My dorm room. It's something I've wanted to share for awhile after posting a snap of it on Instagram at the beginning of the year. Today, I'm happy to say that the story was picked up by Washington Life Magazine and is featured via a two-page spread in their September issue. I had the opportunity to sit down with Erica Moody, Associate Editor at the magazine, to talk about the dorm and how to make the best of a less-than-stellar space.
With that being said, I wanted to write about a couple topics that I think (or hope) would be helpful. This post is going to be pretty expansive, so skip over what isn't of interest. To start off, the finished space is pretty insane. I can't begin to estimate the amount of time and effort I put into it, but there was a reason behind the madness. When I first started school as a freshman, I was pretty homesick (to a point that I was flying back every other weekend at the absolute worst of it). In retrospect, my parents shouldn't have let me railroad them like I did. But - in my defense - I didn't realize that my unhappiness wasn't due to being alone or in a new environment, it was due to the lack of "home."
After taking my gap semester during my sophomore year and starting back at school in the fall, I wanted to put my best foot forward. I wanted to be successful, productive, and happy both from an academic and personal standpoint. As someone who places family at the top of the priorities list, I knew that I needed to recreate that concept - the feeling of support, comfort, and most of all, home. And so I transformed my simple, plain dorm room into a space that reflected the things and people I love. I'm a big believer in that our environment plays a massive role on our overall happiness. If we're in a space that doesn't make us feel comfortable, there's a good chance that depression or unhappiness are going to creep themselves into our heads. Now this isn't the case for everyone (some people could care less about what kind of space they live in), but it was the case for me.
Room 707 in The Dakota took me through the best and worst of times. It was a space that I celebrated my accomplishments and questioned what the hell I was doing with my life and why (insert problem here) was happening to me. While I went through the good, bad, and ugly, this space served as an abstract comfort blanket - a place that I could vet my worries, and then move forward knowing that the past was unchangeable.
My point in sharing all of this is that it's impossible to reach our full potential without being happy. While we all define happiness in different ways, it has the same effect on us all - an invaluable force of encouragement. And so if there's anything that you take away from this whole dorm post it's that you should do whatever makes you happy. Whether it's putting a large amount of effort into a space, taking a trip to a new location every season, being active in your community, or reading a new book every month - do what makes you happy because you deserve to have an environment that reminds you of what you love.
With all that being deep stuff out of the way, let's talk dorm room decor. I've selected a number of pictures and basically just wrote what was in each of them. Everything from where I got my linens to bizarre stories on how I sourced things. I tried to make it as relevant as possible so I sprinkled tips/suggestions/ideas for those that are living in constrained spaces.
Curtains & Rugs: Let's start with some of the bigger items. Curtains and rugs can do a lot for a space that adds a layer of warmth. I hated the ugly, cheap blinds that came in the room and so I picked up some one's from Target (make sure you have the length right - these don't go to the floor). When hanging them, I used command hooks (these). They'll not only support the weight of the curtains, but require zero installation which means no holes in the wall which means no surprise bills when it's time to move out. The trio of dressers, coffee table, and couch all came with the room. The chair on the lower right-hand side was purchased from IKEA and is - quite literally - one of the most comfortable chairs I ever owned.
Lighting: My room didn't have much natural sunshine and had no overhead lights. IKEA (you'll quickly see a theme here) is great for cheap, decent lighting. I had two that stood on each side of the dressers (here) along with a floor lamp that can be seen above (here). Pillows were sourced from a random furniture shops along with the throw and the poster above was found online via Zazzle (similar here).
Bar Cart: Excessive, but I really don't care because I (like any college student) enjoy the not-so-occasional drink. I picked this one up via Joss & Main (here) with the silver mint julep cups being a Christmas Gift and the crystal decanters something I bought at the Georgetown Flea Market (if you live in DC and haven't ever gone, you're missing out - it's on Sunday up Wisconsin Ave). "The Southener's Handbook" by Garden & Gun (here) that sits underneath a vintage Hermés ashtray has awesome cocktail recipes should anyone be interested.
Wall: You weren't allowed to hammer anything into the wall, but I did because living in a sterile prison didn't sound like much fun to me. I admit I went overboard with this, but I thought it turned out awesome. The BMW print was a piece I picked up at random one afternoon. The pair of gold soldiers were found at a bougie estate sale in Georgetown, the 1890s Harper's Weekly print from The Opportunity Shop, and the man in the top-hat is a print from the Vanity Fair Spy Series.
