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How To Make a Small Dorm Room Look Bigger

Updated on July 26, 2012
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Jeannie has been writing online for over 10 years. She covers a wide variety of topics - hobbies, opinions, dating advice, and more!

Back in the old days of the dorm room...
Back in the old days of the dorm room... | Source

Make the Dorm Room Home

Going away to college for the first time can be an intimidating experience. There will be so much to learn and you are in a new place. Many freshman (and upperclassman) opt to live in dormitories while attending college. Dorms can be a fun place to live, but they can also feel very cramped. Many colleges even have triple or quad dorms rooms now, so not only are you trying to squeeze into a small dorm room, you might be trying to squeeze into a small dorm room with other people. At the very least, you will probably have at least one roommate your freshman year. When living in such a small space, proper decorating can make the dorm room feel much bigger.

Contact Your Future Roommate

This might sound obvious, but the first thing you should do is coordinate what you are bringing with your future roommate. Most colleges not only tell you the name of your future roommate, but the college will usually provide an address or email address and phone number. Make sure to contact your new roommate so you can both decide who is bringing larger items like TVs, chairs, or a mini-fridge. For instance, it is silly to bring a mini-fridge if your roommate has already paid to rent one for the room. Contact your roommate and determine if you want to rent or buy a fridge, and then split the rental cost.

Also, you might find your roommate is super organized and wants to bring her/his own shelving unit. Perhaps there will be room to share. Your roommate might even have suggestions for a dorm room theme and color coordination. Honestly, that seems like a bit much to me, but it does happen and some people are happy because of it. The better you coordinate the larger items, the better organized you can make the room. If the room is organized and not cluttered, it will look larger.

An Optical Illusion of Spaciousness

When dealing with an especially small dorm room, you may want to consider getting mirrors for the wall. I've seen incredibly small rooms look enormous with the use of mirrors. You can often get a large body length mirror at stores like Target or Walmart for only $5 or so during college dorm sales. A few mirrors lined along a small wall in the dorm room can make the place look much bigger.

This is NOT the look you should be going for in a small dorm room.
This is NOT the look you should be going for in a small dorm room. | Source

Limit Your Decorations

College students are usually pretty excited about decorating the dorm room without their parents help. It is nice to be able to express an artistic side or make a statement without anyone else's opinion ruining things. However, when it comes to posters, photos, paintings, newspaper clippings, drawings, whiteboards, and other wall decorations, the more is not always the merrier.

Too many decorations on the wall will make the dorm room look even smaller. After a while, all your cool and interesting decorations can start to make the wall look small and crowded. You might even feel like the room is caving in on you. Yes, self expression is a great thing. No, feeling cramped in an overly decorated room is not a good idea. Limit your decorations to a few poster and photos or paintings, and you should be fine.

A mural is awesome - unless it takes up in entire wall in a small dorm room. Many art students enjoy painting a large mural on a wall (you are so not getting your deposit back if you do that!) or a nice temporary mural on paper or wallpaper can seem like a good idea at the time. I've seen people do this! It is not a good idea! It makes a small room look even smaller, even if the mural does show a nice scene full of open space. Just don't do it.

Disassemble Some Furniture

This might sound like a lot of work, but you might want to disassemble the dorm furniture. Many colleges like to give college students loft beds now. There will be a desk that is the length of the bed that is considered the bottom "bunk" and the top bunk is the actual bed. Since most college beds are extra long, this is especially annoying since you probably won't need an extra long desk. Instead, that is just taking up space. Furthermore, many people do not enjoy sleeping on the top of a tall loft bed that could be quite wobbly.

If you are handy with tools, you can disassemble some furniture and figure out a way to stash it in a closet, storage unit, or at your parents' house until your stay at the dorm is over. At some colleges, you even have the option of telling the residence office you can't handle sleeping in the top bunk, and they will actually have a maintenance worker take it apart for you. Bunk beds and loft beds really take up a lot of space, so whenever possible, minimizing their size is a good idea. Often, the bed itself can be brought down to ground level and the desk can go on top for storage or it can be completely disassembled.

Organizers Are Lifesavers

One of the best options you will have at the college dorm for keeping the room tidy and looking small is stashing organizers in your closet or wardrobe. The more stuff you can put in the closet to keep you organized, the most stuff you won't have in the room causing clutter.

Simple items like laundry baskets and shoe organizers easily fit in most closets or wardrobes. If you have a bunch of DVDs, you can keep that collection in your closet, too. That will probably also cut back on the number of roommates and dormmates coming in and taking your DVDs while you are not looking. Just remember, the more you can store in a closet, the less your room will look cramped.

Always utilize the space under your bed, too. If you are lucky and have a regular bed, make sure to get under the bed organizer for beneath the bed. Stashing items you don't need too often in the space under your bed is a perfect way to keep the room looking organized and bigger than its actual size.

A loft bed with mattress on top of desk and the top bunk used as storage.
A loft bed with mattress on top of desk and the top bunk used as storage. | Source

Be Creative!

When living in a small dorm, you can still be big on creativity. Just because a piece of furniture is intended for one use, does not mean you can't use it for something else. For instance, if you do not have room for a desk and a dresser, see if you can turn the dresser into a desk. You can put your computer on top and pull the chair up beside it. For the desk, you can add temporary shelves to the top of the desk so they aren't taking up the floor space, or you can disassemble the desk if you are confident you can reassemble it at the end of your stay.

Having extra chairs in your dorm room is great for visitors, but you might want to be creative about that, too. An ottoman that doubles as a storage unit is great. Folding chairs are also a good option if you have space to stash them in your closet or under your bed. Dish chairs that can fold can be more comfortable than standard folding chairs and they also easily fit under a regular bed.

If you are interested in adding extra lighting, a floor lamp is nice, but tends to take up space. Instead, you might want to get a lamp that can clip on to the headboard of a bed, assuming you have an actual bed, of course. Don't just assume you will need a lamp before seeing your actual dorm room. Many dorms have more than enough lighting already installed.

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Not only is this hub drawing to a close, remember that your stay in the dorm room is also temporary. You will be at class so much, you might not even care if you feel a little squished while in the dorm room. Also, don't forget there is the dorm commons room, the library, the gym, the cafeteria, and many other places to hang out. Make the best of your small space, but keep in mind, you will usually only reside there for a couple of semesters.

College can be the best days of your life. Even if your dorm room is the size of a closet, one day you will look back in laugh. Until that day, limiting wall decorations and buying items that help keep you organized will help you keep your sanity. Good luck!

Copyright ©2012 Jeannieinabottle


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