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GO BIG in Your New Home

April 17, 2020
person sitting at a desk in a dorm room
Faith Pierson is a resident assistant in Orr Hall. She says coming back to her decorated dorm room is like entering a peaceful space.

Decorate your dorm room or apartment with these expert tips.

By Micaela Myers

Who wants to come home to plain walls every night? Making your new residence hall room or apartment reflect who you are creates a welcoming and comforting oasis.

Interior designer and University of Wyoming lecturer Treva Sprout Ahrenholtz teaches everything from residential design and space planning on up to contract design. She shares her tips for decorating your room.

1) Pick a signature piece to build around. The piece could be your comforter or a work of art and should reflect who you are.

2) Keep it simple. Everything should have a purpose, but even a couple fun throw pillows can add design and motivate you to make your bed!

3) Consider lofting your beds to make more space underneath, and pick additional pieces intentionally since space is limited.

4) Make sure everything has a place. Combat clutter by tidying up for five minutes a day. Set a timer to make it a game.

5) If you’re decorating on a budget, even dollar stores have items to help. Buy frames to make a picture arrangement, baskets to organize, or solid wrapping paper to place over the corkboard or another space for added color.

If you find you really love interior design, UW’s design, merchandising and textiles program, under the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, recently expanded design from a minor to offer a four-year degree option. In addition to Ahrenholtz’s expert ideas, UW students share their tips.


Why Decorate?

“It feels more like a home. I love having things that fit who we are because it is our living space, and it should represent what is important to us.” –Sage Walton, Downey Hall, freshman, business undeclared and honors, Fort Collins, Colo.

“Since the dorm room is the place where you live for a semester, you want to feel comfortable.” –Adrianne Blum (Sage’s roommate), freshman, nursing, Fort Collins, Colo.

“I feel like this space that so many have lived in before me is mine. It really provides me with a strong sense of belonging and a feeling of comfort. I also, love showing it off!” –Millikin Dawson, resident assistant in Orr Hall, senior, design/textiles/merchandising, Cheyenne, Wyo.

“It’s cool to get nice comments about my room from my friends! The halls have a lot of different people and different energies, and it’s nice to have a place to return to that is really my own. I also used decor with encouraging sayings so that going back to my room is like returning to a peaceful place. I think that having a more decorated space also motivates me more to keep it clean and organized, which can be a hard thing to do in college.” –Faith Pierson, resident assistant in Orr Hall, junior, marketing, Casper, Wyo.

“It makes me feel like I am on my own and that I am truly adulting.” –Brook Holdredge, White Hall, freshman, speech-language pathology, Pueblo West, Colo.

“It truly makes this space my own! Plus, with lots of reminders of fun things that I have done throughout this past year, it makes me reminisce on all the fun times that have brought me here.” –Morgan Jenkins, resident assistant in Bison Run Apartments, sophomore, mathematics and secondary education, Arvada, Colo.

woman in front of a classroom
University of Wyoming Senior Lecturer Treva Sprout Ahrenholtz teaches classes in the newly expanded interior design major in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.


Find Inspiration

“I am really inspired by a certain color pallet, so it all started from there. I also have an eye for unique and obscure objects and artwork. I think a combination and collab-oration of all these things created my room. Bring your personality to the halls with you. Be bold and

be you with the choices you make about your room!” –Millikin

“I really wanted to create a space that would give me a sense of belonging and remind me to enjoy the little things. I also wanted to have plenty of space for friends to hang out in. I was inspired by more simplistic color pallets on Pinterest. Over time, I collected tapestries, lamps and photos on sale. I stuck with the theme of black, gold, white, simple drawings and flowers because it made my room feel like more of an open concept.” –Faith

“Adrianne and I planned on being roommates, so it became pretty easy

to discuss colors and themes. We decided that we wanted more neutrals like white and gray, with brighter accent colors such as pinks and blues.” –Sage

“I love the idea of a safe space for me to relax in, so I wanted to incorporate lots of blues and whites, along with other fun decorations that really represent me. I also love having small plants, so the addition of air plants was perfect! Don’t be afraid of not having everything when you move in—you will have plenty of time to accumulate decorations.” –Morgan

“Make it a personal space where you are comfortable to hang out by yourself and with friends. My favorite color is yellow, and I thought gray would pair nicely with the yellow. It took a while to get the flow of the room just right. It was a lot of rearranging and just seeing what went well.” –Brook


Talk to Your Roommate

“Always choose a color theme first. If you all can agree on that, you can branch out with your own style from there! Learn to compromise, it will be the first of many.” –Millikin

