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15 Cute and Affordable Ways To Style a Girl’s College Dorm Room

Decorating a girl’s college dorm room doesn’t have to be expensive to be cute. See how I helped my daughter transform her blank space into a cozy haven without breaking the bank.

Do you have a daughter moving into her first college dorm room this year?

This is an exciting but sometimes overwhelming time for her and maybe for you too.

Everything is new and different and a little bittersweet.

You may be trying to balance your own emotions about your child moving away to go to school with her excitement or even a bit of nervousness about starting a new chapter in her life at college.

During this time it’s often helpful to focus on something fun that needs to get done this summer anyway.

Start helping your student plan her college dorm room to create a cozy and personalized space to call home while she’s away at school.

This will help both of you! I promise.

You’ll feel good about getting her ready and she’ll feel more in control of all the new things coming her way.

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to check out our girl’s dorm room packing list so you can start shopping!

Although, if your daughter is anything like mine she may already have a list of things she wants.

Or a Pinterest board full of ideas about decorating her new dorm room.

Today I’m sharing how we took my daughter, Emma’s, small blank space and created a comfortable and affordable home away from home.

And we did it without breaking the bank!

Because you can absolutely create a super cute and cozy room without spending a fortune.

Some of the items used in this post include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no added cost to you. You can read our full affiliate disclosure policy here.

Before Moving into College Dorm Room

dorm room with bed desk chair and small dresser with single window

When we walked into Emma’s dorm room this is what it looked like…not too bad but it totally lacked personality.

The room had a raised bed that could be adjusted, a desk with three large drawers, a swivel desk chair, and a small three-drawer dresser.

It was clean and bright with a single window on the far wall.

empty dorm room before styling with cozy decor

Here is the view from the other side of the room.

And yes I crammed myself behind the bed in the corner to get this shot. LOL

Emma also had a decent size closet in her room that was much bigger than the storage her brother had in his dorm room.

Her bedroom was in a 4 person suite-style layout.

There were four individual bedrooms which all shared a small living space and bathroom.

Are you ready to see how we took her small boring dorm room from drab to fab?

Start Dorm Room Decorating with the Basics

bed with white bedding and snapshot pictures hanging above bed

The largest piece of furniture in most dorm rooms is the bed so make it a focal point.

Determine the best placement in the room for the bed so it creates as much space as possible in the small room.

Choose bedding that’s not only comfy but also pretty and suits your student’s personality.

Add a headboard and lots of pillows to make a perfect cozy place to sleep, study or hang out.

Since the bed is often used not only for sleeping but also studying, reading, or watching tv using a bedrest pillow and a longer body pillow along the wall allows her to lean back comfortably.

How to Create a Cozy Dorm Room

blogger fixing curtains hung on window above bed in college dorm

Incorporate soft textures with linens to make a dorm room feel like more like home.

The most obvious place to add texture is with the bedding but hanging curtains will also help to warm up a cold space.

Dorm rooms typically provide blinds or shades however you can add an inexpensive pair of curtains to coordinate with the decor.

We hung a pair of light-filtering curtains from a tension rod inside the window niche.

You can use command hooks attached to the wall to hold a curtain rod if your daughter’s dorm room doesn’t have a recessed window.

Throw blankets and rugs add even more texture to the space.

How to Personalize Her New Space

student attaching pictures on photo wall hanging with clips in college dorm room

Let your student take the lead on decorating the walls of her dorm room.

Emma wanted to incorporate lots of photos when styling her room.

She wanted to display cherished moments and memories with family and friends.

But she also wanted her pictures to feel organized so she used this hanging frame with clips to display 4×6 prints.

The wood frame is really light so we were able to use command strips to hang it on the wall.

More pictures were placed in photo frames and helped to decorate shelves and desk areas.

If your daughter loves boho style, be sure to check out this cute boho look for a college apartment that would work in a dorm room too.

Storage Ideas for Girl’s College Dorm Rooms

shelf unit with tv and other accessories at end of bed

Remember dorm rooms are small so any big pieces you bring into the room should serve dual purposes.

An over-the-bed storage shelf gives Emma a spot to decorate with plants and pictures but it also holds her jewelry boxes and a small mirror.

Originally, we planned to put this shelf over the head of the bed but it didn’t fit with the headboard.

So we went with plan B and placed the shelf at the foot of her bed where she had a little bit of extra floor space.

Now the shelf also serves as a tv stand which is actually a much better use of this furniture piece.

Remember to think outside the box by using items in different ways to make them work for your design plan.

white storage cube with pink fabric bins next to  bed with hanging macrame above

Another way to use storage for multiple needs is an affordable cube shelf organizer with fabric bins.

