Dorm Meets Design

…And Sledge is back with a vengeance!

Let’s talk college. For those of us who have been there, we all remember the grueling late nights of studying (or rehearsing for us theater folk), the horrible cafeteria options and the dorms. Oh the dorms. That ridiculous rite of passage where by you’re forced to live with a perfect stranger for 9-10 months and cram your entire life into a poorly lit space the size of a shoe box.

Well for you new readers, I promise you there’s hope. Your first year does NOT have to consist of you gaining the freshman 15 and sleeping in a drafty room that reminds you of where Martha spent a year in West Virginia.

No matter how many times you’ve scoured your school’s website and Google Image searched, you really have no idea what kind of space you are walking in to. Maybe a little something like this:

Empty Dorm

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Or worse:

Empty Dorm 2

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But there are plenty of tips, tricks and advice towards making this cement block of a space feel like home.

The key to really enjoying your space is making it comfortable. That starts with the piece of furniture you’re going to spend most of your time in: the bed. Let’s start with support – a solid mattress pad and an egg crate are musts. Egg crate you ask? Yes, you can thank me later. Those mattresses are likely very uncomfortable and any extra cushion will be appreciated.

Good sheets are just as important. I’d recommend going a step up in the quality department. Seriously. Those college nights can be long, no matter what you’re doing and you’ll love coming home to a bed that doesn’t like it came out of Van Wilder.  Personally, Jefe and I loved our Striped Sheet Set from West Elm.  They’re extremely soft and held up really well after 2 years of solid use.

West Elm Striped Sheet Set

Comforters and duvets should be washable. Trust me. This will be your bed, couch, study spot, dinner table, and dance floor all in one. Spills are bound to happen. In terms of style, I’d pick something that’s uniquely you without screaming “Star Wars is my jam!” Going a little bit more sophisticated never hurt anyone.   A moderately priced duvet may be your best best as it’s washable and can be swapped out if you tire of it.  This actually was my duvet eons ago, in a bit more a sage color, and it was worth every penny; it got softer with every washing and paired nicely with the buttery yellow walls of my bedroom in our sorority house.  To pair with those great striped sheets, you could try a luxurious, yet neutral option from H&M’s new home line:

H&M Duvet Cover

Now lets talk pillows. As I suggested, that bed is going to get some serious use (wink wink). So besides your usual pillows, I would get a few “decorative” ones that can serve multiple purposes. I’ve found bigger European and body pillows are best and can turn any bed in to a couch or help create an extra seat on the floor.

Bed to Sofa

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Luckily, floor pillows are all the rage so it should be easy to find something in your particular taste.  I’m a big fan of these floor cushions that would work great as a backrest on  your bed or tossed on the floor for added seating.

World Market Floor Pillow

Lastly, I would add a throw blanket. It can be folded at the end of the bed, draped over the foot rail or used for extra warmth in cold months (or to cover your new best friend who fell asleep on your floor after a late night out).  And it adds a homey touch to an otherwise cold room.

Dorm Bed with throw

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After move-in day and you’ve had the chance to spend some time in your space, you can always look in to some DIY options for headboards. Is it necessary? No. Will it help make the space feel like it’s more yours and less like a cement cell? Definitely.   There are plenty of options from large wall decals to simple pieces of foam and fabric-wrapped wood that would really take your room up a notch. You’d be amazed what batting your eyes at that upper-class man with a pick-up truck will get you. Usually a free trip to Home Depot for the wood for your DIY project AND an invite to his house party later that night ;-).  Alternatively, you could go the wall decal route:

DIY Decal Headboard

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While researching this post, I also came across this great new invention: over the bed storage that can also double as a “headboard”.  You can customize the back wall with decorative paper or fabric and a little modge podge.  It also gives you some much needed storage above your bed for those photos of your besties from back home.

