Decorating 101 - Ideas for College Students on a Budget Decorating 101 - Ideas for College Students on a Budget

For a college student, a dorm room or apartment serves as a home away from home and is the location of many memories. No one wants a second home that looks like a prison cell with cinderblock walls and dismal lighting. College students are usually on a budget, but there are ways to spruce up your place without getting stuck in a financial mess. According to industry designers, this year's color trends are funky, bright and lively. Color schemes such as magenta and lime green or saffron and blue form a young retro look. Tri-color themes like white/chocolate brown/lime green and black/white/stainless steel or gray are also popping up. A sleek minimalist look can also be created through creamy earth tones. One main tip to remember is that you should communicate with your roommate when planning a design for your room. A coordinated effort will create a beautiful room that both of you can enjoy.

Most students are not allowed to paint their walls, but there are numerous ways to make a room exciting without the use of paint. If you want to go for a whole wall color minus the paint, you can put fabric on walls with liquid fabric starch for a unique look - this can be removed easily and reused. Another way to attach fabric to the wall is to use tacks or rods.

If that doesn't appeal to you, try posters to add spice to your room. It's all about what your interests are, so if you like music, hang up some vintage rock posters or even old music records. When buying posters, it's usually better to stick to one large print then several different posters, which may look cluttered and disorganized.

To make your own wall art without being costly (as some posters can be expensive) put your camera to good use. If you own a camera, even if you are an amateur photographer, snap some shots of your family, friends, scenery, or whatever else appeals to you. Interior Designer Libby Langdon (libbylangdon.com) suggests retouching the pictures to black and white and then adding a stylish frame in chrome or black.

Having a plethora of pictures on the wall will create a unique gallery effect. Grouping several pictures or making a collage are great ways to spruce up those tired white walls. John Franke, design expert of the Comfort Council (livecomfortably.com), recommends buying plexi-glass fitted to the size of your desk and then placing pictures and artwork underneath. Pictures of friends and family are not only great artwork but also remind you of home.

Design doesn't just stop with your walls. The one item you will be using most in your dorm room will most likely be your bed. Your bed can serve as the focal point, and with the right comforter you can add great color, style and comfort to your room. The bed often doubles as a table, couch, or study area and is the largest piece of furniture in most dorm rooms, so it is key to choose a comforter that reflects your style. Your bedding should not be just a drab set of sheets that blend into the background. Pick out a vibrant set that pops with color and adds great style. Stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond (bedbathbeyond.com) and Linens-n-Things (linensnthings.com) offer great comforter sets and usually have accessories that match. Franke suggests roommates to have matching duvets for a more coordinated look. Don't forget your floors either - a stylish accent rug can add a great punch to a room. Interior Designer Sarit Catz (saritcatz.com) recommends using a washable and durable floor paint to give an interesting look for bland floors.

Since space is limited, try to find items that either have double functions or can maximize your storage space, such as a storage trunk which can also serve as a side table. Invest in closet organizers to get the most out of the little closet space you'll receive. Using bed risers can give you additional storage space under your bed. Of course milk crates never go out of style, but for an updated look, buy silver mesh cubes for a sleek finish. Use common sense when decorating since space is a limitation. Figuring out what is not necessary will reduce a cluttered appearance visually maximizing your space.

Ms. Langdon also suggests two other ways to make your room look better that are also quite simple. A room can look much larger through proper lighting and mirrors. Pick lighting that is functional yet stylish. Tall standing lamps are usually good at providing an entire room with ample light for reading, whereas the harsh florescent lights that usually come with the room are unflattering and provide minimum lighting. Using mirrors makes a small space appear larger. Whether you prop a full length mirror against a wall or you use cut mirrors to make an arrangement on your wall, the room will look larger. Just make sure to hang mirrors opposite something attractive, like a poster or window - the last thing you want is your chipped wooden desk to be reflected.

What is most important when decorating your dorm room or apartment is to reflect your personal style. Your room should be comfortable and stylish - at least this way you won't feel as bad when studying for that three-hour organic chemistry final.

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