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Your university bedroom, or dorm room, is somewhere you’ll spend quite a lot of time over the course of your university or college years. Once you’ve moved out of home, it can feel a bit strange to be transported to a completely new and forgein environment of a student accommodation room. Aim to make your space comfortable and add some items that make the environment feel welcoming or remind you of home. 

dorm room with raised bed and desk space underneath the bed

This is a space you will return to after long days of classes or activities. It is where you will sleep, study or simply catch up on some quiet time. To get you started on the journey to designing your ideal dorm room, we’ve provided some suggestions below to help you make your dorm room feel more like home.

Bedroom Lighting

Lighting is a really important element to consider in any living space. Lights set the atmosphere for a room and can turn a stark environment into a space that’s ambient and warm. 

So which lights should you choose? 

dorm room with fairy lights coffee mug and book
chic dorm room with fairy lights and music style decorations

For a warm and cosy glow in your room try fairy lights. They can be strung up across walls and bedposts, as well as desks and other surfaces. 

For reading in bed, bedside table lamps can be so important to keep you feeling comfortable in bed.

For studying at a desk try a desk lamp with nice directed light for those late night study sessions.

dorm room with ambient bedside table lamp

For some fun lighting for your student room, you could also get LED strip lights which you can change to a different colour in an instant, and you can change depending on your mood. This is a great decor idea for student bedrooms, and we’ve left a link to a site for some cool ones below the image.

Buy different types of LED’s online here:

LED Christmas Fairy Lights Battery Powered String Lights
LED Strip Lights (5m) with colour changing
10m String of LED lights for weddings, parties & Christmas time.
LED lit room with black and white tapestry

Also, have a look at The Definitive Guide to LED Accent Lighting and learn how to use lights to create a more ambient living space.

It’s best to limit your overhead lighting as much as possible, as overhead ceiling lights are a lot harsher than smaller lights.

Another easy fix for lighting is to change the type of bulb that you have. Lightbulbs come in different “temperatures” such as soft white, bright white/cool white, and daylight. Changing between the different colours can drastically change the feel and mood in your room.

Dorm Room Furniture

Balancing functionality and style

Adding some small furniture items to your room can help you improve your dorm room’s functionality and style.

You can pick items like a bedside table and lamp, a shoe rack, and small mirrors to match or create your aesthetic whether you want to style your bedroom to have a light vibrant theme or a more rustic feel.

storage ottomon for dorm room
storage ottoman in grey for dorm room

Of course, one of the most necessary additions you’ll need is a desk, as well as some shelving to house books and other items crucial to student life.

dorm room with tasteful decor and fairy lights

Mirrors are also great. For small student rooms try this idea: use mirrors to create the perception of extra room in a small bedroom space. You can get some rustic vintage mirrors from bargain stores and thrift shops quite easily, and hang them up! As well as being functional, you can also pick styles of mirrors that look really nice, which makes them an ideal choice for dorm room decor.

dorm room with mirror and fairy lights

Small seats like ottomans and stools will also work well and increase your room’s comfort level. These items are usually not large, and can be found at thrift stores, secondhand, or even online. You should be able to find great options that go for around R100.

Having dorm room furniture that is multipurpose is the best choice for any dorm room where you’re going to lack space. Think creatively about how you can use furniture for more than one purpose. Often, smaller seating options can also double up as small tables to use to stand some late night snacks on during those long study sessions. A desk can double as a table for eating a meal or playing games with friends.

If you read our 13 Sneaky Ways to Save Money as a Student guide, and have some money at the end of the week, take a visit to local thrift stores, flea markets, or other places you feel you might get a bargain, and search around until you find something that suits your style.

boho chic style dorm room
boho chic style dorm room with shelving

You could also try style your student bedroom with a distinct theme in mind, such as boho chic, modern, rustic, cottage, meditteranean, romantic, contemporary, or a traditional approach. You can have a look at some broad styles to keep in mind for your dorm room here, and see if there’s a theme that suits the vision you have in mind.

Boho chic is quite popular at the moment, with the incorporation of rustic, tasteful furnishings as well as plants small pot plants or even long vines to emphasise the natural theme.

Space saving furniture

Choosing space saving dorm room furniture is a great way to use the space with which you’re working effectively. Dorm rooms are generally not very large, and you’ll need to compensate for this with, as we mentioned, multipurpose furniture that balances functionality and style, as well as space saving options.

A good example of one of these space saving furniture options, that is very helpful to have at home, is a shoe rack. In this case, the best style being a vertical-style shoe rack as opposed to one that lies on a horizontal plain – as you can save more floor space.

Something like this multi-tier shoe rack would work well, although you can get alternatives that offer more tiers depending on how many shoes you choose to store.

You also find items drawer organisers here for bedroom drawers and cutlery trays for kitchen drawers here. These items will help you maximise small drawer spaces and make it easier for you to manage storing a variety of items in one place.

expandable space saving shoe rack with 10 tiers
space saving shoe rack with 4 tiers

The key to creating that “homey” feel, is making your space feel comfortable 

Pillows and blankets 

Pillows and blankets are a great way to pad a space and add some style. 

