Dorm room décor 101 | Vancouver Sun

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It’s important to set up your dorm room for success, as the start of the school year looms.

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When she first took a look at her dorm room at University of British Columbia, Tazim Damji had a bit of an advantage compared to other undergraduates pondering how to decorate – a certification as an interior designer. Even with a set of trained eyes, certain realities were unavoidable. The room was small, and would certainly seem so for anyone used to having his or her own room. Many would also be sharing rooms and common space.

Damji decided to be methodical, and see what she could add in beyond the twin-size bed, desk, and shelf.

Damji recommends a duvet cover rather than a comforter, because it’s easier to keep clean.

Courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond

“I had to figure out what essentials needed to fit in there, and how to make it all work,” she says. “I made a list of everything I needed to be comfortable in this space.”

Since the bed dominates the space, it could make sense to devote a decent chunk of the decorating budget to it.

Damji recommends a duvet cover rather than a comforter, because it’s easier to keep clean, and can be switched out as needed to change up the décor a bit. A reversible set will give you a little more bang for the buck. Double-check the size of the bed to ensure you get the correctly sized sheets; many universities have twin XLs, not twins.

“You could go with polyester or polyester blend, which won’t wrinkle and are easy to wash, but cotton breathes better. You want to have at least two sets (of sheets), because there might be a lineup for the washers and dryers,” explains Damji.

A backrest pillow could also provide a little extra comfort, and a small change of scenery from studying at the desk.

Courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond

A mattress protector could protect from spills if you’re one of those ‘study on the bed with a beverage’ types, and a liner could add some extra comfort. A backrest pillow could also provide a little extra comfort, and a small change of scenery from studying at the desk. Don’t go overboard when it comes to additional pillows though; they could take up a lot of valuable space.

Next, the desk area. Damji says she focused on getting a chair that would be comfortable to sit in for long periods of time, especially for late night studying when on-campus libraries would be closed. She also added in a filing cabinet so she could organize her paperwork by class and by semester, but says others might prefer to have a smaller organizer on top of the desk.

She also modified the lighting conditions.

“Full-spectrum lighting – which imitates natural light – is really important to mimic natural light, especially in Vancouver where we have a lot of grey skies and rain in fall and winter,” says Damji. “If you already have a lamp, it’s very inexpensive to just get a bulb. I instantly had more energy.”

For ambience, try a string of twinkle lights to make your room feel cosy at night.

Courtesy of London Drugs

For ambience, she also picked up a string of twinkle lights for ambient lighting; it made her room feel cosy at night. A cork board on the wall created a space to display photos or important paperwork, while textbooks, favourite books, and little mementos went on a wall shelf.

Damji says it’s common for technologically-minded students to have portable, external speakers to enhance music listening or movie watching, or even external monitors.

From a practicality perspective, an in-room kettle and coffee or tea fixings would be convenient and cost-effective. If bed risers are allowed by the university in question, they can set up storage opportunities and possibly even additional power outlet locations. The underbed area can also be a good place to put a little caddy for carrying items to and from shared bathrooms, and a little handheld vacuum and dusting cloths to keep the room tidy.

A coffee maker — like this bodum available at London Drugs — is a cost effective solution.

Courtesy of London Drugs

“The cleaning service only does the common space, so you’re responsible for your own room,” explains Damji. “ A little rug can be handy to personalize your space, and will make it easier to keep things clean.”

If you’re not sure exactly what you need, retailers catering to college-bound students have handy checklists to use like this one. It also never hurts to see if they have discounts or coupons, and to ask about their delivery and pick-up options.


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