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How to Organize Your Dorm Room Around a Color Scheme


Purple and Pink Color Scheme
Photo credit

If you’re like me, the very first thing you thought of after mailing your college enrollment deposit was, “I can’t wait to decorate my dorm room!” Never mind the more pressing concerns of choosing a major or signing up for the best classes, the prospect of designing a personal living space for the first time was enough to get me thinking ceaselessly about color palettes and fitted sheets. After all, real life does begin when you wave goodbye to your parents, and what better way to start afresh than with a new room?

Over the weeks ahead, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to creatively and inexpensively turn a standard-issue dorm room into a welcoming environment you can truly call home–one that reflects your unique personality, but also isn’t devoid of practicality or efficiency.

Today, we’re going to start with the basics: Choosing a color scheme for your room and organizing your dorm around it. This process will provide a foundation that will help the rest of your room to come together beautifully. Ready to learn more? Read on.

How to Choose a Dorm Room Color Scheme

Color Palette
Photo credit

The simplest way to tie your room together is to select a basic color palette and start from there. Choose eye-pleasing colors that suit your personality, but also exercise caution—stick with 3-4 basic colors, from the same or similar families (click here for a helpful color family chart) and choose no more than 1-2 colors that aren’t in the same color family but which complement your original choices. These extra 1-2 colors give you more freedom when choosing more minor furnishings, and also break up a potentially monotonous color scheme with a touch of surprise.

Here are some sample color schemes I arranged, and their furniture counterparts:

1. Inspired by the Sea

Dorm room color scheme inspired by the sea
Lamp, Curtains, Rug, Bedding

The sea has always held a special attraction for me, and I love how these light blues and seafoam greens complement each other so well, especially with the warm oatmeal color as a neutral base.

This color scheme definitely has a more relaxed vibe, which can make your room a welcome respite from your hectic schedule. The off-white tone of the bedding puts a fresh twist on traditionally solid or white bedspreads, and the print’s oatmeal accents set off the warmth of the room nicely. The curtains let in just enough natural light, the t-shirt rug adds a bit of fun, and the lampshades provide calm, soothing lighting perfect for studying or hanging out with friends.

2. This Season’s Brights, Year Round

Brightly colored purple and yellow dorm room color scheme
Bedding, Pillows, Rug, Curtains

Bring this season’s brights to your dorm all year round with this cheery color scheme! This palette provides a welcome relief from the usual overwhelmingly pink dorm room, and the yellows project warmth alongside the cooler purples.

As far as individual pieces go, sunny gingham curtains mute the lighting, and the bold graphic on the bedding is an invitation for guests to come in and chat. The shag rug is irresistible as a place to sit, and the bright throw pillows are the perfect thing to hug while having long conversations. In this arrangement, the hot pink is balanced with pastels, representing the perfect transition between youth and maturity.

More Tips & Tricks for Using Color Schemes

  • Make sure to contact your roommate(s), if applicable, as soon as possible about your dorm. Matching bedspreads might not be feasible, but perhaps she would be interested in coordinating color schemes. Try to find common ground on at least one color, and build from there.
  • Unsure which color scheme suits you best? Choose a favorite photograph or image an utilize this color palette finder, which takes your image and picks out the five most prominent colors, giving you a handy scheme to start with. You could also browse sites like ColourLovers for more ideas, or open up Photoshop and sift through HEX codes at your discretion. Either way, images you naturally gravitate towards are a good indication of which colors fit your personality.
  • If you like to see your color selections in action, Design Your Dorm is a fabulous site that offers over 140 different college dorm room layouts (specific to your school!). You can drag-and-drop in three-dimensional beds, furniture, or décor, and rearrange them to find the perfect layout.

Want More Dorm Tips?

If you’re looking for even more tips on designing your dorm, don’t miss our past posts on college dorm room shopping, dorm organization tips, and dorm room decorating inspired by Blair Waldorf, just to start. See our dorm room section for even more.

And don’t forget to check back over the next few weeks for more dorm room posts, where we’ll be tackling topics such as…

  • How to create a room layout: Our best tips for creating the most aesthetically pleasing dorm
  • Tackling the major shopping: Beds, furniture, rugs, etc.
  • Having fun with the minor shopping: wall décor, but not just posters—decals, creative picture displays, and canvas prints; conversation pieces, jewelry organizers, and more
  • New ways to stay organized: unique and efficient ways to stay on top of your life
  • Fun office supplies: the sweetest equipment you can have for school. After all, what’s life without whimsy?

Tried it? Loved it? Let us know!

Which color schemes did you select? Did you come up with a creative way to blend different colors, or have a story about your dorm-room decorating experience? What tips do you have for college students setting out to furnish their dorms for the first time? Let us know with a comment!

