A Crash Course in Senior Year Dorm Decor

How to fit your big personality into a small dorm room in a grown-up way.

Image courtesy of College Benefits Research Group.  

By your senior year, you’ve grown and changed in ways that your freshman self never would’ve imagined.  You’re more experienced, mature, and worldly. Shouldn’t your dorm room decor reflect that?  

We’re here to help you keep your dorm room decor matching both your personality and the more mature version of you.  

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We can do better than this!  Image courtesy of Pinterest.  

An Athletic Dorm Room Aesthetic

If athletics is the most important part of your college life, it’s still okay to display that in your dorm room decor as a senior.  We wouldn’t want to deprive you of showing off your proudest moments and your accomplishments– maybe just update the way in which you execute it, without adding clutter to an already-small space.  

We’re guessing that as an athlete, you’ve probably got a few trophies sitting around.  Are they crammed onto your desk shelf or chest of drawers? Cluttered haphazardly on a closet shelf?  Show them off properly– maybe not all at once, but the ones that you’re most proud of– by getting a glass case or a shelf extender and placing them out where you can see them.  Nab a few photo frames that complement the trophies– keep them sleek and glossy in tones of silver, dark gold, or black– and display some of your favorite team or athletic moments.  Any medals that you’ve won will look nice draped over the corner with the medal propped against the frame for visibility. Keep everything dusted and tidy.  

Freshman, you may have plastered their side of the dorm in sports posters, but senior you know that the fragile paper rips unless it’s protected.  Spend the extra money to have them framed properly– or ask for it for a birthday or holiday– especially if they’re signed. Try to use frames that match and won’t go out of style.  Use command hooks and a leveler to hang them evenly and straight on your wall. Try to leave equal space between them, or group framed pictures of your teammates, friends, and family around them.  Be sure those walls are cleaned before you use the 3M Command hooks, or they won’t stick properly! Keep a Swiffer duster on hand to maintain the glass’s shine.  

The old you may have thought that throw pillows in the shape of your favorite sports objects or mascots looked cute piled on the bed, but senior you know that looks childish and chintzy.  Instead, find bedding in the color scheme of your favorite team, and find throw pillows to match. If nostalgia won’t let you part with the mascot pillow, it’s not completely out of the question to pop it on top or tuck it in on the side of the other throw pillows as an accent.  The point is that it shouldn’t be the focal point. There are some retailers who sell throw pillows that look like sports team jerseys– one of those would look snazzy against plain throw pillows in solid team colors.  

The idea behind making athletic work as a dorm room decor is to keep it simple, clean, and less-is-more.  It’s not about curbing your enthusiasm– it’s about finding more sophisticated ways of expressing your athletic style that matches your age.  

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Dorm room windows are often an overlooked area when decorating.  Turn them into a canvas for art! This window used cellophane cut-outs, but you could use washable paint or window markers!  Image courtesy of My Kid Craft.  

Artsy Dorm Decor

If you’re the artsy type, the 3M Command hooks and a level will be your best decorating buddies.  

By now, you’ve developed specific tastes in art styles and their creators.  You’ve either painted or acquired some paintings or prints that you’d like to hang on your walls.  To keep your collection looking tidy and grown-up, make sure that prints are framed and any paintings that aren’t mounted on stretchers have frames.  Try to pick frames that complement each other– they don’t have to all match if that’s not your preference– so that the overall look is still cohesive.  

Clean your walls really well and let them dry completely.  Take your level and a pencil– trust us, you really need a pencil and not something else– and mark out where you want your pictures to hang with a straight pencil line where the top of the painting should sit.  Place your 3M Command Hook in the middle of the line, so that the top of the backing sits just underneath the pencil line. Practice hanging the pictures, using your level to ensure they are straight until you like their arrangement.  Then clean off the pencil lines with cleaner or rubbing alcohol and hang your pictures in place! Hanging them this way ensures that they look professional and grown-up instead of haphazard and thoughtless.  

For a whimsical touch, you can hang a canopy above your bed using 3M Command hooks and a little help from a ladder (if a stepping stool doesn’t do the trick, ask facilities if you can borrow one).  Be choosy about your canopy, because they can quickly look childish– pick a color, but the fabric and style should say luxury. Think silk, velvet, or satin instead of tulle, mesh or ruffles. If it seems to plain, consider adding iron-on appliques or– for a more exotic look– pieces of tiny jewelry like earrings or rings.  Shiny beads also work, but stay away from lights, glitter, and sequins as they can quickly turn chintzy and cheap-looking.  

If your dorm room has windows, use them as your canvas!  Crayola Window Markers are a quick and easy way to express yourself artistically and yet washes off easily with water followed by a quick swipe of glass cleaner.  Keep it fun and simple with doodles, classic with stained glass window designs copied from the masters, or pastoral with landscapes. Let your imagination run wild– and get your roomies in on the action too!  They also work on tin foil, so labeling leftovers is a cinch!  

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We really appreciate the color scheme and minimalist approach to the decor in this room.  Image courtesy of Artsy.  

Minimalist Decor for a Decluttered Dorm

Does clutter make you nervous?  Do you have a capsule wardrobe? Do you hate being bogged down with lots of things on your shelves?  You might be a minimalist.  

So how does a minimalist decorate?  

