Turning a Dorm into a Home Away from Home

This is a guest blog post from HomeGoods Style Expert, Mike Harrison.

Taking small rooms and turning them into a warm, comfortable home away from home can seem overwhelming, but in my experience decorating rooms for some of the biggest stars on Broadway, I’ve come to find that it’s easier than you might think if you have the right inspiration! Whether it be decorating a dressing room for my friend Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton, Lupita Nyong’o of Eclipsed or Ben Platt of Dear Evan Hansen, a family’s living room or a student’s dorm room, I look at each space as an exciting blank canvas and turn to HomeGoods to add the necessary function without sacrificing style and personality.

We all know it’s almost time for college students to prepare for their return to campus this fall. Organizing, shopping and packing up to move to a new dorm room can be daunting when you’re trying to turn a normal dorm into something special and personal, while coordinating styles with a new roommate’s own aesthetic and creating a space that is equally comfortable and productive with lots of storage!

I’ve laid out six fun, on-trend and practical tips to keep in mind while considering bedding, furniture, wall art, lighting, accessories – basically all things décor! – that students can bring into a tiny dorm room.

Tip #1: Use a matching color palette to complement each other’s individual, unique styles.

Photo by Matt Harrington

Roommates can have different styles – one is more boho, and one is more coastal charm – but they can find common ground by using at least one unifying color to incorporate different textures and designs. For example, a light turquoise can evoke a fresh, beachy vibe while also being a great accent color for an eclectic, bohemian palette. I suggest exploring HomeGoods’s rug section and layering two rugs that incorporate that color but speak to both styles. You can even find a throw pillow for one bed that coordinates with the other bed’s comforter.

Tip #2: Find balance in the décor by exploring styles and trends everyone agrees on.

Photo by Matt Harrington

By incorporating both tastes, the room will appear bigger and more balanced, instead of feeling like a line is drawn down the middle.

Tip #3:  Saving space is key in small rooms – use seating as extra storage. 

Poufs are on-trend and make for great additional seating and storage – and right now – HomeGoods has them in all shapes in sizes! Students can use them to lounge when friends are over, then stack them together to save room or store blankets, books or an emergency candy stash for all-nighters! This is just a clever way to add storage and function while having fun with colors and textures. I picked up the following from my last trip to HomeGoods – I love how they are all different, but work together at the same time!

Photo by Matt Harrington

Tip #4: Find fun frames and art to upgrade the wall décor.
Gone are the years of posters with duct tape! Adding a sleek frame to posters and art adds some sophistication to the room’s style – without losing the fun. The best part about this updated wall décor is the fashion and function. A beautiful calendar or white board can help you stay organized while also giving your bedside a nice touch!

Photo by Matt Harrington

Photo by Matt Harrington

Photo by Matt Harrington

Tip #5: Turn workspace practicality into desk décor that will make staying organized stylish.

Take the Mason jars someone gave as a graduation gift and use them as a canister to hold pencils, paper clips and other desk supplies. HomeGoods has a wide selection of fun glass jars and containers that can do double duty. With small spaces, it’s important to think outside the box!

Photo by Matt Harrington

Tip #6: DON’T mask the “problem area” – embrace it with fun flourishes!

Small spaces can be difficult, especially when they involve awkward shapes and missing components, like a windowless room or sharply slanted ceiling. Instead of trying to hide or avoid it, use a décor component – i.e. string lights or paperclipped Polaroids – that will turn it into a highlight of the room’s unique design. Another ‘problem area’ might be that plain, simple dorm furniture. I picked up removable wallpaper from HomeGoods and turned two dressers into statement pieces – and the best part is – once we’re done with the room – we can peel it right off!

Photo by Matt Harrington

Photo by Matt Harrington

Photo by Matt Harrington

Photo by Matt Harrington

With just a few easy changes, you’ll be able to transform your blank dorm room into a cozy home away from home that incorporates your style (and your roommate’s!), keeps you organized and helps you stay on track for the school year!


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