Overbed storage 2

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Overbed storage

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Lets talk lighting. Quite possibly the worst part of dorm life – those horrendous overhead fluorescents that make your skin look green. So we are going to TURN. THEM. OFF. Lamps are your best friends. It’s safe to say that you’ll need a minimum of 2 to truly avoid the overhead: one for your desk exclusively and one for the rest of the living space. And your eyes will thank you for that soft white light while you’re cranking away during a marathon study session. It will also give your space a great, homey atmosphere that will be the envy of all your hallmates. I would recommend a style that could easily transition to a first apartment so you’re not buying something as a temporary solution.

PB Teen Task Lamp

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Land of Nod lamp

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And that rule applies for just about everything other than those extra long twin sheets that you will most certainly never use again: purchase for longevity.  My third year of college I bought a queen size duvet for my twin bed; my only regret was not doing it 2 years earlier.   I manage to found one that was great quality (without breaking my budget),  so I was able to keep it for the long haul and still use it today.

Desk space. Lets get creative. Do you really need that plain mesh pencil cup from Office Depot? How about a pretty monogrammed mug from CWonder instead? It serves the same purpose but gives you a little panache.

CWonder Mug

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I think the same can be applied for just about anything: why choose a plain notebook when you can get one covered in chevrons that makes you smile every time you look at it? Or how about a cork board covered in fabric? Maybe some DIY bookends (kids still use actual books, right? Or am I that old?!)

CB2 Bookends

These are from CB2 but could EASILY be DIY’ed

The point is, take this as an opportunity to really exercise your imagination in how you can really put your stamp on the space so it’s as inviting as possible.

Storage. You’re gonna need more, no matter who you are. Unless you’re one of those lucky kids that gets an apartment in their first year and are spared this form of mild university-condoned hazing, you will inevitably need some form of storage beyond the blond wood, 30 year old dresser you’re issued. Once you’ve spent some time in your space, figured out what fits where and what still needs a home, plan that trip to your local Target (or if you’re one of the lucky kids near a city, a nearby Ikea). Modern, design savvy storage has come a long way since the standard clear plastic bins of my college years. Below are some suggestions:

Ikea Cart

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World Market Rolling Locker

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(Drink cart anyone?! For your bottles of Diet Coke…)

Closet storage is pretty straightforward.  Just find the things that work for you and your space.  3M hooks can be a lifesaver as are those hangers that can hold 4 pairs of pants at once.  I also used to drape my scarves over hangers to save space.

Lastly, let’s talk food. Yes, I know you’ve got a meal plan. But there will inevitebly be those times that you’re just sick of the cafeteria’s chicken parm or you really want a late night snack and don’t feel like leaving the building. For this, I’d recommend one full set of dishware. We’re talking real metal silverware kids. As for the plates, melamine has come a LONG way and there are so many cute options now. Just make sure that yours is microwavable as you never know when you want to heat up some leftovers or make a bowl of soup. Yes, you will have to wash them, but there’s just something nice about having something to call your own that is semi-permanent. And besides – you don’t have the space to hoard stacks of paper plates and cups.

Now for some inspiration of some epic dorm room design:

Boho Bold Glam

Boho Glam

Epic

This is probably the most shared, epic dorm room design I’ve ever seen.

Minimal Glam

Minimal Glam

Simple and Classy Room

So simple and easy!  A rug, some art, a pedestal, a plant and a new bookshelf.

Sorority Girl Room

For the bright and bubbly sorority girl

Traditionally Masculin

Traditional and masculin.  Love the suitcases for some under the bed storage!

