College students share some advice to make a dorm a home

By: Samantha Shriber | C&G Newspapers | Published August 9, 2017

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METRO DETROIT — One of the many opportunities that going away for college provides is an outlet to establish your own décor style. Whether you prefer a beach-bum style with “hang loose” and ocean posters or hope to create a bohemian temple with sunshine pillows and tapestry-draped walls, dorm rooms and college residencies are an open canvas. 

Michigan State University sophomore Elise Tomaszewski, of St. Clair Shores, said that the most important thing to do when moving into your new home is to just be yourself. 

“If it’s not what you like from the start, you’re going to hate it after a while, and you won’t like your room,” she said. 

Tomaszewski is using a sleek and clean décor to compose her new apartment in East Lansing this fall. She incorporates only a single pop of color while filling the space with neutral tones and shades. 

“I have to have pictures in my room. They really pull a room together, and it’s always good to be able to look back at fun times and good people,” she said, explaining that she adds spark to her modernistic room with photographs of memories and events. 

Kelly Woodwall, of Farmington Hills, lives in a Central Michigan University residential hall with one main room and one bedroom. Her personal aesthetic and style can only be described as being all over the place, she said. 

“I’m a huge lover of antique and retro items — anything pastel and fun, quirky prints,” the senior said. 

Her dorm room necessities take form in funky knickknacks and wall decorations, she said.

“My advice for designing the perfect room is to surround yourself with items that make you happy,” she said. “My perfect room captures my essence and is almost like an ‘I Spy’ book. Every time you come over, you may discover something new about me.” 

Candles, lava lamps and generally any flammable objects are typically restricted from dorm halls, but possibilities are still around every corner for self-expression. 

Kellie Hoehing, of Macomb Township, is preparing to live in a single-person bedroom for her junior year at Central Michigan University. She said that she consistently aspires to create a space that is open and clean, while also being cozy. 

“I have been trying to describe my aesthetic for years, but I would describe it as European minimalist glam,” Hoehing said, describing her décor influences. 

Hoehing makes her room dazzle with a good mirror, natural light and organization containers, and she captures elegance with an old-fashioned, simple desk chair, she said. 

Grand Valley State University sophomore Kyle Molloy, of St. Clair Shores, combines vintage and modern elements to style his dorm room, where he covers the walls in retro and psychedelic posters. He shops at Urban Outfitters and garage sales to establish an even mix, he said. 

His must-have items are his record player, television and sound system, he said.

“Absolutely vital is definitely going to have to be a stereo of some sort, because I wouldn’t have been been able to survive my first year of school without having music in the background 24/7,” Molloy said. 

Makayla Duggan, of St. Clair Shores, prefers creating a quieter environment that is homey and perfect for studying. 

“I wanted to make my dorm room a place where I could relax and study in generally an environment that wasn’t distracting,” the University of Michigan sophomore said. 

Duggan used Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond as the sources for her college essentials. 

“There is an entire college dorm section in Target where everything is conveniently placed. And Bed, Bath & Beyond even has a list of basic essentials that college students need in their rooms,” she said. 

Woodwall recommends shopping at flea markets and estate sales. 

“Those are where the best finds are,” Woodwall said. “I recently just repainted a coffee table that we found on the side of the road. Home décor doesn’t have to be expensive if you have the right eye and time to put in a little extra love.” 

Tomaszewski describes the holy trinity of college shopping sources as Kohl’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Meijer.

Duggan said that her hanging closet organizer and string lights helped her mission to create a studying oasis, but the lack of space still made way for challenges. 

“Even though I shared a room with my sister growing up, I still struggled with the limited amount of space to keep everything in my dorm room,” she said. 

Despite style opportunities, you can’t afford a limitless imagination with a limited living space. 

“I’d say the biggest challenge with college living spaces is the amount of space; everything is very small, and I’m always balling on a budget, so it’s always a challenge finding multi-use items that are cheap,” Hoehing said. 

Claire Goldstein, of St. Clair Shores, shares the same obstacle of limited living space in her dorm room at Wayne State University. 

The sophomore said that taking advantage of the restricted room is a critical task for making one’s first year away from home the best it can be.

“If you figure out how to use it, you’re golden,” Goldstein said. “You’re not going to get everything you had at home — definitely not a large closet space or a lot of room to move around, typically.” 

Goldstein suggests lofting your bed and getting a storage system underneath. Various residential halls will rent out loft sets to place your mattress on a bunk bed-like structure. 

“Not only does it keep your room organized, but you’ll have so much more space. It clears up the floor and leaves you with as much room to move as possible,” Goldstein said. 

Stefanie Coffman, of St. Clair Shores, said that her first year of college taught her the importance of sticking to the essentials when packing up her wardrobe. 

“There was definitely times where I wanted to pack half of my wardrobe up and ship it back home, because it gave me anxiety that it wasn’t completely organized, because I just didn’t have the room,” the Grand Valley State University sophomore said. “You really don’t need fancy dresses or 15 pairs of sweatpants constantly in college.” 

Another thing students suggest is having multi-use items that come at an affordable price. 

“I overcome these challenges by some do-it-yourselfs, such as making an ottoman that doubles as a storage container or adding storage beneath my bed,” Hoehing said. 

Hoehing said that the biggest necessities for a happy dorm life are good plants, lighting, art and roommates.

“Find things that make you happy when you look at them, or construct a dream board,” she said. “You should feel happy and serene where you live.”