Students are ensuring that their home away from home is an aesthetic haven, as sharing dorm room interiors online becomes increasingly fashionable.
COURTESY OF DORMIFY
On average, housing in college dorms in the U.S. costs around $10,000 a year–a price tag heavily dependent on the city where the school is located (for New York City schools like Fordham University and New York University, expect to fork up around $20,000). And what does one usually get for the starting price of an Hermès bag? Half of a 20-foot by 12-foot room enclosed with white brick and cushioned by corse carpets. There are typically two twin-size wooden bed frames and maybe a wooden desk that looks like it’s been plucked from behind a TJ Maxx. Oh, and don’t forget the fluorescent lighting, because why not have a dorm room feel like a surgical one?
It’s no secret that university room and board isn’t synonymous with luxury, and many modern college students are adamant about giving their accommodations a design facelift. Their secret weapon? Bringing in a professional.
“Her parents were already good clients of mine,” interior designer Patrick Mele tells Town & Country of a recent college-age client. “I designed her childhood bedroom when she was, like, 10, and so I kind of offered to help design her dorm room.” The result was a home away from home. A cold Georgetown dorm room turned into a bucolic atmosphere: light shades of green non-stick wallpaper evoking a peaceful meadow, hues of green and blues, sewn cloth cover over the lighting to look like a kite, and a copious amount of Serena & Lily home accessories. “I think kids should go off and figure things out themselves, but the beautiful dorm room probably helped quell any angst that comes with moving away. Like a home away from a home,” he says. “What her roommate’s side looked like… well, poor kid.”
Excessive? Maybe. Rare? Not at all. Mele’s dorm room side project is a primary focus for other designers, such as Dawn Thomas who is the principal designer of After Five Designs. For 20 years, Thomas’s Mississippi-based interior design company has focused on incoming university students who aren’t interested in living in a stale box for eight months. She and her company do everything from the early consultations to sourcing and even installing. “It started 20 years ago, and now I do so much work for students at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Alabama,” Thomas tells T&C. “The South has always been synonymous with beautiful homes and interiors and I think it’s just natural for students to want the same in their dorms. But, I also have clients in California and on the East Coast at the Ivy Schools.” The price tag for this service varies significantly. “It’s really dependent on what I do. Sometimes I will stock toiletries, install mattress pads, hangers, and more on top of the design elements. I don’t really upcharge for these items, either.”
Two of her clients include Maggie Claire and Anne Journe who hired After Five Designs to spruce up their dorm at Mississippi State University. The result was a Southern crossover of Hollywood Regency and Art Deco styles fully equipped with metallic bed sheets, brass lamps, abstract paintings, and neon lights of their names over their headboard.
interior design college dorm
After Five Designs does everything from consultations to sourcing and installs.
COURTESY OF AFTER FIVE DESIGNS
“You know, as of recently, I’ve noticed how educated these girls are,” Thomas says. “They’ll come into these meetings with their mothers and know exactly the type of style they’ll want. Their mothers always look so surprised to see how many photos of inspiration they have saved, and the moodboards they’ve created. I think it’s because of social media.”
Like college acceptances, dorm rooms have become a hot new avenue for flexing accomplishments on Instagram and Tiktok–albeit more of an aesthetic flaunt as opposed to academic achievement. The hashtags #Dormroom and #dormdecor lead to videos of students showing how they’ve completely transformed the otherwise desolate landscape. There are plenty of plush pillows (upwards of eight or so on a twin-size bed), furry carpets, and even musical vinyl hung onto the walls.
But, it’s not only a case of competition. These videos also address the question for many incoming students who aren’t able to afford to hire an interior designer to decorator for their dorm or frankly think that spending the money on one is frivolous. Creators will often advise students on how to elevate their dorm rooms without having to spend a fortune, revealing storage tips, and cheaper finds.
To help, brands such as Dormify offer furniture tailored specifically to university housing. On their website, there are even “Pinterest-worthy” examples of fully shoppable dorm rooms. Campus Canopies offers canopy bed structures to those seeking both a bit of privacy and a dramatic aesthetic. There’s even a new website and app Roomie that helps students measure and imagine their rooms on a digital platform before moving in (think of how one builds a home in Sims).
“In some ways, some of these things are foundational to a young person’s future lifestyle,” Dan Mazzarini, Principal and Creative Director of BHDM Design and ARCHIVE by Dan Mazzarini tells T&C. “Living away from home for the first time is a great opportunity to explore your personal style. While college students may be on a budget, there are certain items worth investing a little more in! After all, you may be using some of these products after you move off-campus, or even after graduating.”