Pimp My Room!

By Nicole Frie for The Real College Guide

Does your room at school suffer from Prison Cell Syndrome? Symptoms include stark walls, cold floors and a feeling of general discomfort. Fortunately for you, the doctor is in. We talked to Laura Carissimi, director of Purchasing and Facilities Planning at Lorain County Community College in Ohio. Carissimi, who has a degree in interior space planning from the Ohio State University, offers advice on how to pimp your room.

The Real College Guide dorm room


Symptom No. 1: Boring Walls

If you live in a dorm room, chances are you’re not permitted to paint — and even if you are, you’re probably required to stick to neutrals.

Treatment: Yeah, yeah … lots of students spiff up their walls by hanging posters, and that’s not a bad idea. But Carissimi also suggests hanging pieces of decorative fabric mounted onto blocks of Styrofoam, cut to about the shape and size of a cereal box, to punch up your walls. Just wrap the fabric around the blocks like you’re wrapping a present, and tack the edges of the fabric with thumbtacks or straight pins. Because they’re lightweight, you can hang them with putty or double-sided tape, which Carissimi recommends since many places don’t allow nails.

Pimp-it-up tip: Alyssa Hare, a junior at Ohio State, paints four-compartment carryout cup holders, keeping them flat, in metallic shades and then hangs them on the wall. They look like abstract art!

Symptom No. 2: Limited Space

Close quarters are a common ailment in college dorms. “My biggest recommendation is to be minimal with what you need to live with,” says Carissimi.

Treatment: “Use your vertical space,” she adds. Stackable storage cubes really help alleviate the pains of a small space, and they often come in all sorts of fun colors. And remember how your mom hated when you shoved things under your bed? That rule doesn’t apply anymore! Bed raisers provide room for under-the-bed storage.

Pimp-it-up tip: You know that old skateboard deck? Turn it into a wall-mounted shelf by hanging it with L-brackets, or attach painted wooden legs to make an end table. It’s what we call funktional.

Symptom No. 3: Bare Floors

The dorm norm is barren wood or cold tile flooring … brrrrrrr.

Treatment: An area rug pulls double duty, providing design and comfort.

If you’re worried about keeping it clean, go for a rug that’s both durable and dark-colored so stains won’t show.

Pimp-it-up tip: Another option for college students is to snag that “retro” carpet your mom, uncle or neighbor is tossing after remodeling. “Cutting up my parents’ old family room carpet to fit my room really helped spruce it up, not to mention it saved me money,” says Ohio State senior Stephen Kaes, an industrial design student.

Symptom No. 4: Lackluster Accessories

Most schools provide you with chairs and lamps — the problem is that they’re not usually all that stylin’.

Treatment: Some schools offer storage space for unneeded items. This gives you the flexibility of replacing room accessories with your own. If you have a little money to spend, check out discount stores or even yard sales. “I personally love IKEA,” says Carissimi. “All around, they have great design for a modest price.” She recommends going for functional, lightweight items with clean lines.

Pimp-it-up tip: Fill empty glass bottles with water, and soak highlighter tips in each one. Once the water is colored, remove the tips, reseal the bottles, and place them in front of a backlight for a cool effect.

Symptom No. 5: Bad Lighting

Nobody looks good in harsh lighting. Talk about unflattering!

Treatment: Go for a soft, natural look by turning off your overhead light and using accent lighting from other sources, such as floor lamps and hanging lamps.

Pimp-it-up tip: Why wait for the holidays to string up strands of tiny white lights? Bonus: Using these will help keep you in dreamland while providing your roomie with enough lighting to get ready for her early class.

Symptom No. 6: Uncomfortable Furnishings

According to Carissimi, comfort is “the most important thing” to keep in mind when filling out your digs.

Treatment: “Since it’s a short-lived environment, have it be a playful and comfortable space,” says Carissimi. If you have the money (and space), invest in a futon — which you can continue to use throughout your college career. A few throw pillows and beanbag chairs will also up the comfort factor.

Pimp-it-up tip: Packed way too many T-shirts? Turn ’em into a personalized throw blanket. Cut out square pieces of the fronts and backs of your tees. Sew or glue the fronts to one side of a large piece of fabric (about 2 to 3 yards) and the backs to another. Sew the two pieces of fabric together, shirts facing outward, or go no-sew by tying them. Do this by matching up the two pieces, then cutting 5-inch long pieces of inch-wide “fringe” around the edges and knotting them. Curling up in a blanket made of your “vintage” tees? Now that’s comfort.

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