11 Things You Can & Can Not Change in a Dorm Room

When you set your foot into a dorm room for the first time, it’s everything but cozy. All rooms look the same, the walls are painted white or another neutral color, and the furniture is bleak.

So, of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is decorate it and bring your vibe to the space. It might be your first impulse even before looking for professional essay writers online or getting all the textbooks. After all, who’d want to call such a bleak room home, right?

But be careful! Not all DIY projects will be allowed by the dorm’s rules. So, you’ll need to find a way to work around those restrictions.

So, how can you make your dorm room cozier? And what’s off the table? Let’s answer both of those questions – and inspire you to make that space your own.

6 Don’ts of Decorating a Dorm Room

Before kicking off this list, let’s be clear: colleges and universities have different rules regarding their housing. So, double-check your school’s rulebook before giving up or settling on an idea.

That said, most schools’ guidelines have some things in common. So, let’s break down six things that are usually not allowed.

No Painting on the Walls or Putting Up Wallpaper

This is a major rule in any dorm. You can’t do any permanent modifications to the walls of your room. So, you might not like the white walls surrounding you, but you can’t paint them a different color. The same goes for spicing it up with vibrant permanent wallpaper that goes along with your sofa.

Some dorms allow their residents to use decals. Those can come as temporary wallpaper or artwork that you can safely remove when you have to move out. But remember to double-check if it’s fine to use it in your particular case!

No Making Holes in the Walls

This is another wall modification that’s prohibited in virtually any dorm out there. This means no using screws, putting nails into the wall, or hanging something with metal tacks or fasteners.

What do you do if you want to put something up on a wall, like photos or a piece of artwork? Don’t worry: you have options. First, mounting putty is fine to use in most cases, and it doesn’t leave any traces behind. You can also try to use a colorful washi tape.

No Burning Candles or Incense

Since it’s a major fire hazard, you’ll have to kiss burning incense or candles goodbye for the duration of your stay in this accommodation. If you get caught using them, you might be facing a hefty fine and a potential eviction.

Of course, that’s a shame if you love adding a scent to where you live. But don’t get upset just yet: you can get yourself an essential oil vaporizer instead. It’s also a better way to please your sense of smell if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle during your student years.

No Changing the Furniture

Most dorm rooms come furnished. In this case, any permanent change to the already-there furniture is frowned upon. You’re supposed to leave it for whoever comes after you the way it was when you moved in.

What does it mean in practice? For example, you can use washi tape to put up a photo or two on your wardrobe. Since it won’t leave any traces, it’s fine. But you can’t make holes in its door to put up hooks!

No Attaching Things to the Ceiling, Sprinklers, or Pipes

Another common restriction, this one is also dictated by fire safety rules. Things hanging from the ceiling can get in the way of the sprinklers or even make them non-functional.

So, don’t hang anything from the ceiling, the sprinkler, or the heat pipes. Some dorms also have a specific height limit for furniture and wall decorations (e.g., they shouldn’t be higher than 18 inches). Check if yours has a limit like that, too.

No Hanging Curtains & Other Fabrics

Fire safety rules also mean you won’t be able to put up anything made of fabrics, in most cases. So, it means no curtains (there are usually roller blinds already in place) and fabric banners or flags are allowed.

You can replace some decorations with their paper alternatives, like a poster with a flag instead of a textile one. That said, there’s not much juggle room with this rule.

5 Ways You Can Make Your Dorm Room Cozier

Let’s move on to the more fun part now. What can you do to spice up your dorm room? How can you make it your own? Here are five ideas for you.

Decorate the Walls

Let’s start with the easiest (and the most effective) DIY project out there: putting stuff on your wall! For example, you can hang up:

  • Your favorite posters;
  • Photos of you, your friends, and family;
  • Decorative lights;
  • Artwork.

But remember the dorm’s rules. You can’t use nails or screws to put anything up, so opt for mounting putty or washi tape. Plus, check out how much of the wall you can decorate. (The limit can vary from 10% to 50%.)

Personalize Your Dorm Room Door

Once you’re finished with the walls, what about the door? After all, most people won’t see your room’s interior – but they’ll pass by your door. So, it’s a great place to let them see what kind of person you are!

Once again, you’ll need to consult the dorm’s rules. Sometimes, you have a limit on how much of the door space you can decorate. Sometimes, you’re not allowed to put anything on the door at all.

There are some more ideas that you can use in your dorm to make your room look best among all your friends, but be aware of decorating mistakes to avoid as you don’t want to risk not loving the turn out.

Need some ideas for personalizing your door? How about:

  • Making a sign with your name?
  • Putting up lights?
  • Hanging a chalkboard with a friendly message?

Spice Up Your Bedspread

Your bed probably takes up most of the space in the room. Plus, it’s the first thing you notice when you enter. So, why not personalize it with an awesome bedspread? You can find one online or go to a thrift store.

Want to amp it up a bit? Dye the fabrics yourself and/or paint them using acrylics for textiles! And if that’s not enough, how about adding some throw pillows with cute prints? You can order a custom print online – or paint them yourself!

Add Potted Plants

Wonder what’s the most sure-proof way to make your room feel more lively and fresh? That’s right – putting some potted plants on the desk or the windowsill!

Not sure what plants would be the best option? Consider succulents like aloe, Asphodelaceae, and cacti – they don’t need a lot of watering or care. So, if you don’t think you have a green thumb, they’re a good starter option.

Throw in an Area Rug

In most cases, carpeting the floor isn’t allowed. But area rugs are! So, why not throw one on the floor to spice up the whole area?

If you want to get your hands dirty (metaphorically speaking, of course), you can make a rug yourself. You can crochet it out of scrap fabric, braid old T-shirts, spray paint a thrift-store rug, or make it out of thick rope.

In Conclusion

Ready to work on making your new home feel like one? Great! Remember: there are no right and wrong ways to decorate it. So, follow your heart. And don’t be afraid to experiment!

There’s one but, though. If you don’t have the space all to yourself, talk your decoration plans through with your roommate. Make sure they’re okay with the changes in the common areas, like the door or the wardrobe.

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