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Dorm Room Decorating Decisions

by Gail McCauley

As the summer winds to a close, college bound young adults ponder their dorm room design schemes for the upcoming year. When it comes to planning, college students usually think in terms of temporary, short term intervals. Dorm living is all the about the three "F's": function, fashion and fun! Can you think of a more favorable way to creatively fashion a transitional space than with the exciting use of color and paint?!

First and foremost on any parent's list for their departing college student is establishing a functional living space. Practical storage of essential belongings is a tremendous priority for the young adult who has received his or her first taste of independence. Functional storage need not be mundane. Practical storage can take the form of inexpensive and unexpected unique items! Wire and metal baskets present useful storage containers to be utilized on closet shelves to house clothing and linens.

Divided wooden boxes (such as old tool boxes) with a handle provide handy storage for toiletries and cosmetics. Clear jars with lids (such as simple canning jars) offer ideal choices for housing small desk accessories like paper clips, staples, "post it" note pads and erasers. Often used items (i.e. cellular phones) can be dispersed within decorative baskets and bowls for quick and easy accessibility. Any of these storage vessels may be primed and creatively painted according to the student's color preferences or room theme.

An organized method of scheduling daily tasks is crucial for a successful student at any age. Not "just for kids", chalkboard paint offers an inexpensive and decorative way for a student to map out their intended daily or weekly schedule at a glance. Currently offered in various colors (not limited to "traditional" black) and by several paint manufacturers, chalkboard paint can be applied directly to the wall surface, an existing bulletin board or even a large piece of poster board. Simply hang or prop against a wall and refer to the whimsical organizer for "in a jiffy" scheduling of classes and extracurricular activities.

Carefully considered transitional spaces are designed with furnishings and accessories that are made for compact and temporary living. Furnishings that fold or contain wheels offer the ability for increased dorm room space when not in use. A folding chair painted with a whimsical motif can function as a bedside table, or as extra seating for unexpected guests. A portable, hand painted storage cart that coordinates with a themed room offers the ability to serve as a television stand, makeshift coffee table or to accommodate a laptop computer.

Contemporary and fashionable dorm abodes simply require the imagination and creativity of a willing college student participant. Innovative decorative accessories such as painted floorcloths lend fun underfoot for all who enter the dorm room. Readily available painters canvas may be stenciled, stamped or treated to a painted freehand design using an endless array of innovative borders, color blocked or geometric patterns. (Although even novice painters can tackle a project of this nature, consulting with a paint expert prior to tackling a floorcloth project helps to ensure the most effective results.)

For inexpensive "quick fixes", consider adding paint to file cabinets, wastebaskets, tissue holders, bookends and other desk accessories. Even empty shoe boxes can be transformed into customized storage containers with a healthy dose of color! If painting on the walls is permitted, explore the possibility of painting an accent wall, mural or ceiling for an visually stimulating twist of the unexpected.

Remember, virtually any surface is a potential paint candidate for the dorm room space. One last thought: what if your newly independent dorm dweller grows tired of his colorful dorm creation? The beauty of paint provides for a rapid change of existing color palette without a major financial investment!

Gail McCauley for the 
Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute

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