Though going off to college can feel overwhelming or stressful, it’s also a great time of joy and a huge milestone in every young adult’s life. You’ll likely be living in a dorm in college, especially in your first year. Though it’s a small space that basically has enough room for a tiny kitchen, a small entertainment area, and somewhere for you to sleep, you’re much more limited on space than you likely were in the home you grew up in, for that reason decorating can walk a fine line between being tasteful or adding to clutter, for which you simply don’t have the space. Keep reading for all the must-haves for decorating your first college dorm. Hence, it feels like home while remaining functional.

5 Must-Haves for Decorating Your First College Dorm - student, dorm, decoration

Storage Furniture

With the limited dorm room space, everything that walks through that entryway needs to serve a purpose, including your furniture. From trundle beds, so your friends from back home can come and visit you somewhere to comfortably sleep, to entertainment centers that double as storage, your furniture should have a storage element to it no matter the piece. Storage furniture is dorm room living 101.

Framed Art

While at home, you may be decorated with sculptures and bigger pieces back at home, in a dorm room, with your limited space, you’re going to have to look at your walls to convey your design style and personality. While cliches like bulletin boards for messages that roommates can share serve a purpose in a dorm room, you should also incorporate framed art for your walls that speak to you. You may not be a minimalist, but when you’re working in a tiny dorm room, the wall art you include has to be meaningful to you and sparks some joy or emotion within you. Whether you go with original prints or find beautiful pieces online, the choices are yours, but wall art is necessary for a well-curated dorm room.

Hanging Plant Baskets

Even though space is of concern in a dorm room, as mentioned many times above, you should still sacrifice the natural beauty and health benefits that houseplants bring. You could set a plant on top of a bookshelf, but your dorm room may need more space for a shelf, so hanging plant baskets are your best bet! Hopefully, you have at least one window in your dorm room, and you can hang a plant basket near the window to add a pop of beautiful green color as well as purify the air, which is more important than ever in such a small and likely shared living space.

Reed or Essential Oil Diffusers

The scent can not only boost our mood (which is essential during final exams or rush week) but also remind us of home. Though experiencing the joy and freedom of college is liberating and exciting, many new students also experience homesickness. Diffusing essential oils or adding a reed diffuser that your parents used back home is a great way to feel cozy and nostalgic, not to mention mask any smells from a potentially untidy roommate. If nothing else, the scent is a positive design element in a dorm room and should be added to your list of essentials when school shopping.


Nothing ties a room together quite like a beautiful rug. While you may want to invest only a little money in your dorm room decoration, even a cheaper rug is better than none. Rugs add color and texture to an otherwise boring room, and with such limited space, they’re an easy way that takes up zero space to boost the decor level of the room. It’s a great idea to opt for a stain-resistant rug as you’ll likely do some entertaining in your dorm room, and the school workload doesn’t leave time to clean, so something that is easily cleaned is best.

Decorating your dorm room doesn’t have to be stressful, especially considering the above mentioned items. While personal lists will vary, everyone will need new bedding, a desk lamp, a file cabinet or another way to stay organized, and a small safe that locks to keep their personal or valuable effects. College is one of the most exciting times in your life, where you’ll experience tremendous growth; get prepared and do it in style!