it's that time of year again — freshmen heading off to college for the first time. They are excited to experience new friends, fall football and academic adventures. But before all of the fun begins, they have to settle into their new homes, which most often are dorm rooms. Yes, that small drab room with cold floors will be where new students sleep, study, eat, entertain, dream and even grow up some. • To help make this transition a good one, and to turn this dull space into a personal stylish sanctuary, the ultimate goals must include organization, minimal clutter and comfort. • The first step in attaining these goals is to plan in advance. • If possible, parents and student should tour the dorm or, at the very least, get a floor plan from the university. Find out what furniture already is included in the room. Most schools provide a desk and bed, but it's wise to confirm. Also, students should talk to roommates to discuss favorite colors and styles. Coordinate who is going to buy what, so there's no overlap in purchases. • Many stores offer checklists for shopping (see ours inside), with some lists online that you can send to your smartphone. • Web-based tools also can help. For instance, at designyourdorm.com, college students can customize a dorm room interior, then buy what they need online.
Furniture can save space
Once the list is divvied up among roommates, the shopping fun begins. Dual purpose, durable furniture will help maximize the lean square footage.
Check to see if the school has loft beds. These are great because they offer a bed, desk and possibly seating all in one area. If the beds are just regular ones, you can use bed risers to create additional space under the bed for crates and storage bins.
Storage ottomans can be used for both storage and for seating.
Use a file cabinet as an end table.
Shelving units can do double-duty as a privacy or space divider and a spot to place accessories such as family photos and school memorabilia.
Mirrors serve multiple functions, including making a space seem larger, serving as artwork, providing a place to primp and reflecting natural light.
Floating shelves don't sacrifice premium floor space. They also provide a great place to keep keys and other items you need to always be able to locate.
If a desk is not provided, consider a wall-mounted one that will take up less space. Glass top ones are also nice since they give the appearance of a larger space. Some students may even feel that they don't need a desk, since laptops and iPads are common.
Make the room your own
The best way to transform the beige dorm into a colorful, cozy home is through bedding, area rugs and wall decor.
The bed will serve not only for sleeping purposes, but as a couch, dining table and study area. So it is important that the bedding is comfortable and easy to wash. In essence, it becomes a focal point in the room, which can definitely be the starting point for making all of your other selections.
Most dorms have concrete or tiled floors, so layer them with an attractive area rug, which quickly gives comfort, warmth and style. They can also be easily shaken out and cleaned when necessary.
Another variation is carpet tiles, which are square tiles that can be placed together to form a large area rug, or even provide wall-to-wall "carpet."
Don't neglect the basics
It's also important to check the requirements with the walls. If the school allows wall painting, this is one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to transform a boring space. Choose a fun color that is pulled out of your bedding and rug.
If the college does not allow paint, and if they do not allow permanent holes, there are some other things you can do.
Wall decals are removable, affordable, customizable and won't damage walls. Check out "sticker frames" where personal photos can be inserted at butchandharold.com. To give your dorm some more creativity, find wall decals with graphics, artwork, and quotes. You can even find and buy chalkboards and message boards to help keep track of your roommates' schedules.
Window treatments will be needed for privacy and to keep light out. Again, check with the university to see if they supply basic blinds. If not, "Redi-shades" (available at most home improvement stores) are easy to stick and remove. To add more color and style, add prepackaged drapery panels to coordinate with other items in your dorm room. If you purchase removable hardware and rods, remember to install the rod at least 6 inches wider than the window opening, and 4 to 6 inches taller than the height of the window to keep out light. Use full-length panels that go to the floor.
Lighting is essential in transforming a space, in addition to being a requirement for reading and studying. Most dorms have general overhead fixtures, but plan on buying table and floor lamps, which can add fashion to the space. Chic lamps enhance a room the same as jewelry adds to a clothing outfit.
Michelle Jennings Wiebe, ASID, is president and principal designer of Studio M Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (813) 221-5260.