College Furniture & Decorating Ideas from the Pros

With the fall semester just around the corner for college and university students, it’s time to start thinking about what to bring to school and more importantly, how to store it all.

As a college student, whether you’re planning to take up residence on campus in a dorm room or will be living off campus at student housing or group housing, there’s a high likelihood that limited space will be an issue.

You’ll want to find the perfect balance of “This place feels like home,” and “Hey cool, all this stuff actually fits in the room, and my roommate and I still have some open space to move around!

We asked professional designers– including one of our own in house experts– to share some tips with us, so we can share them here with you. Because as they say, sharing is caring!

Use Furniture With Plenty of Height and Storage

Perla Lichi of Perla Lichi Designs says, “Buy furniture with shelves or cabinets and lots of storage supplies. Once everything has a place and you know where things are supposed to go, it will be easier to maintain a non-cluttered apartment.”

Our own Gary Flax (we caught up with him right here at the showroom) is inclined to agree. “Organization is important with smaller spaces, and it?s smart to think about your space vertically. Beds with drawers underneath, for example, are always an excellent use of space.”

Flax informs us that “Armoires and wardrobes also give you more storage by going higher instead of wider,” adding that they can be ordered in heights up to 118 inches.

D‚cor and Color Expert Kathleen Manicke also mentioned height in the first of several good tips, responding, “Think vertical; use the space all the way up to the ceiling, keeping the floor clear of clutter, and your dorm room can live large!” Manicke offers more tips and services at her own site No White Rooms, and also maintains a pinterest board devoted to dorm decor. Keep reading for more wisdom from Kathleen in the section below.

Lichi’s second tip was also about keeping clutter at bay. Her advice is to “Spend a lot of time eliminating clutter. Most people have too much clutter and too few decorative accessories. Eliminating the inevitable clutter in your dorm room or college apartment is a great first step toward decorating less for better results.”

S. Lee Wright (ASID, NCIDQ, CID) who is the interior architect on the new Bloomfield College dorm here in New Jersey, has a couple of good tips, and the first one also includes the word vertical.

Wright says, “Use vertical space versus the limited floor space in a shared room,” recommending the contemporary Sapien Bookcase by designer Bruno Rainaldi as an “awesome place to keep college texts, papers and computers in the most efficient manner.”

Wright offered another piece of wisdom that could be overlooked when moving to a new shared space. “[Get a] hotel towel bar/rack for towels to store & dry properly instead of hanging on hooks where they get moldy faster or leaving in shared bathroom when who knows who’s touched them!”

It looks like our experts agree on some of the most important points so far!

Individual Style and Comfort on or off Campus

Another common thread among the designers who offered their tips was to personalize your space.

Tamara Sayago-Dunner, interior designer and expert shopper, breaks the task down into actionable bullet points.

“Start with a favorite color combination, pattern or style. Dorm rooms are usually drab, so brighten it up with fun and bright colors like neon or bright colors including turquoise, orange, yellow or pink.” Patterns or styles she uses as examples to consider include: “floral, polka dot, stripe or plaid,” and “modern, preppy, funky, crazy or traditional.”

Sayago-Dunner adds the importance of comfort and fun, saying, “Make it as comfortable as you can. Incorporate warm and fuzzy blankets, pillows and rugs to make the space cozy and feel like home… Use fun lighting fixtures, paintings, colorful storage boxes or trunks, frames and desk accessories.”

Speaking of blankets, a related tip comes from the American Blanket Company. They recommend using a warm, fuzzy fleece blanket instead of a bulky comforter. This allows you to enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling while saving valuable space.

Based in Falls River, Massachusetts, their blankets and throws are hand made in their own shop and all priced under $100. They talk blankets and more on their Facebook page all year long here.

Kathleen Manicke also has something to say about color. Her next tip is to “try to Stick with 1-2 colors for a cohesive experience.”

Manicke has a couple more pieces of advice. She adds, “Bookcases, towers, or screens are natural room dividers, establishing “zones” in the small space for reading, studying, sleeping, primping, etc. Old luggage stacked and spray painted bright colors can hold hats and gloves, purses, tote bags, or extra school supplies; plus they serve as a side or coffee table in a pinch.”

Even More Dorm Room & Student Housing Tips

A surprising tip came in from Jane Grosslight, author of the award-winning book Money in Your Pocket with a Bulb and Socket for Homes and Businesses.

“Do not put a ‘twisty’ shape compact fluorescent light bulb into a desk lamp that will be about 1 foot away from the student’s reading material,” Says Grosslight. Because the twisty tube is so narrow, it permits ultraviolet light to come with the visible white light. Using it for more than 1 hour a day can expose the student to as much ultraviolet light as they would receive being outside on a sunny day. And ultraviolet light adversely affects the DNA and the eyes. causing cataracts.

“Use an A-shape compact fluorescent bulb or an A-shape LED in a desk lamp. In fact the best is to purchase an LED desk lamp. It will last provide cool, ultraviolet-free, long lasting light–a good investment which is useable for years.”

That tip was probably the most unexpected one we received. Diligent fact-checkers that we are, we did go ahead and google cfl ultraviolet light before including it. Sure enough, there are some legit scientific studies that we will allow to speak for themselves.

The Right Tools for the Job

You guys want one more neat tip that we never would have thought of? Sure you do. Good!

This last piece of college living awesomeness comes from Beth Allen. Beth is the founder of Home Improvement Project Chicks, where she “teaches women how to screw… and hammer too!” An admirable undertaking indeed!

Her advice is to pack a tool kit. She explains why, “You cannot decorate/organize well without the right tools. Stuff has to be put together, right? Plus, the kid with the tools becomes the most popular kid on move in day. Great ice breaker. The essentials are:
a.. lightweight hammer
b.. ratcheting screwdriver set with interchangeable tips
c.. assorted nails/screws
d.. needle nose pliers (great for jewelry and electronics too)
e.. duct tape (fashion colors, of course)
f.. 3M Command Strips and Velcro strips with adhesive back for curtains, posters, etc.
g.. Flashlight
Extra tip: An over the door shoe organizer is perfect for more than shoes. Try it for: make-up, accessories, undies and socks, video gamer gadgets, school supplies.”