Decorating Small Spaces

Written By: Amber Sellers

Moving from home into a college dorm is often the first move a person takes in their life to their own place. Dorms are small, that’s not a secret. The real secret is trying to get all what you want in there and to express your preferred design style. Doing all of that and keeping it all within budget isn’t as hard as you’d think.

Work with like colors. Don’t try and go overboard with a big palette ranging from tangerine to teal. Keep it simple with a limited palette of tones and shades. To maximize the feeling of a large space and not that cramp dorm you are currently in, lighter colors work best; they bounce light off of them instead of sucking it in.

What if you can’t paint the walls? Work in the color other places. The bedspread is a great way to bring color in; it’s one of the largest surfaces in the room where you can make that statement. Other pieces of furniture are in the same boat; they are functional and are big surfaces to add in your favorite shade of Osprey blue. 

Pop the room with accent colors using accessories such as lamps and wall decorations and knick-knacks. Area rugs are a perfect way to add just the right amount of wow power and also work to ‘anchor’ the room, so your furniture isn’t floating in space.

Deal with design themes. Don’t mix and match your nautical with your modern or your classical with midcentury, it isn’t going to work. Pairing unlikely styles isn’t going to help with your illusion of making your dorm look larger. You don’t have to design with sleek, modern accents to accomplish your goal, but it might help. Simply, pick a style and stay with it.

Patterns can either hurt or help your small space. Along with your colors you choose, pick one pattern and stay with it. Stripes always work well, especially vertical ones. Make sure your patterns and colors somewhat match. Try to make either one bold or the other muted or your small space may become too busy and give it a cluttered appearance.

Mirrors work, as 1970s as that sounds, it’s true. Mirrors of all shapes and sizes on the wall or standing up will do wonders for a dorm or small apartment. It’s the same principle as working with light colored paint or colors, the mirrors reflect the light from around the space or window to bounce it back. Plus, it gives an illusion that there is more in the room than there really is.

Try to store clutter away. Buying a cheap wardrobe to place your extra clothing items in would do the trick. If not, buying a small shelf and using adhesive-backed hook and latch strips to a piece of fabric to create a custom-fit curtain; a fast and easy way to conceal personal items.

Taking skyscrapers to heart, if you can’t go out, go up. Tall shelving units are the way to go if you are lacking any additional flooring space.  You could use the method listed above to hid what you don’t want others to see, of maybe you do. If you have a collection of items you’d like to show off, group them together on the shelves to create a cohesive look and help bounce eyes around your room instead of focusing on the room’s lack of space.

To recap the main points of decorating a small space or dorm:

  •          Use matching colors, preferably light ones
  •          Add color to furniture
  •          Use bold statement colors on accent pieces
  •          Stick with one design theme
  •          Patterns are your friends, but don’t go overboard
  •          Mirrors bounce light around your room
  •          Go up with shelving units



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