Living in student residence is a chance to bring out your inner artist. (Janelle Jordan/Ryersonian)

Like a blank canvas, an empty dorm room is full of promise, patiently waiting to be decorated with the signature style of an incoming new student.

Dorms are typically equipped with a standard bed, desk, dresser and closet, leaving the rest up to the student’s imagination. Even though dorm sizes are only slightly larger than a proverbial shoe box, decorating allows students to turn a utilitarian space into a cozy home away from home.

“Companies are looking … to offer basically a ‘dorm-in-a-box’ that comes with the same colour palette and same design to play on the fact that people are trying to personalize their spaces more,” says Ian Crookshank, director of housing and residence life at Ryerson.

Make your dorm life a fabulous one for this school year by consulting the following list of solutions for small spaces and budgets.

Home is where the heart is – and also where free stuff is!

Your parents’ home is a goldmine of free items waiting to be discovered: from canned goods and a spare TV to an old desk lamp or wall clock. Bringing a piece of home to your new campus crib also brings a piece of fond memories.

Alyssa McLeod is a social work student marking her first year in residence with a Parisian landmark that sits atop her shelf.
“I didn’t plan to bring my Eiffel Tower picture, but my parents surprised me with that and brought it for me … and I’ve also been there.”

640#Alyssa's Eiffel Tower pic2

Items from your parents’ place will make your dorm feel like your home away from home. (Janelle Jordan / Ryersonian)

First-year journalism student Brandon Buechler chose to decorate his space mostly with items he brought from home. Despite his self-described “minimalistic” design style, Buechler still managed to make room for his ample amount of baseball memorabilia. One cherished item: a homemade, framed picture of Blue Jays baseball legend Joe Carter, crafted especially for Buechler as a gift.

“It was given to me by a coworker for Secret Santa. It’s like one of my prized possessions.”


First-year student Brandon Buechler decks out his dorm room with his prized baseball merchandise. (Janelle Jordan/Ryersonian)


Keep it bright
Kexin Zhang, president of the Interior Design Course Union, says it’s important to maximize the use of natural light in one’s dorm.

“You don’t want to put your desk against the wall so that you’re looking out the window, because if you’re typing at your screen, (the sun) doesn’t reach because the light is hitting the back of your computer,” she said.

“You want the sides of your desk in line with your window so the light is always hitting a bit of your screen.”

Do your due diligence: abide by the residence rules

Always double check university residence rules on any decorating restrictions, such as what adhesives to use when putting up posters or pictures. So as to not damage the walls, Crookshank recommends tension rods to hang up curtains and adhesive strips to hang pictures.

And in case you missed it…

The poster and print sale at the Student Campus Centre, which ended last Friday, will return before the end of the month.

Check out our list of top shops for dorm decor.

Janelle Jordan previously worked as an business news intern at CBC Toronto and as an editor at Business Information Group. She completed her Masters of Journalism at Ryerson University in 2015.