As you can see, dorm room decorating has come a long way.  So here are two great examples of how to do a blue dorm room, on a budget, in different styles to really make your space your own:

PREPPY FEMININE

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MASCULINE ECLECTIC

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Top 10 – Tools on the Go

For those at home following along on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you’ll know that I was on set two weekends ago working on my first “official” gig as a production designer. I say official in quotes as I’ve worked on a lot of films in the last 6 years, mostly as a Jack-of-all-trades producer, some of which has involved doing a little production design. (Side note: you can see some of my bathroom/special effect construction skills here.) But this is my first gig as a legit production designer since really immersing myself in design and I really enjoyed it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on my last film set. Last weekend was a great reminder of all the little tips, tricks and must have tools both film crews and designers need to get something done FAST. So I decided to share my Top 10 List of Tools on the Go:

1) A Tape Measure – Preferably one that weighs less than a bag of flour. After working on Jefe’s parents place so much lately, I’ve discovered the necessity for a LIGHTWEIGHT tape measure, especially when tossing it in to your little leather handbag. I picked up this one from Ikea:

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2 & 3) Small hammer and Screwdriver – Whether you are hamming your little heart out or putting your fair share of screws in a wall, a solid but portable hammer and screwdriver are a must. I came across this adorable set in the new gift section near the greeting cards at Target.

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4) 3M Hooks & Mounting Tape – whether hanging lightweight artwork, or a few quick hooks for a coat & purses in the hall, 3M is really a life saver. I love the real metal options that look just as good as similar hooks which you have to actually screw in to the wall. They are really ideal for renters who want to hang things without the added hassle of patching up holes upon move-out.

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5) Painter’s Tape – A roll of this stuff has saved my butt on numerous occasions and has many more uses than the label may advertise. I’ve been known to use it for marking out where I want to hang things on a wall, particularly if you’re trying to hang something evenly beside another piece of art that’s already on the wall. I’ve used it to tape out furniture arrangements on the floor (which may have come from my days stage managing in the theater where we marked all set pieces out for rehearsals). Last week on set we had to dull the reflection on a piece of glass in a picture frame so it wouldn’t reflect the camera and lights; we used a roll of this stuff to protect the frame’s edges while we coated the glass in hairspray (another useful tip!)  So far I’ve only ever used 3M Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape in varying sizes, but I know there are a ton of bloggers, like my favorite Katie Bower, who swear by Frog Tape.

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6) iPhone – For better or worse, I am never without mine. When you’re out shopping, it’s the best point of reference. I’ve saved all of my apartment and furniture measurements in the notes section, taken pictures of a label or particular item at home to match it to another in store, and I have all of my shopping lists, budgets and other creative material saved in things like Reminders, Google Drive, and Room Planner. You can use an app to turn it in to a level and in a real pinch, a tape measure (although you only get about 3 inches…)  It’s also great to have on hand to take pictures of an item you may be considering, a certain arrangement of items on display (thank you West Elm for the ideas), or to save vendor information– I’ve been known to photograph business cards or a store’s hours if I’m in a hurry.

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7) Hot glue gun – You never know when you’re going to need it. Whether it’s attaching a bird to your latest DIY craft or playing McGyver on a film set, these things always come in handy. Case in point – last weekend we need a prop for one of our actor’s: a very girlie pen. As no one had one on set and we were too short on time for me to run out and purchase one, I took a regular old BIC ballpoint, a strand of fabric ribbon, and a plastic flower I popped off an old faux arrangement and VOILA! Although it may not have been the prettiest thing up close, from far away on camera, it read perfectly.  Unforutnately I’ve had my glue gun so long I have no idea the brand, but Stanley tools are always reliable.

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8) Sharpies (multiple colors) – You never know when you’ll need one.  Besides the usual use, they can be used to color in a nick on a piece of furniture, or even create some really quick art.

Sharpies_by_gaaraofthechocolate

9) X-acto Knife – Before I learned the error of my ways, I used to need something to help get a clean line when pulling up painter’s tape after I let a paint job dry.  X-Acto knife to the rescue.  It certainly did the trick then but has a million other uses.  Whether it’s trimming a piece of art to fit a frame or cutting a FLOR carpet square to size, it is by far the best way to get the straightest edge.

