Ideally, your dorm will be a place where you can work and be comfortable, as Roman Dougherty has achieved at Stearns Hall East. Be like Roman.
Ideally, your dorm will be a place where you can work and be comfortable, as Roman Dougherty has achieved at Stearns Hall East. Be like Roman. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

When it comes to dorms, using every square inch of space becomes necessary.

College students, renters and interior designers across the country have come up with some smart and appealing ideas for merging function and fun in small quarters.

Bring some personality to your pad with these tips.

Find ALL the hiding places

No corners can be ignored when you're sharing a small space with a few roommates.

Search low and high and everywhere in between for extra storage space.

Cady Gorhum, former director of the Residence Hall Association, said getting organized can simplify life in your minimal space, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring.

Gorhum suggests raising your bed using bed lifts, which can increase storage space or even provide a large enough space to add a desk or extra seating.

"I've never had my bed lofted, but I do lift my bed up to the highest pegs so I can fit storage bins and my clothes hamper underneath it," she said.

The cantaloupe rule

Reduce clutter using the cantaloupe rule.

Use accents that are at least as big as a cantaloupe.

Smaller items will make your dorm look cluttered, so look for medium to large vases, chunky trinkets and bulky oddities to use sparingly in the space.

The rule will help you reduce the amount of knickknacks in your space and allow the larger pieces to shine instead of fighting with a cluster of pieces.


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Don't be afraid to go bold with the larger accents. Color and pattern will add some big character to your small space.

Dual purpose

Make your decor work for you by buying funky pieces that are also functional.

Instead of a love seat, find a funky futon with colorful sheets or striped fabric over the cushion that will add a pop to the space and provide somewhere for friends to crash.

Nothing is more functional than moveable furniture. Pick up a Raskog rolling cart from Ikea or spray paint a thrift store bar cart on wheels. These handy carts can provide a perfect display space for books or decor that can be rolled out of the way. Or move the cart into the middle of the room and use the top shelf as an eating space, desk, game table or work space.

Optical illusions

Lighten up your dorm by maximizing natural and artificial light while making your space feel larger.

Layer sheer curtains over your windows to allow natural light in without giving up the privacy you need from nearby neighbors.

Add floor and desk lamps for increased light after the sun goes down. And use battery-operated lights to brighten up dark corners like closets or as art lights to draw attention to your favorite items in the room.

Mirrors also help brighten up small spaces by reflecting light. Use odd shapes, varying sizes and interesting accents. Or keep it classic with Ikea's Stabekk mirror for a full-outfit view.

Personalize your space

Make your room a comfortable place to be by adding personal touches like pictures or posters.

Plaster silly selfies with friends on the wall or use a cork board to tack up cut-outs from magazines, quotes, posters and tickets that can be changed easily and often.

"I have a lot of pictures and posters on my wall that just make me happy to be in my room," Gorhum said.

First, check with your RA about rules for hanging items on the wall. But don't let restrictions get you down. Pinterest is full of creative ideas for hanging personal items.

Try stringing twine from one bed post to the other and using safety pins to secure photos, sketches or handwritten notes from home.

Amelia Arvesen: twitter.com/ameliaarvesen