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Cheap Ways to Decorate a Dorm Room

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Moving out of your parent's house and into your own digs for the very first time is exciting. Enjoying your new-found independence, the first thing you'll want to do is make the space your own. If you find it difficult to express yourself on such a tight college student budget, don't worry. There are endless ways to brighten up your dull dorm without spending lots of cash. The following guide will provide you with some creative tips for super-cheap dorm room decorating.

Brighten up the walls

Most college dormitories forbid painting the room, so you may have to get a bit creative to liven up the harsh white walls. Colorful tapestries or bed sheets can be hung from the ceiling, or you can use festive wrapping paper as a substitute for wallpaper. Instead of buying expensive art prints, cheap postcards displaying beautiful scenery or art work can be placed in cheap frames and hung in a grid on your wall. Funky decorative wall mirrors can also be purchased at Wal-Mart or Target and arranged in an eye-catching pattern above your bed.

Many dorms have strict regulations on using nails or tape to hang pictures or posters, so make sure you use an approved adhesive before attaching anything to the walls. If any adhesive is frowned upon, you can also attach a laundry line to the wall with suction cups and clip photos to it with colorful clothespins.

Find cheap furniture

Dorm rooms are often quite compact and don't allow for a fully furnished room. A bed, desk and a dresser is often provided, so you won't need to purchase much. If you have space for a chair or small table, don't go to an upscale furniture store and spent several hundred dollars on a piece that your room mate will spill Ramen noodles all over. Check out second-hand thrift stores, Craigslist, or even the side of the road for an old, ugly armchair or nightstand your neighbor is throwing away. Purchase some cheap fabric in a bright color or fun print and drape it over the unsightly piece for a chic (maybe even free) addition to your dorm.

Make your own curtains

Drapery in dorms is typically of the unfashionable variety. Brighten up the room by making your own curtains out of some clearance fabric from the craft store, or even a snazzy bed sheet. No complicated sewing is necessary--just simply drape it over the curtain rod. Colorful, sheer fabrics will illuminate the room with a warm ambiance when the sunlight filters through.

Get creative with lighting

Harsh fluorescent lighting is unflattering and unsettling. Creating a lighting scheme that is relaxing, comforting and aesthetic will promote brain function and facilitate studying. Purchase a couple of lamps--a standing lamp and a desk lamp are both good to have--from an affordable retailer such as Wal-Mart or T.J. Maxx. Thrift stores are also great for finding unique and funky lamps for a low price.

For soft, sultry lighting, string Christmas lights around windows or ceilings. You can also hang Chinese lanterns from the ceiling on plastic hooks to create a cozy ambiance.

Beautify your bed

Your bed is the focal point of your room and probably where you will spend most of your time--sleeping, studying and socializing. You can purchase a quilt in vivid colors or bold prints from a discount retailer or outlet like and complete the look with an assortment of quirky and fun accent pillows, available at most discount department stores. They will add personality to the room and create a comfy haven in your bed.

Make your own decorative glass bottles

Collect several interestingly-shaped glass bottles-- old fashioned soda bottles, wine bottles, liquor bottles, perfume bottles or olive oil bottles just to name a few. Rinse them thoroughly and remove the labels and adhesive using nail polish remover. Then fill the bottles with water and add several drops of food coloring to each one. Arrange the bottles on your windowsill so the sunlight filters through the brightly-colored liquid for a beautiful and unique decoration that costs almost nothing to create.

Adorn your bureau with ornamental drawer knobs

This fun craft can add pizzazz to the dullest of dressers. Although you can purchase decorative knobs at many craft or hardware stores, it's much more fun to create your own. Buy a sheet of cheap fabric and cut out squares slightly larger than the knobs. Next, remove the knobs from the dresser and cover them with glue. Then, wrap the fabric tightly around the knob, allow the glue to dry and cut the excess fabric from the bottom of the knob.

Of course, if you are using a dresser provided by the dorm, you'll have to purchase plain knobs separately to decorate. And make sure not to lose the original knobs!

Spruce it up with plants or flowers

A small, potted houseplant is a great way to literally add some life to your room. Varieties that thrive with low light and water levels work best, since dorm rooms typically receive little light and a busy college student may often forget to water their greenery. Some optimal choices include the year-round bloomer the African violet, the pleasantly and relaxingly fragrant lavender, and the natural healer, aloe vera.

If you'd prefer not to spend time caring for plants, no matter how minimal, faux flowers are an everlasting way to add a splash of color and beauty to any room. Stick several silk blossoms in one of your homemade decorative bottles to create a lovely vase.

Make storage colorful

Dorm rooms provide very little space and storage options, so finding a place for all of your belongings can be challenging. Combining decoration with organization can be a creative space saver. Collect some plastic milk crates and spray-paint them to match your room's color scheme. Then fill them school supplies, books, DVDs, shoes or anything else that you can't find a place for. Stash the crates under your bed or stack them against a wall to make the most of your vertical space.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on March 6, 2013

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