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10) Keep your receipts – This is more of a rule rather than a tool, but it is still essential, no matter what job you are on.  As a rule of thumb, I usually buy more than I need for a job, so I can have options the day of loading in and styling a space.  You never know when you’ll need the perfect knick knack or throw pillow to finish off a look.  So buy more than you think you need, play with the different combinations until you achieve the perfect look and return what you don’t use.

Q & A: The Great Merge – Part 2

As promised, today I’m bringing you Part 2 of Ali & Justin’s GREAT MERGE. For this post, we’re going to focus on that awkward little room just off their bedroom. They’re in desperate need of storage space and have more dressers than they have room for.

For a little refresher, here’s Ali’s little video tour:

As they don’t really need an office space, the next obvious solution is to turn it in to a dressing area. There unfortunately isn’t any space to add any additional storage pieces so today’s all about with working with what they’ve got. Starting with the left side of the room, I would use that little section of wall beside the lamp for some accessory storage.

Sunglasses frame storagevia

Moving over to the small dresser with mirror, this is where Ali does her hair. And if I remember anything about living with Ali, she is always doing crazy stuff with her hair… like the time she tried to dye it white. I may never let her live that one down ;-).

I would use a combination of drawer organizers and decorative bowls for things like headbands, bobby pins, and smaller bottles of hair products. Then for combs, brushes, and smaller curling irons, she could use a large vase or apothecary jar.

Dresser top 3via

Dresser top storagevia

For larger bottles of product she could neatly arrange them on a tray to streamline the look.

Tray with bottlesvia

Tray with bottles 2via

Lastly, I would suggest using a nicer, metal 3M hook on the right side of the dresser by the coat rack to hang her hairdryer so it’s within arms reach but is out of sight.

If Ali and Justin really want to get ambitious, I would hang the flatscreen TV on the wall. As it’s already a decent distance from the bed, a few more inches won’t matter. That way, it clears significant space on top of the dresser for additional storage.  And Ali could turn it in to a mini gallery wall!

TV Wall Galleryvia

I would also utilize decorative or 3M hooks (to avoid putting holes in the wall) on the wall to the right of the larger dresser. Ali mentioned that Justin prefers to hang rather than fold and this area would give him some additional options besides tossing items on top of others on the coat rack.

3M Hookvia

Continuing around the room, I would get some nice baskets for the bookshelf they’re using for storage.  It appears to be a tall Billy bookcase, in which case you can buy additional, individual shelves to make the most of the space.  On either side of the bookshelf, I would use that for additional storage.  On one side, Ali could install some towel racks for all of those scarves I know she still has.

scarf organizer 2via

On the opposite side, she could use a variety of solutions for her jewelry.  I think this painted cutlery tray hung on the wall is a great, easy solution that adds some visual interest:

Cutlery Storagevia

Now, lets talk style. All of these little DIY storage and organization projects can be areas where Ali can really add some of her eclectic flare, between hanging her jewelry as decor to using vintage frames. To update the dressers, Ali can replace the hardware with something a bit more her style.

And to really amp things up, I would replace that overhead can light with something a little more glamorous and less 1980’s. It may require calling an electrian, but for the $50-$100 it would cost, it the difference it would make is worth the cost.

West Elm Capiz Light

I am loving the West Elm Small Capiz Chandelier which would bring in softer, rounder shapes in to the otherwise angular room. The price, however, may not be what Ali’s looking for, so she could try her hand at one of these DIY versions:

HGTV Faux Capiz Shell Pendant Tutorial
Design Sponge Capiz Shell Tutorial
Freshly Picked  Capiz Chandelier

Although this extra little room is a bit odd, I think with some of the above suggestions Ali can really add some much needed storage as well as real eclectic style that she likes so much.

So how about you all?  Any creative storage solutions that are both function and pretty on the eyes?  I’m a HUGE fan of 3M hooks; I use them for my long dangly necklaces and my fancy purses I’d rather not shove in the dusty space underneath our bed (just keeping it real, kids).