18 Decorating and Storage Ideas For Your Dorm Room (and other small spaces)

In addition to new school supplies, something else that makes going back to school exciting is getting to move into a new space and redecorate. My little sister is going to college for the first time, and I thought that perhaps some of you readers might be in a similar situation. Then I realized that many of these ideas work for decorating other small spaces, so even if you don't have a dorm room to decorate, you might be inspired by these ideas for decorating your apartment, office, bedroom, or child's room.*

Walls and Windows

Hanging Lights. Let's start with some ambiance.

Via Modcloth
I hung Christmas lights around my loft bed to decorate for the holidays, and ended up loving it so much, they stayed up for the rest of the year! Hang under your loft bed for a nice glow over your desk, drape around your windows, doorways, or ceiling.

1. Splurge Option: Globe cafe lights like the ones above are around $25 for a string of 25 lights.

2. Budget Option: Another option is to just use Christmas lights and ping-pong balls! Cut a hole in ping-pong balls and attach to the light to look like fancy globe lights - check out the tutorial from Say Yes.

3. Splurge Option: This pretty paper string of lights is on sale at Pottery Barn for $19.99. The 12-19 inch paper lanterns from Pottery Barn are $12 to $19 each. They come in a mirad of colors and patterns, so you shouldn't have trouble matching the rest of your room.  The kit to hang them is sold separately for $15.

4. Budget Option: This Turquoise Blue Chinese/Japanese Paper Lantern from Amazon.com is $2.99. It also comes in light green and orange, and the price for all three is $7.74.

5. The Electric Cord for Paper Lanterns, which enables hanging them from the ceiling, is $8.47, and Amazon also has many inexpensive options for paper lantern string lights, ranging from $4.50-$19.99.

Curtains. Hanging curtains instantly adds a homey feel! All you'll need are a couple panels (be sure to read the package, the picture on the front may show two panels but only contain one) and suspension rods.

6. And don't think windows are the only place your curtains can go: hide your clothes and shoes from view by hanging one over your closet, or create a private study space by hanging one around your desk, under your loft, or to cover up blank white walls.

Via Residence Style
Via Babble
7. Splurge: Curtains at Walmart are about $15 a panel, and suspension rods are around $10.

8. Budget: You can make your own curtains for much less out of sheets! With some craft paint and a simple stamp, you're in business! Minimal crafting skill necessary.

Frame It. Because dorms and many apartments don't allow nails in the wall, you'll have to get creative.

Cool Kids Rooms.com
9. For this look, attach these clear adhesive key hooks to the wall. Cut and tie ribbons to your picture frames, alternating the length, and hang from the hooks. For a different look, alternate colors with the ribbon to match your decor, or use twine for a rustic/vintage feel.

10. Splurge: Get one (or a few) of these wire letters to hold photos and memorabilia. $15.50 each from Pottery Barn.

11. Budget: With cardboard letters and Mod Podge, you can make your own letter art! Mod Podge photos, scrapbook paper, or fabric to the letter for a one of a kind collage. For a step by step tutorial, follow along with Katie in this tutorial for making Mod Podged Paper Mache Letters

Food, Wine, and Mod Podge  Tutorial
Wallcoverings. You can't leave any trace, so you'll have to get creative.

12. Splurge: There is such a thing as removable wall paper! How cute is this speckled wall paper from Chasing Paper for $35 a roll?

Or this arrow removable wall paper from Kate Zaremba on Etsy for $27?

13. Budget: Add some accents to your wall, like gold dots or gold triangles. Or for even less, buy metallic contact paper and cut out your own shapes! Then you'll have enough left over for some of the other projects mentioned later in this post.

Vinyl Wall Stickers from Urban Walls

Study Space

Having cute desk supplies may help you get better grades...well, that might be wishful thinking, but having a well-organized desk will help you manage your time better and study more efficiently.

Desktop Accessories. What's your style? Modern, whimsical, chic?

14. Splurge: These accessories add a little class to your work space. $12 - $29, per piece from Pottery Barn.

15. Budget: This entire 6 piece black mesh set from Amazon is only $19.99. At that price, you could afford to spray paint it metallic gold!

16. And you could always accessorize it with some of the Kate Spade folders. $32 for a set of six on Amazon.

17. Splurge: I have a major crush on the Kate Spade office supplies. Don't we all? The investment might be worth it: on Amazon, this four piece set as a bundle is $112.92. 

18. Budget: Get this clear 5 compartment organizer ($10) and these clear interlocking drawer organizers ($15), and add some copper or gold contact paper to the bottom to achieve the Kate Spade look!

Since I've simply got too many ideas to fit in one post, on Friday next week I'll share with you ideas and options for planning for assignments and keeping track of important social life details, as well as decor for your dorm hang out (lounge/ kitchen) area, and storage solutions for making the most of your closet space. Update: Here's Part Two!

*Note: this post was originally written in 2011! Since many of the products were no longer available, I updated it in 2015 and added some fresh ideas.

Do you have some great dorm or small space decor ideas? Share them with us in the comments!

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