5 Cheap(ish) Ways to Decorate Your Dorm Room

Dorm rooms are often unappealingly plain—just a spare space with off-white walls, utilitarian bunk beds, and particle-board desks. But sprucing up a boring dorm room is relatively easy and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you’ve been searching for some decor inspiration, we have fun and affordable ways to turn a basic space into a home away from home.

Make a gallery wall

The four instant camera picks with some prints from each camera.
Photo: Michael Hession

To snazz up your space, showcase your favorite memories with a customized photo wall. Consider collecting postcards of some of your favorite places or buying an inexpensive print from Wirecutter favorite Simply to Impress.

Papering your wall with instant-print photos is also a great way to remember and share the good times with classmates and friends. We love the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9. It’s an affordable camera that has all the settings you need to take and quickly print quality photos. Or you can always print out the photos you take on your phone through Nations Photo Lab.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

Fun and simple to use, the Mini 9 takes 3.4-by-2.1-inch prints (with a 2.4-by-1.9-inch image area) that cost less than $1 per print.

Light up your space

Four smart LED light bulbs, three loose and one in a wooden geometric lamp, that we tested to find the best smart LED bulb.
Photo: Michael Hession

Dorm room lighting can be a little dreary. String lights are a simple and affordable way to create a little ambiance. Some of them even have remote controls, smart lighting, or strobe settings—for those who love to party. Drape them over your bed or add a little lighting to your closet space or window. (Just be sure not to run afoul of your RA’s rules.)

Add some fresh plants

A Peace lily, with one new flower blooming.
Photo: James Austin

Plants can add color, verve, and style to any space. In the guide to our favorite houseplants, our experts recommend everything from ferns to candelabras. If you’re worried your indoor plant will end up dead, fear not: Just check out our guide to fake plants.

Customize your walls with removable wallpaper

A roll of Wallshoppe Removable Wallpaper, our pick for best smooth removable wallpaper, in black with oranges and leaves.
Photo: Sarah Kobos

If your dorm room walls are a little too plain, consider removable wallpaper. Though it’s easier than most DIY projects, you may need some simple tools to get the job done. The cheapest option, of course, beloved by college students for generations, is a collage of magazine-page cutouts.

Grab some stools

A short wooden stool with a wire basket on top of it, shown in front of a wall in a living room.
Photo: Katie Okamoto

Stools are a simple way to upgrade your space. They’re multipurpose, easy to customize, and super lightweight. You can paint stools, hang things off of them, or even stack them on top of each other. They can become bookshelves, plant holders, and even media consoles.

This article was edited by Annemarie Conte.

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