The cubbies organize books while the bins provide storage for things you may want displayed.

Place the shelf next to the bed so the top can be used as a nightstand.

Where to Add Ambient Lighting

desk with cork board hung above lamp and organizer on top

Dorm rooms usually have an overhead fluorescent light fixture so adding ambient lighting is a great idea.

String lights, fairy lights, lamps, and neon signs are all excellent ideas to add ambiance.

Emma hung a little neon heart by her desk and had a projector galaxy sky lamp near her bed.

Since LED lights weren’t allowed to be attached to the walls in her dorm, we adhered them to the frame around her shelves.

Be sure to check with housing for their rules concerning LED lights.

Tips for an Organized a Study Area

college dorm desk in girls room with lamp and organizer on top

The desk in a dorm room will get lots of use throughout the year to help your daughter succeed and set up an organized workspace.

Fortunately, Emma had lots of drawer space in her desk and actually used the bottom two for clothing rather than essentials for studying.

She had plenty of room to store school supplies in the two top drawers.

A desk lamp with compartments for pens was helpful as well.

If your student doesn’t have storage in their desk get them a rolling cart or small set of drawers to help them keep school supplies organized.

A corkboard is also a great addition that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Where to Contain Food and Snacks

mini fridge and microwave with storage shelves above filled with food in storage bins

We created a mini kitchen area without taking up much floor space in Emma’s room by using this super budget-friendly shelf.

The microwave was placed on top of the mini fridge then we assembled the shelf and put it over both appliances.

And voila…she had a great spot to grab a snack or make an easy meal…you can get all the details of how we set this mini dorm room kitchen area up here.

Where to Store Clothing in a Small Room

empty closet in dorm room before moving in

Dorms are notorious for small closets.

My oldest son had a decent size free-standing wardrobe and my middle son had a really tiny open closet with a built-in 4-drawer dresser.

Emma’s closet was actually a fairly good size and set up since it had an actual door that could be used for additional storage.

closet organized with clothing and hanging door and shelf systems

We purchased a few hanging organizers to make the most of her closet space.

On the back of the door, this hanging shoe pocket organizer holds shoes, handbags, and umbrellas.

Inside the closet, a hanging 6-shelf organizer stores thick sweatshirts and sweatpants.

Use slim hangers to allow you to hang more clothing than traditional plastic hangers.

A battery-operated light attached to the bottom shelf with adhesive provides light in the dark closet.

On the outside of the door, we hung a full-length mirror with hooks for additional storage.

small dorm dresser and plastic storage bins under raised bed

We put the short two-drawer dresser under the bed to hold more of her clothes.

Next to the dresser are two large plastic bins that contain towels and extra bedding.

A small storage ottoman helps give Emma a lift up onto her bed.

You can get even more creative if you need extra storage by using plastic drawers, shoe organizers, or various-size tubs under a raised bed.

After Styling a Cute and Affordable Dorm Room

after room is decorated year with bed against wall drawers under bed desk to side

We packed a lot into a small space but there’s still a little wiggle room for more stuff if needed throughout the year.

I did buy this stretchable gray desk chair cover for that red desk chair because the color was awful plus it was kinda gross and had stains on it.

I didn’t even realize they had covers so don’t go buying a new desk chair if it’s comfortable enough but just ugly.

Save yourself lots of money and grab an inexpensive chair cover.

Emma picked up a small fluffy area rug for the middle of her room because the one we bought ahead of time was too big.

It was a 5×7 and didn’t fit in between the desk and the refrigerator so she and her roommates used it in their common living area instead.

blogger with husband and daughter in dorm room after setting up room

It was a long day moving Emma into her dorm room but I have to say it was honestly a lot of fun too.

Girls are definitely way more into it than boys. LOL

Be sure to check out our tips to make your move-in day stress free.

And because I just love a good before and after… let’s take a look at the side-by-side comparison shall we?

Before and After Girl’s College Dorm Room

side by side comparison of dorm room before and after from doorway looking into room

side by side comparison of dorm room before and after from far end of room looking toward door

I hope your daughter has the best year!

And big hugs to you mama…you did it…now it’s time to enjoy this next chapter in your relationship with your girl.

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collage of product images used to style this dorm room

Sources: over-the-bed storage shelf | curtains | hanging shoe pocket organizer | hanging 6 shelf organizer | bedding | bedrest pillow | longer body pillow | throw blanket | neon heart | desk lamp with compartments for pens | small mirror | hanging frame | storage ottoman | cube shelf organizer | fabric bins |

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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