Posted on on July 6, 2011 / Filed Under: Dorm Room / Tags: , , , , , , ,

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39 Responses to “How to Organize Your Dorm Room Around a Color Scheme”

  1. 1
    July 6th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I will definitely be looking out for this!

  2. 2
    July 6th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    this is very helpful, thank you amy! love youuuu.

  3. 3
    July 6th, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Assuming you’re allowed to install curtains and things like that =S
    When I was living in residence there were a ton of strict rules as to what we could or couldn’t bring in. I had no overhead light in my room so I had to smuggle in a ton of fairy lights (a la Tara’s dorm in Buffy)

  4. 4
    July 6th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I looove the beachy style one…it is so beautiful and perfect.

    Do you actually need a floor-lamp like that in a dorm room, or will a desk lamp work fine? I’m going to head off to college in less than two months and I have NO idea what’s needed and what’s not.

  5. 5
    July 6th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Coincidentally, I am using a color scheme similar to the “Inspired by the Sea” example for my new room.

    I will need a calm, relaxing haven away from the chaos when I begin law school in August.

  6. 6
    July 6th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    #2 is what my dorm room sort of looked like last year!

  7. 7
    July 6th, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    yay, i love this! i am moving out of the residence hall next year and into student appts, so this is perfect!

  8. 8
    July 6th, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I did kind of a beach style theme for my apartment but I did greens and tans instead of blues and whites, to me the green and tan was easier to clean than the white.

  9. 9
    July 7th, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Yes! I love posts about Dorm rooms! They give me so much inspiration! :D

  10. 10
    July 7th, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I’m looking forward to the rest of this series! I just started setting up a home-office and I think some of the tips will work for me too!

  11. 11
    July 7th, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Love the Inspired by the Sea theme! Definitely talking to the roomies about color coordinating. First thing I said was “I don’t want a room that clashes!”

  12. 12
    July 7th, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Loved the sea theme, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to implement it. Maybe sometime in the future…

  13. 13
    July 7th, 2011 at 9:17 am

    good job, Amy.

  14. 14
    July 7th, 2011 at 10:41 am

    This post is wonderful and super cute. I just want to recommend that incoming freshmen not make too many dorm purchases until they either have the measurements/layout (as well as the dorm rules for decorating & furnishings) OR they wait and see their dorm for themselves. I went with the latter and I’m glad I did because my dorm room was incredibly tiny! The only things I bought before move-in was a bedspread and desk accessories.

  15. 15
    July 7th, 2011 at 11:41 am

    This is such great decorating advice for anyone! Do you have any advice for decorating smaller spaces (or shared spaces)? Thanks!

  16. 16
    July 7th, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I was so excited to see this post; I’m moving in for the first time in a month and I’m just starting to buy dorm stuff and cute ideas are always welcome.

  17. 17
    July 7th, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Liz – A desk lamp can work just fine! You don’t necessarily need a floor lamp, I just feel that the standard-issue overhead light can sometimes be too harsh, too dim, or downright unpleasant. Based on your needs and what you plan to use your dorm room for, you may want to invest in a simple floor lamp.

    Adriana – I’ll be trying to focus on that in this article series! It’s definitely best to stick with naturally light colors like in the Inspired by the Sea theme, they noticeably open a small space up. Go for smaller rugs, to make the floor seem larger, and try to maximize the uses of storage pieces (like storing things in an ottoman). Best of luck to you!

  18. 18
    July 7th, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I’m actually in the middle of redecorating my own bedroom and these tips are extremely helpful considering my room is very small! :)


  19. 19
    July 7th, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    The only thing I disagree with is coordinating with a roomie. Inevitably, one of you will end up with decorations you don’t love, and that is way too much money to not love it. Also, you most likely won’t be living with the same person all four years.

    Instead, get stuff you love.

  20. 20
    July 7th, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    such great ideas – love the sea colors!

    usually colleges send out a list of furniture & stuff they provide, but you can definitely get bedding, rugs, towels & a desk lamp. aside from that, like people have said before, i’d wait & see just how big your room is before you go all out. my freshman dorm was tiny!!

    & ditto rin. you might get lucky & the roomie may end up being your bff for life, or you could hate each other’s guts. so get what you love & don’t worry about anybody else.

  21. 21
    July 7th, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the info! I’m trying to redecorate my bedroom and this tips are very useful!

  22. 22
    July 8th, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Thanks, Amy! My room is pretty small, but my roommate and I share a fairly large common area that we are trying to agree on with respect to decorating. I prefer minimalism (and neatness), while she’s a little more inclined to decorating (and clutter). Any suggestions? Really could use the help…Thanks!!

  23. 23
    July 13th, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Some really fantastic ideas! It’s great to put your own personal stamp on a dorm room rather than just leaving it as it is.

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