who Truly Need Them

Not all children have easy, early access to the digital world.

New 'Seedlings' Exhibit Opens at Marbles Kids Museum

This imaginative greenhouse exhibit invites kids to get hands-on with planting.

Fun Things to Do in the Triangle This Weekend, Nov. 24-26

This weekend, practice thankfulness at a park in Raleigh, create with with fun materials in Durham, get a scientific perspective on an old favorite movie in Raleigh, and tour a historical park in Durham.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2017

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $12 ages 13 and older, $5 ages 5-12.

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Kicks off the holiday season with local art, music, food, and family activities at various locations in Durham’s historic downtown district. Presented by the Durham Arts Council with support...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Downtown Durham
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Celebrate the natural world and where favorite Thanksgiving foods come from. Make a craft. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Search the preserve for hidden holiday-themed clues and learn about native wild turkeys. Make a turkey decoration. Ages 5 and older with parent. Register online. Choose course code...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Search for salamanders, owls and more. Ages 10-13. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in the District. This year’s event will take place the weekend of November 17th. Take the family to enjoy train rides, magical winter lights, live...

Cost: Free; $5 donation for sledding

Where:
Park West Village
3400 Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Telephone: 919-234-6710
Contact Name: Conner Dixon
Website »

More information

See ponies, hunters and jumpers compete in an event that benefits Duke Children's Hospital. Visit the website for hours and fees.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Make crafts celebrating turkeys. All ages with adult. Meet at the Cardinal Shelter. Registration not required. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn what it was like to be a kid at the first Thanksgiving. Play games and make a food collage. Choose either the 10:30-noon and 2-3:30 p.m. session. Ages 7 and older. Register online.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Explore the woods and shoreline for signs of nature and collect treasures to make a craft. Take a full water bottle, snack and a bag lunch. Ages 6-11. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Advance...

Cost: $16/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Jackie Trickel
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Listen for the sound of silver bells and climb aboard in your pajamas for a first-class journey on the Polar Express. Come early to meet Santa and enjoy kid-friendly activities and a traditional...

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Athletes improve their flexibility, balance, joint mobility, as well as body and breath awareness. Special attention will be paid to core strength and posture and its importance in performance and...

Cost: Call for fees

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue, Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-345-5873
Contact Name: Jen Bluestone
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Read the story by Karma Wilson and make a Thanksgiving-themed craft. All ages. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Fit & Able Productions presents the Turkey Chase trail festival at Umstead Park. Take part in a 5K, 10K or 20K. After the race, enjoy fruit, brownies and other...

Cost: $25-$45

Where:
Umstead Park
8801 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Fit and Able Productions
Telephone: 919-673-4689
Contact Name: Travis
Website »

More information

Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir makes an appearance before its big Christmas concert.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a 30-minute tour to view the main power drive and milling machinery. Tickets available inside the park's visitor center. Online registration encouraged.

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.
Edit ModuleShow Tags