Students revamp their dull dorm rooms into cozy living spaces

In a trend that seems to be gaining momentum, students across the nation are sparing no expense when it comes to transforming their dorm rooms into stylish and personalized sanctuaries.

Gone are the days of simple and functional furnishings; today’s college students are investing significant sums of money to elevate their living spaces to new heights of sophistication.

With the price tags of studded headboards reaching as high as $300 and coffee table books costing upwards of $100, it is clear that the dorm room has become more than just a place to sleep and study.

It has become a statement, a reflection of one’s personal style and taste. But the expenditure doesn’t stop there.

Some students are taking it to the next level by enlisting the services of interior designers to ensure that every inch of their 12 feet by 20 feet space is expertly curated and aesthetically pleasing.

The result is a fusion of comfort, functionality, and luxury that adds yet another layer to the already soaring costs of college.

Lesley Lachman, an 18-year-old resident of Rye, New York, demonstrated an exceptional level of foresight and meticulousness when she embarked upon the task of planning the furnishings for her dorm room alongside her future roommate.

This endeavor commenced immediately after her resolute decision to attend the esteemed University of Mississippi, a choice that was made back in the month of May.

With an unwavering determination, Lesley embarked upon an extensive exploration of various websites, such as the popular platform Pinterest, in order to gather inspiration and ideas for her envisioned living space.

Armed with an astute eye for design and a discerning taste, Lesley skillfully curated a room that exuded elegance and sophistication.

Employing a palette of captivating hues, including shades of pink, purple, and green, Lesley masterfully amalgamated a harmonious blend of opulent brands, such as Essentials with Eden, with more budget-friendly options sourced from renowned retailers like Ikea and the dynamic marketplace of Facebook.

The culmination of her efforts resulted in a breathtaking design that not only reflected her personal style but also showcased her innate ability to strike a balance between luxury and affordability.

The total cost incurred for this remarkable transformation amounted to approximately $3,000, a significant investment that Lesley’s doting parents graciously covered, thereby ensuring that their daughter’s living space would be nothing short of extraordinary.

Lachman expressed her dissatisfaction with her room, describing it as lackluster and not homey. To showcase the transformation, she took to TikTok and posted a “before” and “after” video.

The “before” video depicted yellow cinderblock walls, a mustard-colored built-in desk, and an open closet.

In contrast, the “after” video showcased a complete makeover, featuring lacey curtains to cover the closet, embroidered pillows, a plush white headboard to enhance her bed, and personalized framed art of hearts.

Lachman was thrilled with the results of her redesign, declaring her love for the room and expressing her desire to leave the door open for everyone to stop by and admire it.

The back-to-college season is a significant economic opportunity, as families are projected to spend an average of approximately $1,367 per person, marking a 14% increase compared to the previous year.

These findings were revealed in an annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics during the summer.

The survey also highlighted that more than half of the increased expenditure was attributed to big-ticket items such as electronics and dorm furnishings, as well as necessary expenses like food.

In the meantime, the cost of attending college has nearly doubled between 1992 and 2022, encompassing tuition, fees, room, and board.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average inflation-adjusted cost per year rose from $14,441 to $26,903 across all types of universities.

This increase mirrors the surge in dorm costs during the same period, which escalated from $3,824 to $7,097. These figures emphasize the substantial financial burden placed on students and their families when pursuing higher education.

Sara Hunt, a 19-year-old sophomore at New York University hailing from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, faced the challenge of creating a cozy dorm room on a tight budget of $100.

Despite being responsible for 30% of NYU’s annual college expenses, amounting to nearly $30,000 per year, Hunt remains grateful for the financial aid that covers the rest.

However, the financial strain does take a toll on her, leading her to work over 60 hours per week during the last school year and take up a pastry chef job over the summer to help alleviate the burden of college expenses.

In her quest for affordable dorm decor, Hunt diligently scoured various stores such as Goodwill, Dollar Tree, T.J. Maxx, and Five Below, seeking deals on neon lights, wall paper decals, and bedding.

Additionally, she explored discount bazaars in her hometown, sifting through bins of returned items from major retailers.

Jamel Donnor, an esteemed professor at William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, specializing in educational inequity, highlights the unspoken reality of the stark divide in dorm furnishings, symbolizing the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

This stark contrast in dorm decorations can even cause some students to question their place at their respective colleges, fostering a sense of imposter syndrome.

Dormify, the e-tailer specializing in dorm supplies, has strategically catered to customers across the budget spectrum.

In a first-time move this fall, the company introduced a range of bundles to accommodate different price points.

One such bundle, priced at $159, offers a comprehensive package of 19 essential items, including bath towels and a comforter, targeting those who prioritize affordability.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dormify recently unveiled an interior designer service priced at $450, collaborating with renowned interior decorator Jen Abrams. The company plans to expand this offering by partnering with other designers in the coming year.

Amanda Zuckerman, co-founder and president of Dormify, acknowledged the significant influence of TikTok on dorm furnishings.

She emphasized the platform’s role in enabling individuals to achieve TikTok fame or go viral based on the aesthetic appeal of their dorm rooms.

Zuckerman also revealed that average orders have seen a 15% increase this fall, indicative of the growing importance placed on dorm decor.

Twenty years ago, Dawn Thomas established After Five Designs, an interior design service in Jackson, Mississippi, specifically tailored to college students.

This venture was inspired by Thomas’ experience in designing dorm rooms for her own children who were embarking on their college journeys.

Thomas observed a recent surge in the number of designers working with students, highlighting the evolving trend.

She further revealed that parents are willing to spend up to $10,000 on dorm room furnishings, with custom-made items like a $1,900 cabinet to cover the refrigerator gaining popularity.

However, Thomas also noticed a shift in parental spending habits, with some starting to exercise restraint when it comes to certain items.

In the midst of a lackluster economy, characterized by financial struggles and limited opportunities, a perceptive individual named Emma Kirk, hailing from Grenada, Mississippi and currently a freshman at the prestigious University of Mississippi, decided to seek the assistance of Thomas, a renowned interior designer.

Emma, with the unwavering support of her parents who graciously covered the expenses, indulged in the purchase of opulent furnishings such as a gold studded headboard, tailor-made pillows, and an exquisite bedspread, among other luxurious items.

Although she was unaware of the exact total cost, Emma acknowledged her parents’ occasional intervention when her choices veered towards the extravagant.

She commended Thomas for his ability to provide alternative options that were equally satisfying. Despite her constrained financial resources, another student named Hunt, a student at NYU, expressed contentment with her dorm room decor.

She acknowledged the prevalent trend at NYU where many parents generously finance their children’s expenses, but refrained from passing judgment.

Hunt candidly admitted that even if she possessed boundless wealth, she would still opt to adorn her room in the same manner as she had done presently.