Revamp your dorm room on a budget

With cinder block walls and drab flooring, it’s no surprise that most dorm rooms give off a pretty institutional vibe. But your dorm room is your home away from home for the year, so you want it to look and feel as fabulous as it can. On a student budget, that may seem like a daunting task, but it is possible to elevate your dorm decor to the next level without breaking the bank. It just takes a little creativity.

Shop this article: chalk painttapestry and  floor cushions

Dorm room decorating ideas

Here are some easy and cheap ideas for upgrading your room so it’s the envy of all your neighbors.

Rearrange the furniture

The cheapest way to give your dorm room a new look is to adjust the furniture layout. In fact, it’s not only cheap — it’s free! The pieces your school provides aren’t usually placed in the room with much care; you may walk in to find blocked windows or other ineffective configurations. So before you even start decorating, decide out how you want to arrange your furniture.

Many colleges allow you to loft your bed. With the bed up and out of the way, you may be able to place your desk, dresser, or other furniture beneath it to maximize space. Be sure to obtain permission from the school housing or maintenance office first, though.

If your school doesn’t allow lofting, invest in some inexpensive bed risers. They raise the bed just enough so you can use the space underneath for storage. That means you won’t have to leave your plastic storage bins out in the open where they can make your room feel cluttered and messy.

Reinvent hand-me-downs with paint

If your parents, grandparents, or friends offer to give you old furniture or accessories that have seen better days, don’t refuse them just because the pieces look a little worn. It’s easy to breathe new life into most furniture with a budget-friendly can of spray paint.

chalk paint

Want an especially fancy look for your hand-me-down furniture? Use stencils or painter’s tape to create fun painted designs — you don’t have to be an expert artist to do this. Or, if you prefer the shabby chic look, consider using chalk paint on an older item; it will instantly create some vintage appeal.

If your family and friends don’t have any furniture or other items to pass along, visit local thrift stores and garage sales for budget-friendly pieces that you can customize with a coat of paint.

Cover the walls with a tapestry

Even if your dorm room doesn’t have cinder block walls, you may very well be stuck with a boring color like white or beige. You’re not allowed to paint them, so covering them up is often the best solution.

a round, blue tapestry with an Indian bohemian design

If you’re pinching pennies, however, buying a bunch of art pieces to hang can get expensive. Instead, invest in a cool tapestry like this bohemian bedroom pick. It will instantly add color, pattern and personality to your room. And because tapestries cover such a large area, they’re especially good for hanging behind a bed, where they can also serve as a faux headboard.

Worried about making holes in the wall with push pins when you hang a tapestry? Try hanging yours with self-adhesive Velcro tape instead.

Set the mood with string lights

Drape some string lights over a wall or from your ceiling for the boldest effect. For a more subtle look, wind them around a wall mirror or floor mirror, framed art print, or your windows. If you opt for battery-operated string lights, you can even fill a jar, vase or empty bottle with a strand to create a cool visual on your dresser or desk.

Lay down some throw rugs

Whether it’s carpet, wood, or tile, chances are the floor in your door room is pretty grimy. Buying an area rug to cover the whole floor is usually too pricey for a college student’s budget, but investing in a few inexpensive throw rugs is a great alternative.

Depending on the size of your room, two to four throw rugs may be enough to cover most of the exposed floor. You could opt for rugs that all match, or you could purchase a few different patterns to create a funky patchwork effect.

If you’re really strapped for cash, make your own throw rugs — or an area rug — with an inexpensive drop cloth and some outdoor paint. Use painter’s tape to create a striped design or sponges cut into shapes to create a bold geometric pattern.

Decorate with washi tape or removable wallpaper

You can’t make any permanent changes to your dorm room or the furniture that your school provides, but fortunately, there are some easy ways around those rules. Like painter’s tape, washi tape doesn’t leave residue behind when you peel it off, so you don’t have to worry about it damaging any surfaces in your dorm room.

Washi tape is available in a wide range of fun colors, patterns, and designs that are perfect for spicing up the look of your room. Use washi tape to decorate a wall, add color to bland blinds, or add a splash of fun to your desk, bookshelf, or dresser.

Removable or temporary wallpaper is another option, and it can be even easier to apply because it’s available in large sheets. And like washi tape, this type of wallpaper pulls off without leaving any adhesive or other residue behind.

Increase seating with throw pillows

When friends visit your dorm room, it can be hard to find enough sitting space for everyone. Buying chairs can get expensive, and you probably don’t have room for them anyway.

A blue, square tufted chenille floor pillow with a scalloped edge design

Throw pillows are an easy, budget-friendly solution to the problem. Toss a few on the floor when friends are over, and you’ll have comfortable floor cushions for everyone to sit on. And when you’re alone in your room, you can arrange the throw pillows on your bed to dress it up a bit.

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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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