Dormitory decor doesn't have to be boring

Moving into a dorm or an off-campus apartment can bring a feeling of independence unlike any other.

Until, that is, you open the door and take in your new home: blandly colored, empty and lacking decorative freedom.

No painting, no candles, no nails in the wall, you’re told.

Plenty of creative collegiates overcome residential rules with a lot of photos and magazine clippings, but there’s more to modern dorm decorating than just posters and double-sided tape.

Holly Becker, interior design consultant and author of “Decorate: 1,000 Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home,” thinks that limited options force you to be more creative.

She recommends revamping tired spaces with flea market finds.

“You can buy a bunch of frames and paint them bright colors,” she said. “Or even take old doors or shutters and lean them against a wall or behind a bed to make a vintage headboard.”

To maximize small spaces, Becker suggests placing a mirror across from a window and avoiding dark colors. You can also add warmth to a room by using different tints of the same color or by layering different fabrics.

The less creative need not fear. Plenty of stores, including Target, Function Junction, CB2 and Bed, Bath Beyond, offer trendy dorm pieces during the back-to-school shopping season, and many will guide you with lists of dorm essentials and preplanned color schemes.

Before you shop, remember that your space should be conducive to studying, but it should fit you, too. For example, if you’re into geography, a big map is an easy way to make your space your own.

University of Missouri-Kansas City resident assistant Maggie Light works with medical students and often sees decorating schemes that match students’ personalities.

“There’s always one person with a full-on skeleton.”


Keep your family, friends and beloved pets close by in a 3-inch-by-2-inch frame you don’t have to hang.

Mini magnetic frame in lime and orange, $1.95 each, CB2


Attempt a home-cooked meal with an attachable colander, or cozy up to your ramen noodles with this soup mug.

Pot drainer, $5.97, Function Junction; soup bowls, $1.99 for a pack of two, Target

A HELPING HAMPER This hamper with removable laundry bag keeps your dirty laundry from being everyone else’s business.

Chrome laundry bag stand, $19.99, and mesh laundry bag in nova blue, $5.99, The Container Store


UMKC residential life coordinator Katie Garey calls modern lighting trends “less gaudy.” “We’re not seeing Christmas lights too much anymore, which used to be really big.” Instead, dorm lighting has become chic and practical and can easily be moved from desk to bed.

Architect lamp with adjustable clamp, $32.95, CB2


Dorm Co sells a variety of wall decals, including these dry-erase calendar clings. “It’s an easy way to communicate with your roommate by leaving quick messages or to sync schedules,” says Jeff Gawronski, the head of product development.

WallPops dry-erase set, $19.99 for a four-pack, Dorm Co


Floor pillows soften a space and are easy to move around, whereas chairs and futons limit rearrangement possibilities.

Round pintuck floor pillow, $49, Urban Outfitters


A shower caddy is a must for students who use a community bathroom.

Shower caddy in green, $3.99, Target


Get the feeling of sleeping with your headboard from home. This decal is available exclusively online in twin and queen sizes.

Olivia headboard wall decal, $55, Urban Outfitters

RESOURCES CB2: The Container Store: Dorm Co: Function Junction:

2450 Grand Blvd., 816-283-3033, River Market Antique Mall:

115 W. Fifth St., 816-221-0220, Urban Outfitters:

530 Nichols Road, 816-753-8500,