5 Tips For Decorating Your First Apartment or Dorm Room

August 10, 2021
Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

“It’s not how big the house is, it’s how happy the home is.”


Charlotte is moving to New York. She’s a mechanical engineer now; she graduated in May and she’s got a great job in Midtown. She has an apartment and a roommate all lined up in the city. But what now? Now she’s got to move from two spacious homes (her Dad’s and mine) and into a tiny, 3rd floor walk-up. She knows some of the tricks that I have shared about small space decorating like: Design Tips For Small Spaces Part 1; Part 2; Part 3, but what else does she need to know? What does anyone need to know who’s moving into their first dorm? Or apartment? Here are 5 great tips…

Safety First

Anyone who lives alone or lives in a city should be thinking about safety – hell, we all should be. One easy way to add a layer of safety to your space is to add automated lighting – either through a device like Amazon Alexa or through an app added to your phone. There are smart plugs and auto lightbulbs that can allow you to turn on lights before you get home or from a voice command or a click on your phone. These devices are super easy to install and use. If you have an Amazon Echo Dot or Amazon Echo, you can also program it with Alexa Guard; this is not a replacement for a full-blown security system, but it can add a level of protection to your dorm or apartment by listening for danger signs like breaking glass or a smoke detector going off and notify you via your phone. It’s a no-cost, add-on to these devices and worth exploring. Not too high tech? Afraid of being hacked? Consider a good, old fashion timer and have a few lights set to go on before you get home.

Maximize the Storage You Do Have

Charlotte is very lucky, her apartment has TWO closets for her to use – both are pretty tiny, but, hey, there are two. You can easily make better use of closet storage in a dorm or apartment by double hanging the clothing. Soda can tabs allow you to hanging two pieces in the space of one by simply putting the one hole around the top hanger and putting the second hanger through the second hole. You can also buy specialized hangers that do this same thing. You can maximize the space under your bed by using bed risers to raise it up a little and then slide under bed storage boxes below. Under the bed is also a great place for seldom used items like your suitcases.

Think Outside The Box For Furnishings

Furniture is not cheap – but a whole lot of furniture is made cheaply (thinking of a certain online retailer that ships for free over $49). If you’re trying to furnish your first apartment or dorm, consider shopping at a consignment store, like Consignments Ltd. You will get better quality items than you can buy new for a lot less money. It just makes smart financial sense. Consignment and thrift stores are also great places for art, lighting and kitchen essentials. You can also find unique, vintage items to use to decorate that will be one-of-a-kind. Why spend for new when these used items are perfectly good and less expensive? Also, think DIY when furnishing your first place. Take an old piece, paint it and change the knobs. Your space will have style and will definitely not be cookie-cutter.

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Use Bookcases For Something More Than Books

I love IKEA bookcases. I use them all the time when decorating peoples spaces because they are well-made and inexpensive. You can change the backing out to beadboard and trim them out if you want a higher end look, but even as is they are pretty darn good. They are great for books and accessories, but they also make great pantry storage, bathroom storage and can even be set up as a bar. Smaller bookcases can fit in a closet under the hanging clothes for shoes, electronics, etc. or be used in lieu of a sideboard in the kitchen for napkins, silverware and condiments.

Photo by Sidekix Media on Unsplash

Pick Two or Three Primary/Coordinating Colors To Save on Decorating Expense

If you stick to a primary color and two secondary accent colors in the things you buy for your first place, things can move from room to room, or within the room, without fighting the color scheme. The throw from your couch acts as an extra blanket on your bed; the lamp in your bedroom coordinates with your bedding but also with the fabric of your couch when needed there (or you change your mind). In my condo I use a lot of navy, turquoise and gray and things can move fluidly throughout the spaces within my home. Using a limited color palette also cuts down on overall costs.

A Final Thought…

I hope that you have enjoyed these tips. Pass them on to a friend, whose child is heading out to college, or to that first job and first apartment or share them with a kid or grandkid of your own. I’d love to know your tips too, so please feel free to share a comment or suggestion. As always… be safe… and have fun out there.

And Now For A Little Music Before We Go…

“Success is created in studio apartments and garages, at kitchen tables, and in classrooms across the nation, not in government conference rooms in Washington.”

Tim Scott

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