A dorm room can often feel stoic and empty, and adding pillows creates some interest in the room and with nice, colourful or graphic covers – pillows can showcase art or words that hint at your personality. 

dorm room with fairy lights and space saving furniture
pictures on wall of dorm room

They’re also, of course, really cozy, which is comforting when it’s been a long week and it’s time to kick back and get some well earned shut-eye.

Some light or weighted fuzzy blankets will also help make your space feel really warm and inviting. They also add some interest to the room, as you can pick a blanket that fits the aesthetic you’re trying to create.

Decorate your dorm room with pictures

A great way to make your space feel familiar is to keep photos of family, friends and loved ones around.

hang pictures on your dorm room walls to create a homey feel
hang pictures in dorm room for a homey feel

Chances are that you’ve probably been surrounded by at least a few photos at your family home, and it’s nice to remember moments of fun and specific celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries.

It’s also nice to keep any pictures of your family pets around, as it’s always nice to remind yourself of the things you love.

Make your appliances appealing!

The appliances in your new apartment also provide a surface to style and customize. Appliances will often appear bulky at first and almost out of place with the broad theme you’re trying to create in your space.

foodie fridge decoration

Rather than ignore the sleek, silver or white bulky appliances – why not style them? Add stickers and decals, and pin pictures, illustrations and typography to them using magnets.

This provides the room with added creative flair, on a surface that is often left unused. Try and tie your stickers, pictures and illustrations with the overall feel of your space. For example, if it’s a light and vibrant room, find abstract stickers and illustrations to complement this lively energy.

Bedroom decor: Art, posters, stickers, tapestries 

If you can, adding posters and art to your walls can improve the atmosphere in your space and convey your part of your personality. This personalizes your space, and makes it feel familiar, and therefore comfortable too.

dorm room with tapestry and lights
dorm room with tapestry lights soft blankets and pillows

Tapestries also work well, if you can figure out a way to hang up light patterned rugs or other colourful materials. Stickers are a nice intricate way to add an extra spark to certain surfaces, and can be funky, and funny and sometimes even create conversation within your space when guests come over.

You can also choose your favourite artworks to place on your walls, whether you’re into pop-art, postmodernism, or abstract works – let your personality shine through your artistic taste.

The layout of your dorm room

The layout of your dorm room is also really important.

You need the space to feel familiar, and one of the best ways to do that is having everything where you believe it should be.

best friends sharing dorm room

Laying out your space for functionality and style, can really boost the atmosphere and energy in the space and also make it feel far more welcoming to you and your guests.

It also helps you to know where everything is and it creates a certain balance – having everything in order is mentally calming.

This is also your chance to get creative and experiment with changing around furniture and decor depending on how your needs or use of the space changes in the future. Sticking to one layout can get boring over time, and it’s nice to alter the atmosphere in the space until you find your favourite format for your decor and furniture.

Small indoor plants, or mini plants

Adding some plants to your living space is also really important if you’re into nature, but it also feels nice to have some other healthy, living plants to water and care for every now and then. They add a literal breath of fresh air, calming atmosphere, and colour to your space. 

small indoor house plants

If you have a windowsill available, you could use small pot plants and water them every 3 days. Things like herbs are a great option for providing pleasant smells, greenery, and as a bonus you can cook with them!

Alternatively, you can also get mini plants and arrange them on trays to catch any dirt or water that might seep out of the pot during watering.

Having multiple plants is also better than just one. It adds a sense of company and additional colours to your room that can add to your theme or just some energy to your space.

For some mini plant ideas, we’ve made a short list

Swiss cheese plant (mini picture beside each might be good)
Mini cacti
Air plant
Asparagus Fern
Polka Dot Plant
Snake Plant

For extra ideas, here are 21 small indoor plants you can pick to pair with your dorm room, have a look!


Making your dorm room feel a little more like home, is a lot about personal preference. It’s also about finding a layout that works the best for you, and an organised system that you’re comfortable with on a daily basis.

Furniture and decorative items are a must, but you’re on a budget, so shop around before you buy and find the best deal to ease the pain on your monthly expenses.

It also helps to imagine what the smaller elements were in your family home that brought everything together and gave it that true homely feel.

student dorm room with eclectic furniture

Whether it’s lighting, pictures, art, furniture, rugs or tapestries – use elements of what you remember to guide your approach and make your dorm room feel miles more comfortable.

That being said, you don’t want it to feel too much like home – otherwise it will feel as if you never left. So, make sure your personality comes across with whatever style of furniture, layout and decor you choose. Try to incorporate part of the vision you might have had when you pictured living in your own space one day.

Keep some of these ideas in mind, and the suggestions we’ve mentioned throughout and get started on styling your stunning new dorm room space!

For extra suggestions surrounding spending tips, leases, living in student accommodation, applying for student loans and more, visit our Blog & Student Resources page for some helpful posts to help you begin your university journey today.

NEST offers quality student accommodation near major universities such as the University of Cape Town, AFDA, Varsity College and we’re situated near public transport systems, and very close to a Jammie Shuttle stop (convenient for UCT students). Apply now for accommodation in 2020!

Contact us on 074 330 4222 or by emailing and arrange a viewing for one of our stunning student rooms!

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