Practical yet stylish dorm decor that won’t take up too much space

Decorating a college dorm can be a bit of a challenge with the typically small space you’re given and the roommates you have to share the space with.  

A small space doesn’t mean that no decor can be brought with you to school, however; it just means that you’ll have to get a little more creative.

Dorm room shopping is such an exciting time for college students — and many tend to go overboard. 

This leads to a stuffed room or the need to get rid of items once you realize what little space you have. You’ll also want to coordinate with your roommates to make sure you all aren’t bringing the same items. 


Without prior communication, you could end up with three mini fridges. 

Below are decor items that you won’t regret bringing to school, which will give your dorm room a little extra charm. 

College roommates talking

Make sure to talk with roommates before move-in day to coordinate who is bringing what items. (Susan L. Angstadt/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Be sure to check you college website before going shopping to get an understanding of what items you’re allowed to bring, and what things are provided for you. 

  1. Extra seating
  2. Fairy or LED lights
  3. Photo display
  4. Storage ottoman
  5. Area rug
  6. Bedside shelf
  7. Monthly calendar
  8. Buildable shelves
  9. Retro fridge

1. Extra seating 

In a typical dorm room, each roommate will be given a bed, a desk and a set of drawers. If you have any guests coming to your room, or you simply want another place to sit, you’ll likely need to purchase additional seating arrangements. 

Having extra seating in your dorm room is practical and affordable and makes the space feel more welcoming. Luckily, there are tons of seating options you can purchase that come in a range of prices. 

The cheapest option is to get a few floor pillows. These are especially great if you have tiny space, because you can set them out when you want to use them and then pack them away when they are not in use. 


Another option is to get a bean bag for your room. If you do decide to buy a bean bag, especially if you buy one online, be extra mindful of the size. Bean bags come in a large range of sizes, so make sure you don’t purchase one that’s too big for your dorm room.

College student at desk

Most dorm rooms come with a bed, desk and drawers for each roommate, but be sure to check you school’s website before arrival to see exactly what comes in each room. (Costfoto/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

The biggest, most expensive option is to get a futon. If you have room for a futon in your room, this is a great investment to make. Additionally, get a futon that turns into a bed. 

That way, when you have guests come and visit you, you’ll have a comfortable place for them to stay. You can also buy decorative pillows and a throw blanket to dress up the furniture. 

2. Fairy or LED lights 

Before purchasing fairy or LED lights, make sure they are allowed in the dorm rooms. If they are, these can be a great way to add a little extra light to a dorm room. 


Fairy lights can be hung by a window for extra sparkle. LED lights are often stuck around the perimeter of the room. Both of these lights usually come with a remote control so that you can adjust the settings and the color. 

3. Photo display 

Bring a piece of home with you to college with a photo display. There are so many different ways to do this. You could just bring printed photos with you to college and put them right onto the wall. You can place them in a shape, like a heart for a more aesthetic look. 


You can also purchase twinkle lights that have clips across the line that you can hang pictures of family and friends onto and then hang that onto the wall. 

You could go with a bulletin board to hang your pictures too; just make sure to bring something to hang it on the wall with, like hooks or strips. 

College dorm room

Many students bring pictures with them to college to remind them of their friends and family back home. You can arrange the pictures right on the wall in a heart shape for a clean, creative look. (Anthony Weller/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

If you have a Polaroid camera, that can also help you create a beautiful photo wall. Whenever guests come to your room, have them take a photo on the Polaroid camera. 

Write the date on the bottom of the photo and put them on the back of the door. At the end of the semester, you can look back at all the memories you created throughout the school year.

4. Storage ottoman

A storage ottoman is both fashionable and practical. Instead of just getting a regular ottoman, opt for one where the top lifts off, so you can fill it with items. 


This can be a huge space saver and help you stay extra organized. 

5. Area rug

Area rugs are a great way to add a pop of color into an otherwise pretty dull looking college dorm. Area rugs are fairly inexpensive and come in many different colors. Just be sure you bring a vacuum cleaner with you to keep it clean. 

6. Bedside shelf

Having a bedside shelf is important to keep your things close to you that you may need throughout the night and when you are just lounging on your bed during the day. You may want things like your phone, a water bottle and a reading book on your shelf. 

A student moving furniture around her college dorm

Don’t be afraid to rearrange your college dorm to make it work for you. (MARLIN LEVISON/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

You are able to purchase a bedside shelf that hooks right to the bed to bring to your college dorm. 

This saves a ton of space compared to a regular bedside table and is extremely useful for those who are sleeping on the top bunk. 

7. Monthly calendar

Between college classes, club meetings, homework assignments and events, college students have a lot on their plates. With all these responsibilities, you can often forget things and get unorganized quickly. 

To keep things organized, purchase a dry-erase whiteboard that you can hang up on your wall, or put right on your desk. 

This will keep you extra organized throughout the semester. 

8. Buildable shelves

Buildable shelves are great for any dorm room because they can be customized based on the amount of space you have. Ideal buildable shelves for a dorm room are stackable wire shelves, because you can build them both up and out, creating a ton of extra storage space for your dorm. 

These shelves can hold whatever makes sense for you, from bathroom essentials, books, shoes and more. They serve many purposes, are easy to put together and are very easy to move around the dorm. 

A retro kitchen

Smaller versions of retro fridges can be bought to add a unique look to a college dorm room. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

9. Retro fridge

Sure, you can buy any old mini fridge for your food and drinks, and it will serve its purpose just fine, but if you are looking for the trendier approach, a retro fridge could be the way to go. 

These fridges come in many different colors, so you can find one that matches your style. 


You can get the fridge that just has one single opening with a tiny freezer at the top, or one that has a separate fridge and refrigerator compartment. 

If you want to go with a full retro theme, you can get a microwave and record player that match. 

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