Wall Art Suggestions: IKEA for cheap frames // Flea markets, vintage shops, and estate sales for artwork
Shelving: These didn't come with the room and since there were a good 50+ holes in that gallery wall I made I figured I'd go ahead and do the same to the other wall. These shelves (here- again from IKEA) were great for holding books (you can see my complete reading list here), games (Cards Against Humanity should be a back-to-school requirement), along with random impulse buys like that massive flask. Next to the shelves is a pair of raunchy, German prints from the early 1900s. They're another awesome find from The Georgetown Flea Market that I had framed during one of my trips back home.
Computers: I know it's excessive, but having a desktop and laptop was invaluable. It's definitely not a necessity, but with my Macbook Pro going on year five at the time I decided to purchase the lowest-grade iMac to use for larger school projects, Photoshop, and any website maintenance. The desktops cost just under $1,000 and you can use your student discount to knock of an additional $100 from the price. If you're operating within a super tight budget, you should consider buying a refurbished piece directly from Apple (here). Today, I use the largest size Macbook Air (here) for work along with an iMac (here) at home. For reference, these two computers combined cost less than my original Macbook Pro. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you get unlimited storage so all of my old pictures, files, and schoolwork aren't even housed on the computer anymore. This system - Amazon, the iMac, and the Macbook Air - was an awesome trio that not only keeps everything safe, but didn't bog down the processing power of the computers. I also suggest buying a 1TB storage-drive (here) to back up your entire computer onto.
Coursework: I used a planner by Moleskin (here) that I swear by. It's large, has plenty of space to write assignments in, and isn't large/clunky. When I started each new semester, I would print out all of my syllabi and write down each assignment for each day in the planner. It's a bit labor intensive, but saves you a ton of time in the long-run by not having to constantly refer back to half a dozen PDFs every day of the week. Another tip to note is that I strongly (STRONGLY) suggest renting your textbooks via Amazon (here). You'll save a good chunk of money and if you figure out 30 days in that you don't need the book, you can return it for a full refund. I did this a couple of times for classes that I ended up not needing the book for.
Tote: Probably one of the best items a college student living in a city can buy. These boat & totes from L.L. Bean (here) are indestructible. I used this one (monogram stands for Gin & Tonic - idea stolen from Sarah Solomon) for grocery shopping, going to the gym, or trips home when I didn't want to check in luggage. If you don't have one, buy one. Right now.
Storage: I'm not kidding when I say that I had to maximize space. This Hermés scarf box served as home for random pocket squares that couldn't fit elsewhere. Get creative with old boxes or things you purchase that can serve a new purpose.
Clothes Rack: Your eyes do not deceive - that is in fact a commercial grade garment rack (here). Dorms typically have small closet spaces and while I admit mine had a walk-in-closet (not kidding), this came in handy both to store clothes and when I was moving them out. Anyone who has roommates, this is a great way to take out those bulky coats/jackets to free up space in the closet. If you don't have space for a garment rack, purchase a closet extender (here). I had two of these in my closet where I hung sweaters and pants above and shirts/polos below.
Bedding: IKEA once again. I got nice bedding my freshman year that ended up getting destroyed in the cheap washing machines. These linens (here) were comfortable and didn't make me want to cry whenever I (or someone else) spilled something on them. You can buy nice bedding from a place like Anthropologie (here), but the probability of you sleeping in a twin bed for more than two/three years is slim. I suggest waiting to splurge until you're in your own space. Underneath the bedding are a few things to note. First, I strongly suggest purchasing a pillow-topper. It made sleeping on the mattress 100x better. Second, I hate seeing clutter and so I purchased a large bed skirt to hide everything I stuck underneath my bed. Which leads me to number three - storage. I highly encourage hiking up the height of your bed with a set of bed risers (here). You can use the space for clothing overflow, tubs of old school-work, or luggage to travel home with.
And that's my space. If you have questions about the space or college in general, feel free to submit a question via Tumblr - this allows more people to see the answer and prevents me from answering half a dozen of the same emails. For other dorm suggestions, you can look at this Pinterest board.
PS: A special thanks to Erica Moody for the feature and John Robinson for the photography.