“Communication is key. It is important to let your roommate know what you are bringing and to ask them what they are bringing.” –Adrianne

“It is shared space, so being respectful of your roommate is important, but your sides do not have to match each other. It can represent each of you individually and together. We have a lot of coordinating items, but we also have things that are very clearly representing who we are, such as pictures with our families.” –Sage

“My freshman year, my roommate and I collaborated on bringing different things for the room. Our beds were lofted, and we had the TV, fridge and microwave under her bed and the seating under mine. I brought the lights, and we both brought our own wall decor. We had very different aesthetics, and that’s OK! Just make sure that you both feel like your space represents you, and you collaborate on what you bring and feel comfortable sharing!” –Faith

“I would recommend talking beforehand to coordinate—from who is purchasing the fridge and microwave all the way to rugs, color schemes and other fun decorations. My roommate and I had the same colors and decoration schemes for our room, and it looked GREAT!” –Morgan

“If you want something, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, but also have an open mind about what your roommate has to suggest.” –Brook

desks in a dormitory room
DORM HACK: Create a cozy environment with diffusers.


Save Space

“To save space, both my roommate and I lofted our beds. This allowed for us to put storage containers and the bigger appliances under the beds. In my opinion, you can’t have enough containers that can hold things.” –Adrianne

“Don’t be afraid to be extra organized. Extra storage will fit in random spaces, but it will still make your room spacious.” –Brook

“Look up the dimensions of your room, and keep that in mind when buying wall decorations. I got a small table that can be slid under my desk if need be. I also have a place for everything so that my room stays clean.” –Faith

“Command Hooks are great, as you can hang up jackets, robes, etc., without taking up too much space in your room. In my apartment, I definitely take advantage of underneath my bed and also on top of my closet!” –Morgan

“I also find that keeping things contained in containers or shelving help keeps you organized.” –Millikin


Command Strips are Your Best Friend

“Be aware that you cannot put holes in the walls! So purchase lots and lots of Command Strips! I also love the Velcro strips, as it is easier to take down decorations and move them around. Also know that a lot of heavy items will not be hang-able, so plan accordingly!” –Morgan

“Listen to your RA’s about what you can and cannot use in the halls. Just think if you don’t want to pay fees, then don’t cause any unnecessary damage.” –Millikin

“You can hang pretty much hang anything from lights to tapestries with Command Strips without damage to your walls. I use the Velcro strips to put up my tapestries on the walls, and tacks work well for corkboards.” –Faith


What’s Your Favorite Item?

“My favorite thing in my room are my pictures, because it brings a sense of home because family is everything to me.” –Brook

“I have this one old Kellogg’s advertisement from the ’60s in my room that I completely adore. I also love some drawings/paintings that I have done in my room as well as some Polaroids that you will find everywhere in my room.” –Millikin

“My favorite items in my room are my mini fridge and my homemade spice jar caddy that has small things that I would need. It has paper clips, Band-Aids, needles and thread, postage stamps, and many more small items.” –Adrianne

“My favorite items in the room are probably our Michael and Dwight pillows, two characters from The Office. Also, my blankets, because they are necessity to stay warm! And my corkboard, where I hang pictures and letters from loved ones.” –Sage

“My favorite items are my futon, diffusers and makeup turnstile! My room always smells fresh without the use of items that are not allowed in the dorms, like incense and candles. Lastly, my makeup turnstile is perfect because I can keep all of my makeup stored in a cute and functional way!” –Faith


What Do You Really Need?

“Some items I thought I’d need but didn’t were a vacuum and a trashcan. The vacuums can be rented from the desk, and trashcans are provided. Some items I didn’t expect to need were Band-Aids, a cold medicine kit, fans and a phone sleeve to keep your room key in!” –Faith

“Know the dorm rooms can get quite hot, especially the higher up in the building you go, and fans are a life saver! Rugs are also super nice when you’re tired of hard carpet, both in the apartment and dorm room.” –Morgan

“My advice would be to think about the things that you couldn’t live without, then focus on the things that you want. I was told that I would need a bed light, but there is a light on my desk. Something that I ended up needing was hard-soled slippers, because those were easier to walk around the residence hall while not having to put on full shoes.” –Adrianne


New Residence Halls Underway

A multiphase project to create new modern student housing for UW students is underway, starting at the corner of 15th and Willett streets. The Wyoming Legislature has authorized construction of new campus housing at UW to be financed primarily through issuance of bonds. Complete with all the conveniences students seek, the new facilities will be centrally located west of 15th Street near the Wyoming Union and Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center.

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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