The two may seem mutually exclusive, but not necessarily.  Minimalism isn’t about having spare, blank spaces so much as space gives meaning to what’s occupying it.  Keep your decor paired down and simply– focus on things that keep you organized, like a clock and some shelves instead of art or posters on your wall.  Or if you’d like some color and pattern, pick prints by some of the great Minimalist painters such as Agnes Martin or Sol LeWitt.  You could also DIY a minimalist mural with washi tape if it’s allowed by resident life.  

Express yourself through your bedding as well.  Many retailers carry bedding sets– like this one from Target’s Room Essentials– that offer simple pre-coordinated color schemes.  Enhance the set with a throw pillow or two in a contrasting or complementing color to create warmth and softness in an otherwise plain room, yet without creating clutter.  

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Now there’s a couple of roomies who know how to decorate for themselves AND each other!  See how they’ve combined their two personalities into their decor, while still producing a cohesive room?  Image courtesy of Pinterest.  

Go Global in a Small Space

This is probably the most unique and interesting way to decorate your small dorm room.  If you can, buy your decor and bedding fair trade and really embody the global mindset.  

All over the world, each culture has its own unique textiles, and the fabric is the easiest way to decorate any space.  Obviously, the easiest way to accomplish this is with bedding– pick a color palette and then go wild with patterns and textures!  Work in layers with a sheet set and your preference of quilt or comforter, and then add throw blankets and pillows.  We love that World Market sells sets of pillowcases where you can mix and match the patterns in a cool or warm color palette.  

You can also hang textiles on the wall for an interesting take on art– this is particularly useful if you have an outside wall that needs some extra insulation.  You can frame it, but you can actually use printed cotton and loads of spray starch to use it as wallpaper.  This technique will only work on smooth, clean surfaces so if your dorm room walls are textured it won’t work.  

For a quick, magical-looking curtain set take strips of fabric in different yard widths and similar lengths and tie them onto a curtain rod, dowel rod, or string.  Vary the colors, patterns, solids, and types of fabric for an extra cool touch. Then use 3M Command hooks to secure the rod or string. (If your dorm room has a curtain rod, just use that).  This can also work across spaces to divide the room up if you and your roomies need some extra privacy.  

Your floor deserves some attention, too.  All across the world, people are obsessed with covering their floors– with lacquered wood designs, pillows, and rugs.  Chances are your dorm room has a tile or hardwood floor, so it can be cold to walk around in bare feet– and who wears dirty shoes past the door?  (Tracking in who-knows-what-you-walked-in?! No way! Leave a shoe rack by the door and keep those floors clean!) Throw some rugs down and give yourself something soft to walk upon.  We like an upcycled sari rug or woven cotton rug, but due to the nature of rugs being highly textured anything will work in a pinch.  The point is to cover the walking area so that a) you don’t walk on a cold floor and b) you add metaphorical warmth too.  

If you’re a traveler, frame maps of the countries to which you’ve traveled and marked the places you’ve visited with a dot or a tiny footprint.  Frame them and hang the maps on the walls and surround them with framed pictures from your travels or memorabilia such as jewelry or money you never exchanged currency.  

Lights also play a huge part in world cultures.  Buy a variety of cute glass or paper lanterns and use led tea lights or votives to create a warm atmosphere. 

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Look at all of the elements that came together to form a really cool dorm room– the decorative vase, the mixed prints on the bedding, the unique jewelry organization– all things that scream personality in a sophisticated way in a small space.  Image courtesy of Stomo.co.  

Something else to consider when decorating your room is how it smells.  Most college dorms do not allow candles or incense– and Glade sprays are utterly wretched– so how are you going to create the perfect scented atmosphere in which to live out the last of your college days?  Try a wax warmer– check with resident life first– that uses a lightbulb instead of a candle to melt the wax. Alternatively, if your dorm uses radiator heat, place the scented wax in a terra cotta planter dish (available at craft and garden stores) and pop it on or under the radiator.  (We recommend under so it doesn’t spill.) Try to purchase wax melts that have a high essential oil content and not those mysterious ingredients labeled “fragrance” or “perfume.” Scents we recommend: cinnamon for comfort without sleepiness, lemongrass for perkiness, lavender for relaxation, or a seasonal scent.  You can also DIY some with soy or beeswax, some grapeseed or other scentless oil, essential oils to your liking, a glass bowl, and a microwave. Handle with care, though!  

We hope that these ideas inspire you to create a homey, comfortable dorm room for your senior year.  If you use any of our ideas, please show us and tag us in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “A Crash Course in Senior Year Dorm Decor

  1. Heyy! This is a great blog post! Sometimes people don’t take the time out to decorate their dorm room, not because they don’t want to, but they don’t know how to. This blog post definitely provides people who are going to college and already in college with a way that can be beneficial for them to decorate their dorm rooms and what tools could be used as well! And again, this is a great blog post! I could show this to someone preparing to go off to college!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this blog is beautiful and useful tips for me. As I complete each year, I do try to improve my room decoration. I do not relate to the Athletic room design but you really hit home for the minimalism. Thank you for touching on different designs so that I can find some tips that suited my own style. Definitely, this guide will be helpful for me as I finish my last semester in college. Thank you for sharing your amazing suggestions. 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

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