The new school year is right around the corner, and so is the most stressful part of early college days. Exams? Nah. Making friends? You’ll be fine! Surviving diner food? Hardly. No, the answer is designing and decorating your dorm room. The difference between an awesome dorm room and a lame dorm room often comes down to what’s on the walls. Maybe you’re starting your freshman year and want to make a strong first impression, or maybe you want to improve on your drab dorm designs from last year. Whatever your deal is, your room is first and foremost a reflection of you, so you should make it your goal to create a space that is as unique as you are. That means avoiding some of the cliches that come straight off the Dormify homepage. If you’re looking for a distinctive dorm this year, here are 5 designs and decorations to avoid at all costs.
1. Giant Tapestry
While it might come off as an easy way to lighten up the room and show off your cool hippie side, the idea of hanging up a tapestry is about as old as the Carole King album that kicked off this trend in the first place. Even worse, you’ll be just one of roughly 30 other rooms on your floor that has one. If the only way to differentiate your room from your neighbor’s room is by the color of the tapestry, you’re not exactly on the path towards originality. Some stylish curtains are the perfect alternative to this tired trope, not to mention they’re far more practical when it’s 10AM on Sunday and you are definitely not in the mood to have the sun shining right in your eyes.
2. Christmas Lights
There are so many other cool options to brighten up your room that don’t involve these tacky twinkling lights. Blue lights, lava lamps, desk lamps, even this Tron-looking lotus flower thing is a better way to go (and it doubles as a quirky conversation starter, so you’ll have that going for you, which is nice). Sure, some nights it feels like you’re under a romantic skyline of stars, but most nights it’s like you’re trapped in the North Pole without any hope to escape. There’s no quicker way to annoy your new roommate than to blind them with an array of cheaply strewn together lights doing their best (or more often worst) firefly impressions, so this fall save them the aggravation and keep the lights out of the picture.
3. Letter Wood Blocks
This is a great idea until you’re put into a triple with Karen, Kaitlyn, and Kristen. But seriously, playing with wood blocks is… I don’t know, a little infantile, don’t you think? There’s nothing wrong with a little childlike wonder, and it might have been cute for a while, but now it’s just a cliche. It’s so common that you could practically spell out full sentences from how many people have just their initials on their desks. Desk space is precious, so use it to your advantage. Have an area to study if you’re so inclined (i.e. probably a STEM major), but the remaining area is up to you and your bank account: TVs, record players, pictures of friends, personal computers, stress balls, crocheted cacti, the possibilities (and pages on Etsy) are almost literally endless.
4. 80’s/90’s Movie Posters
Look, nobody’s perfect. I’ve got a Wayne’s World poster hanging in my room right now, so I’m guilty of this too. Clueless is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I have the poster to prove it. Everybody and their mother loves Pulp Fiction, and our sophomore year dorm room was one of many that displayed Uma Thurman in all her badass glory. But that’s the problem: what should be an easy way for others to identify what makes you unique actually sends the opposite message. When someone walks into your room for the first time, you don’t necessarily want to make it super obvious that your sense of style primarily comes from the poster sale at the student union. Good taste is good taste, and people will know what kind of pop culture you’re into eventually if you give them the chance. There’s no need to telegraph it from a mile away, or fall into the most basic choices. Dig a little deeper, go a little more obscure with your fandom, and your new friends will get a better sense of who you are because of it.
5. Alcohol Graveyard
What you think it says: “Me and my friends are adults. We know how to have fun and we have connections/good fakes.”
What it actually says: “I’m a gross human being that doesn’t know how to clean up after myself.”
This is the type of decoration that isn’t so much planned, but rather cultivated over a couple of months. As the collection grows, so does the mold at the sticky bottom of that bottle of Peach Svedka. Guys are especially the worst at this, as the sudden ability to get cheap vodka and even more sudden lack of parental supervision sends them straight into an episode of Hoarders. There’s perhaps no quicker way to signal that your mommy still picks up after you than to build up an alcohol graveyard. Take my advice: No matter how much you want to show it off, no matter how cool your RA is, and no matter how many bottles of Dragonberry you end up going through, no one wants to look at your memorial dedicated to making bad decisions.
Creating your own space is one of the most fulfilling aspects of the college dorm experience (the list of things that are decidedly not fulfilling is an article for another day). For many, this is the first time that they’ve escaped the influence of their parents and gotten free reign to create their own living space. Unfortunately, it’s also the first time many people have had to decorate a place all on their own. Ultimately, the worst dorm rooms are the ones that look like cells in psychiatric hospitals: barren white walls, with the only light coming from the depressing fluorescent that is standard to each room. Consider this a trial run for your future house: experiment, work around your limitations, and try to nail down the aspects that really speak to you. When you do, the interior designer in you will flourish.