Dorm room lamp and mirror
Photo: Dormco
HGTV's Frank Fontana knows how to get maximum style out of a minimal space. Here, he shares his tips and advice for designing a dorm room that like feels like home and reveals how you can take advantage of the hottest trends in dorm room design.
As you read this article, hundreds of thousands of bright-eyed teens—possibly your own—are heading off to college for their very first "outer-home" living experience. Whether your child is an excited freshman or a seasoned senior, the transition from leaving the nest to flying solo can sometimes be an emotional and trying journey. So what can a brave and design-savvy parent do?

My advice: Help your kids create a dorm room or on-campus apartment that, at best, is a mini home away from home.

This year alone, college students—or, more likely, their parents—will spend approximately $4 billion on decorating their dorm rooms, which on average are about 200 square feet.

But you don't have to break your bank account to give your child the luxuries of home. Dorm room designing on a dime doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style for function. Rather, it's about finding a budget-friendly compromise for both and giving it a personal touch.

Top tips for dorm room design:

Get Frank's dorm room design tips for adding maximum color to the minimal space
Dorm room bed
Photo: Dormco
It used to be that colleges wouldn't let kids paint the dorm room walls, but times are changing! As long as it's painted back to a neutral color, many colleges will now allow it.

But if painting is still a "no-no" for your school, then turn to companies like Ikea and Bed, Bath & Beyond. For the price of a gallon of paint, they have great fabric panels that can add some serious style, color and drama to a room!

Feminine Color
Colorful bedding, rugs and lamps can really pull the room together. Go for stark contrast and bursts of bright color, like teal, orange, yellow and green. Use objects like throw blankets, pillows and lamps for extra pops of color.

Masculine Color
Go cool with chocolate brown, army green, navy blue and reds. Try to opt for brushed nickel, stainless and/or dark wood tones for furnishings. Remember, a dorm room can still have a pulled-together sense of style—repeating linear patterns and natural color tones can do the trick.

Get Frank's advice for adding storage to your colorful space
Dorm room storage cube
Photo: Dormco
Since the average dorm room is about 200 square feet, the trick to a well-designed space is to use every square inch. So storage is essential.

Remember, when you have limited space and can't go out, you go up. Try stacking storage cubes from floor to ceiling for a fun and functional style.

More tips:
  • Get bed risers and move storage under the bed.
  • Look into portable zip-up closets with drop-down hangers for all those cool T-shirts.
  • Opt for a closed storage desk and things like decorative desk containers that really help with de-cluttering a desk.
  • Use old travel trunks as great alternative storage units.

Get Frank's advice for utilizing the hottest trend in dorm room design
Dorm room wall decals
Photo: Dormco
The hottest trend in dorm room design these days is peel-and-stick wall décor.

Since most dorms don't allow students to nail or screw stuff into their mostly concrete surroundings, the next best option is peel-and-stick art and picture frames that provide a functional twist.

I like the selections from
  • Peel N Stick picture frames above the bed
  • Peel N Stick chalk boards for all those notes to the roomie on the fly
  • Peel N Stick circle mirrors—a must since most dorms don't come with mirrors!
  • Peel N Stick graphics that bring a cool edge to any bland design

Bonus Suggestion
For the lucky few who might have a 250 square-foot dorm room: Use that extra 50 square feet for a mini kitchen with a small fridge, mini microwave and a toaster oven that can all live in one little neat stowaway bar area. Top Ramen not included.

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