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  • Writer's pictureDr. Thom

Designing the College Experience: 2024 Trends in Dorm Room Decor


Modern dorm room decor
Photo by Bradley Lembach on Unsplash

As parents, sending your child off to college is a bittersweet milestone. Amid the whirlwind of emotions, one practical and exciting task awaits: helping them prepare their dorm room. The word dorm comes from the Latin word dormitorium, which means “a sleeping space.” Today's college residence hall rooms are more than just a place to sleep; they're a space for studying, socializing, and personal expression. It’s for this very reason that colleges prefer to call their living spaces residence halls, as they reflect the more comprehensive role that these spaces play in the life of a college student.


Today, our son received his college residence hall assignment, which means that we will soon be focusing on residence hall room dimensions and planning. As you start the summer planning for sending your student off to college, here’s our guide to the latest trends in dorm room decor and some tips to help you create a comfortable and functional space for your college student. By the way, if you are looking for examples of a lot of these trends, #dorminspo on Instagram is a great resource (and occasionally can be a source for a good laugh as it can also be over the top at times). 


Trend: Multi-Functional Furniture

Residence hall rooms are notorious for their limited space, so multi-functional furniture is a must. Think bed risers with built-in storage, foldable desks, and ottomans that double as storage bins. Lofting beds, if that is allowed at the college, can create space underneath for a study or lounging area. Some colleges will sell or rent specific lofting kits - check with your school.


Tip: Look for furniture that serves multiple purposes. A bed with drawers underneath can replace a dresser, freeing up valuable floor space.


Trend: Minimalist Aesthetics

A minimalist approach helps keep small spaces tidy and uncluttered. Stick to a simple color palette with a few pops of color through accessories. White, gray, and muted colors are currently popular, creating a serene and spacious feel.


Tip: Encourage your student to declutter before moving in. Only essential and multi-use items should make the cut.


Trend: Tech Integration

Modern residence hall rooms are tech hubs. Integrating technology seamlessly into the decor is key. Consider smart storage solutions for gadgets, charging stations, and accessories like Bluetooth speakers and smart lights that can be controlled via an app.


Tip: Help your student organize their tech with cable management solutions and a dedicated charging station to keep the room from being overrun with cables.


Trend: Personalized Touches

While functionality is crucial, personal touches make a residence hall room feel like home. Customized wall art, photos of family and friends, and personalized bedding can create a cozy and comfortable atmosphere.


Tip: Room safe decorative lights make rooms feel comfortable and warm and can highlight photos and art that will help your student feel at home. 


Trend: Cozy Comfort

Creating a comfortable space is essential for relaxation and study. Soft throw blankets, plush rugs, and an abundance of pillows can make a residence hall room feel warm and inviting.


Tip: Invest in a high-quality mattress topper to ensure your student gets a good night's sleep. A soft rug can also add warmth and comfort to the often cold and hard residence hall room floors.


Tip: Find out if your college or university offers items to be ordered and shipped directly to their room. Our son’s school has an online store where he can purchase things like tall bed skirts (for lofted beds), bed rails, and more. Apparently, when we arrive to move in, they will already be there - delivered by a magical move-in fairy.


Tip: Consider what luggage your student will take and where they will store it, once they unpack. They likely will need a small suitcase or overnight bag to come home on breaks. Many of our students have utilized large blue zipper storage bags from IKEA. They are waterproof, strong, and also can be collapsed and condensed for your student to store during the school year.


Tip: Follow directions. Many colleges and universities will assign your student a specific move-in slot. They will even have cheerful and happy orientation and welcome leaders come to your car and unload it. These times are planned in a way similar to a space shuttle launch. Don’t mess with the residence life coordinator by illegally parking or showing up at the wrong time.


Speaking of following directions, make sure to follow the list of what NOT to bring to your room - halogen lamps, candles, and fireworks are fire hazards and should be left at home. Some schools will have specific rules on what types of appliances can be in the room (no hot plates for example). Your student doesn’t want to be the one to start a fire in a historic building.  


Two additional tips that we have learned from personal experience is to make sure to coordinate with roommates before purchasing big items. This will avoid duplicate items and ensure that the decor styles complement each other. The other is to make sure to double check your room dimensions and make sure that what you are planning will fit. Residence hall rooms vary in size. Knowing the dimensions will help in selecting the right furniture and decor. Speaking of variation in size, I am four years younger than my brother. We attended the same university and we recycled a wooden loft. My freshman dorm room differed in size by about six inches; I have fond memories of my dad chiseling the loft to make it fit. And as a bonus, I learned several new curse words.


Creating a residence hall room that's both functional and stylish is an exciting part of the college preparation process. By following these trends and tips, you can help your student set up a space where they can thrive academically and socially. Have fun with this, but don’t get too worked up about creating the perfect space. These are college students who will be living there after all. 



Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process?  Let's chat.

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