Hello All,

       I noticed there was a post about this a few years ago but it didn't receive much feedback, and I wanted to see if there are any new ideas anyone can provide. 

       I'm going to be a junior in college and I am going to be living in a single room, that is, it will be my own room, and it is actually a decent sized room. It is big enough that in addition to the college-provided desk and bed, I will have enough room for a futon/couch and my fridge/microwave, etc. I'm trying to break out of what seems to be the norm these days: bright green blue colors that you might find at target or walmart. 

       What I want to get some opinions on is, given a blank, neutral room in a dorm built in the 70s (not a charming building), how can a man decorate to give the room a warmer, more old-school look. Specifically, I'm someone who enjoys a knotted-pine, lodge- or cabin-like interior, something you'd find in the woods of Maine or the like. Now, obviously, this is a college dorm. I'm not going to line the walls with pine siding, nor am I going to buy a new desk just because it looks good. The decorations I already own that I am planning on putting on my wall are mostly maps, specifically USGS topographic maps of certain towns/mountains/lakes that are important to me, as well as some old posters published by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. One of them can be seen below, as an example. 

 So I pretty much have wall decorations covered, but that doesn't mean I can't put more stuff up. I am going to have room for a futon or a couch, but it seems like every affordable couch or futon you see these days is some bright green contemporary model or some uncomfortable jet black thing with a skinny metal frame. Keeping in mind that I'm a student without a ton of money, is there any way to get a classy-looking couch or futon, should I skip that altogether or should I maybe try to build one? 

  My ultimate goal is to be able to walk into my room, or have someone else walk into my room, and feel like I walked into an old den or a lodge living room or something like that. I'll admit that is ambitious but if anyone can provide any suggestions, I would be very grateful.

Charlie Bloom

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What are you allowed to do?  Are you allowed to paint, wallpaper, hang curtains, or whatever?  Or must everything be free standing?


Christopher Lowell (interior decorator) did a special on decorating teenage and college rooms.  Though his examples lean more towards the modern, a lot of the ideas are quite creative and might be useful for your project.  He's big on using hollow-core doors.


To specify, I the following are things that I cannot do:

  • alter the wall in any way that prevents it from being the same when I move out as when I moved in -
    • aka no painting, wallpaper, nails, screws, etc. I can use adhesives, however. 
  • I cannot attach anything to the floor
  • I cannot burn anything, or draw more than a reasonably small amount of electricity from the wall
  • The best way to put this is that the room needs to be the same when I move out as when I moved in

My senior year apartment I shared with three other girls was like this:

trashpicked comfy furniture covered with fur pelts

walls painted in dark Victorian colors

lots of thrift store taxidermy

framed pressed leaf collections trash picked from my dept. at school

old maps

stuff from my grandmother's house

It came out looking very homely in an Adam's Family kind of way, and our place got a reputation as fun place to hang, drink coffee and smoke.

If you have some extra shelf space, consider growing a couple of small plants. Of course you couldn't do anything that would be large or require any significant amount of upkeep, but if you could find something green and leafy, I feel it would be a good fit. A coworker of mine grew his own alfalfa sprouts in mason jars for awhile, might be an interesting hobby to look into. I had kinda viney plant in my dorm room that just grew in water. Unfortunately, I have no idea what it was called. Maybe someone who is more botanically oriented around here would have better suggestions.

One thing that I've done that made a room more cozy was adding dark book cases and also putting different types of fabric on the wall. I've got a handful of flags that I hang vertically (from those adhesive hangers) that gives a bit of personality to the room.

The problem is even if you buy real wood, a wooden cabin interior inside an ugly modern building just sticks out like a sore thumb, so obviously unreal and artificial. I recommend being authentic. It's a dorm room. Be okay with it looking like a dorm room - the dorm room of a man who likes the outdoors, so posters and all that are perfectly great and I would also recommend aged bookshelves, but beyond that, not really trying to fake a cabin.

Well, for a start, there are futon covers that aren't green or blue.   The mattress store may carry them, I know Target did at least as of a couple of yeas ago.  The no paint rule may be a bit flexible.  Eons ago, when I lived in a college dorm, one could paint the walls, providing you repainted them the original color at the end of the academic year.  Ask.  Sometimes you'll luck out, like I did, and a fairly neutral paint job (in good shape) will be OK'd to leave.

I wouldn't put too much emphasis on making a dorm room especially "homey".  It's temporary quarters, and your best decorating options might turn out to be nothing more sophisticated than your topo maps and a couple of "North Woods" styled throws for the bed & the couch.


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