My freshman dorm room was spartan. It looked like just about every other freshman’s room: a couple of posters, a calendar, a mini fridge. There were some magnets on the mini fridge, but that was the extent of making my room unique.
My girlfriend doodled between classes. She drew colorful creatures like a starfish and a mermaid, with funny sayings written in the blank spaces. No one else in my dorm had “nonconformist pig says moo” or “citrus fruits are tangy” mini-posters. I graduated college almost half a decade ago, and I still have those drawings. What decor knowledge can I pass on? If you want a dorm room unlike your neighbor’s, DIY art is perfect. Plus, this leaves you with art projects that will stay with you through graduation and beyond. Let’s look at some cool projects you can do to quickly make your room stand out. Bear in mind these might not come cheap – but your dorm room will be one-of-a-kind.
Crates and paper
Care to take a guess at what the two major materials needed for this project are?
With just a wooden wine crate and wrapping paper, you can create a display case. The harder part is deciding what you want to display in the crate.
Getting the components should be hassle-free. A local winery or tasting room should have a wooden wine crate that you can buy cheap, or they might let you have one for free. You probably have wrapping paper already. Or, take a quick trip to the store. Some glue and your preferred method of hanging from a wall (that won’t damage the dorm and void your security deposit), and you’re done.
I would have failed college if not for caffeine. I had a lot of fancy tea tins left over after all-nighters. Glue and a magnet can turn the tins into container magnets for your fridge. If the tin is metal, you may not even need glue. Throw some pencils and a sticky note pad in, and you’ll never lack for something to write on or with. Quick, simple, and useful.
Locker and magnets
Not ready to leave the high school aesthetic behind? You can find cheap lockers for sale online, often used, to give the room an already lived-in feel. Use them as-is, or slap on a new coat of paint. A solid color or design, taping art to the sides, or just plastered with the tea container magnets, gives you plenty of options.
Nearly every college student has a chalkboard or whiteboard on their door or wall. How do you stand out? Chalkboard paint. A few coats and now your table is a chalkboard. Or your mini fridge. Or your desk (that you brought from home. Repainting any college-provided desks is not recommended). Any flat, solid surface becomes a chalkboard with this paint, making leaving messages for your roommate a breeze. Or just watch as your new dorm friends doodle obscene images – but that’s what the eraser is for.
If you can’t find a place to give you a couple pallets for free, you aren’t looking hard enough. Just be sure to clean and sanitize the wood first, to prevent the entire dorm from getting sick off the germs that could be hitching a ride. After ripping apart the pallet and cleaning it, sawing pieces to length, and screwing it all together, voila – pallet headboard.
Cover an entire wall with custom removable wallpaper. It’ll put those tired pop-culture reference posters to shame. This could be a giant photo of your face, a beautiful landscape completely different from what you see out the window, or a giant geometric design – whatever you can think of to send off in a digital file. Vinyl or cloth, all you need is a high-resolution photo, and you are set for a custom wall without having to actually change the wall – which could cost you a pretty penny when you move out due to lost security deposit.
Paint-dipped picture frames
You’ll need to spend some time in thrift stores for this project, looking for old picture frames that preferably still have photos or paintings in them. Use some painter’s tape to make a solid line across the photo or painting, and paint everything on one side of the tape – including the frame. Or go crazy with patterns, like diagonal stripes. Now you have a repurposed, modern paint-dipped picture frame.
Don’t like frames? Use these display hacks and even the photos around your room will be different. Large paper clips can prop the photos up, or use Washi tape to affix photos to the wall. Or, hang a clipboard with a photo clipped in.
A wooden board, paint, a hammer, nails, and string are all you need. It seems simple, but it can be time-consuming. Paint the board, hammer in the nails, and wind the string around the nails to create amazing string art. Hard mode: use the negative space to create the art instead. Subjects are near-limitless, so despite string art being somewhat common, your subject can stand alone. The more complex, the less likely it has been done, at least in your dorm.
Though quilling paper is definitely easier with the proper tools, it can be done with scissors, a few toothpicks, and glue. Instead of making cards, mount your quilled art in a shadow box. Hang it from the wall. You can find inspiration from Pinterest for anything from simple designs to complex.
Washi tape is a fixture of dorm rooms. Your roommate probably used it to frame a poster. What won’t the average student think of? Washi tape on your dorm door. You can make lines and patterns on your door, or block out your initials, all without harming the door.
Paint a chair
Not only are you going to repaint a folding chair, you are going to reupholster it, too. It’s easier than it sounds. All you need to do is cut fabric, and staple it over a cushion. Easy, right? Use the same technique from the paint-dipped frame to spray-paint the chair. It’s an extra step, but color blocking can make the chair look like part of it has been dipped in one color, with the rest of the chair another color. Coordinate the fabric with the color(s) of paint – use a color wheel and color theory. If you are using a patterned fabric, make sure to staple it facing the right direction. It’s a bit of work, but you will have a chair that is all your design.
This article was contributed by guest author Cole Mayer.