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Dorm Decor With Major Style

Aug 14, 2015

by Molly Simms handmade and vintage goods

A dorm room isn’t an inherently pretty thing. While there are some examples of gorgeously designed student housing, most dorms have a distinctly…institutional look to them. Open the door on your first day of school, and you’ll find beige walls, a bunch of bland wooden furniture, and a bed topped with with one of those “XL Twin” mattresses. (Seriously, what is up with those things?) But there are plenty of ways to make the dorm experience less dreary. Add an art print, a pillow or four, and a lamp with a bit of personality, and that once-bummer-y room can seem downright homey. Even better, match the decor to your courses for a more advanced style statement. These back-to-school picks are organized by major, so sharpen your (personalized) pencils and get ready to take some notes.


You’ll be seeing stars (and looking like an outer-space insider) when you hang an arty wall decal showing off a lesser-known constellation. A handmade moon phase pennant is a cool twist on school spirit, and you’ll want to study (okay, nap) next to this moon-shaped salt-rock nightlight. And for those galaxy-gazers with an appreciation for interiors, there’s a vintage midcentury chair inspired by Atomic Age design.

Lyra constellation wall decal ($11) from MyWallStickers.

Vintage atomic mid-century chair ($114) from charliesnest.

Salt rock moon lamp ($60) from simplychi.

Au Claire de la Lune pennant ($28) from ameliemancini.

Printed art-collage pillow ($52) from livingferal.

Moon phase pencil pouch set ($16) from SocialGoodsCo.

Galaxy planner stickers ($3 for 18) from PaperRosePlanning.


We know, you’d rather paint your own mural on those bland beige walls, but that’s not going to fly with the RA. Instead, try a watercolor-inspired wallpaper mural that you can (carefully!) tack up and remove at year’s end. Complement it with an abstract bud vase, a vibrant visual guide to the world’s great art museums, and color-splashed bedding worthy of Jackson Pollock.

Watercolor wallpaper mural ($339) from anewalldecor.

Stitched wooden shelf ($63) from stedi.

Marble-printed cotton sheets ($160 for twin set) from Hokoda.

Watercolor-inspired pencil case ($18) from 162PENS.

Ceramic iPhone dock ($34) from LivingEarthCeramics.

Limited-edition art museums poster ($26.50) from DesignedbyYoni.

Striped ceramic vase ($110) by EstherGriffith.

Custom color-block weekly planner ($30) from ArteeLuarBookbinding.

Mondrian-inspired clock ($48) from GorgeousGD.

Resin iPad stand ($40) from FossilFaux.

Frida Kahlo lavender sachet ($10) from SachetsbySacha.


A microscope-turned-lamp will shed some light on your first-semester exams, while a botany-illustration pillow is cute on the cellular level. You can even experiment with small space gardening in your free time, thanks to a repurposed-beaker terrarium set.

Upcycled microscope lamp ($85) by NORTHERNELECTRIC.

Ernst Haeckel-inspired illustrated pillow ($38) by PictorialHistory.

Personalized oak leaf printable planner ($6) by Berrenika.

Beaker terrarium set ($59) by DoodleBirdie.

Indigo fabric storage bin ($34) by LoveJoyCreate.

Science lab planner stickers ($4) by LisaVcreations.

Skeleton pencil case ($13) by TheCuriousNeedle.

Keres skull plate ($59) by OndeJlry.


Deck out the communal kitchen with a Rorschach-inspired tea towel (how do these dirty dishes make you feel?), and add a few succulents to some very expressive planters. A simple graphic poster conjures images of Pavlov’s dog — who, incidentally, would probably not be allowed in the dorms.

Inkblot pillowcases ($30 for two) by pinktop.

“Your Brain In Love” poster ($17) by Rachelignotofsky.

Embroidered brain art ($38) by Quirkorium.

Psychology print ($16) by EskimoChateau.

Face planters ($104 for two) by namnamceramics.


A Wuthering Heights-inspired candle will summon up some “misty darkness” on an otherwise-average Tuesday night, while a pillow designed to look like paper is infinitely comfier than the real thing (and won’t leave you with ink-stained cheeks when you wake up). Most important: you’ll need some clever bookends to hold up all those glorious tomes.

Gatsby quote poster ($40) by BookishlyUK.

Lined-paper pillow (large $41) from pilosale.

Vintage Royal typewriter ($398) from NeOld.

Moonlit Moors candle ($14) from HearthandHammer.

Bracket bookends ($54) from DesignAtelierArticle.


Get inspired by history’s greats: Write a treatise — or just a term paper — under a lamp modeled on those Abe Lincoln owned and prop up a pint-sized portrait of groundbreaker Eleanor Roosevelt for daily motivation. Come sundown (or later, if you insist on using electric lights), bed down under an antique quilt made from upcycled sports banners or an embroidered patchwork throw featuring the faces of all the U.S. Presidents who governed before you were born (it only goes through Reagan).

Vintage upcycled-pennant folk art quilt ($324) from JansVintageStuff.

Vintage globe on wooden stand ($84.50) from charliesnest.

Throwback table lamp ($85) from Timberson.

Canvas pencil case ($24) from modernandvintage.

Custom monogram wax seal stamp ($19) from artcarf.

Vintage embroidered U.S. Presidents quilt top ($150) from TextilesandOldThings.

Handmade rag rug ($159) by HandiworkinGirls.

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