How to find your personal home decor style in college

Alllll the decor

Dorm with two beds and colorful throw pillows
(Image credit: Dormify)

Decorating your college dorm is all about curating a space that feels like a reflection of yourself and is multi-functional enough to serve as both your place of rest and your study space — and it all comes down to how you decorate it. If you’re stuck on how to get started, it’s important to first define your personal interior design style so that you start to make a home for yourself, whether you’re in the dorms or eventually in your first apartment. 

With that in mind, there are many ways one comes to find their home decor style, and honing in on it can seem a tad overwhelming — especially with so many different styles out there, from coastal cowgirl to quiet luxury

If you’re stuck on how to start, we put together a guide that will help you make design choices early on that will not only feel good for your current interests but also carry on for years to come as your decor style evolves and grows with you. 

1. Consider Color Palettes  

To get started, consider different color palettes that speak to you. They could be from some wall art you love, your favorite outfit, or even a movie poster that catches your eye. 

As you notice these color palettes, ask yourself how they make you feel and whether or not those feelings reflect how you want to feel when you come home after a long day of classes or studying in the library. 

As you start to pay more attention to color, use it in your search queries while shopping. 

2. Look at Your Wardrobe 

If you’re completely stuck on where to start, look at your wardrobe and make note of the different colors, textures, and patterns you wear often. If you're a total vanilla girl with neutrals in your closet, a more minimalistic home decor style might be more your speed. 

However, if you love prints and color, don’t be afraid to extend that to your home decor style through your bedding, throw pillows, art, and more.  

3. Utilize Social Media for Inspiration  

There are so many ways to find home decor inspiration, including utilizing certain social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. We love Pinterest because you can not only search for home decor that fits your personal style, but you can also curate your own decor mood boards that allow you to plan out your college decor shopping. 

In addition to finding inspiration, you can use social media to find unique home decor pieces that you wouldn’t otherwise find at popular college big box stores like Target and Ikea. Facebook Marketplace is an excellent way to find used furniture and decor pieces at fair and budget-friendly prices. There are also hundreds of home decor reseller accounts on Instagram that share and sell vintage decor pieces if that’s more your style.  

4. Keep Your Budget in Mind  

We don’t see budget as a barrier. Instead, it’s the perfect excuse to get creative with your style. When shopping for home decor pieces, it’s worth setting a budget and then staying within that budget. You might want to use a majority of it on investment pieces like furniture and then take what is left and put it toward upcycling items or thrifting pieces to give your space less of a showroom vibe and more of a lived-in, stylish feel. 

If you are shopping for your dorm, it’s also worth looking at the areas you can cut cost down. For example, if you need something specific for your dorm in order to make it work — such as cubby storage for your snacks and coffee station — you can opt for something cheaper since you’ll likely get rid of it at the end of the school year and save your budget for bigger ticket items that you’ll take with you to your next place. 

5. Invest in Multi-functional Pieces  

If you’re in the midst of decorating your dorm, it’s worth looking at pieces that can easily transition from your dorm to your first apartment. This will not only allow you to get more use out of the pieces but also help you establish a decor style early on that you can then add to as your interests evolve. 

Look for staple pieces with a more neutral feel that can easily be reworked depending on your space and your style interests. If your dorm doesn’t come with a desk, go for something minimalistic in a neutral wood or white color. 

Choose a storage ottoman that works well in your dorm without feeling too dorm-like so that it can easily work as storage or extra seating once you move into an apartment. 

A utility cart is also a good idea, as you can use this as a bookshelf or side table in your dorm and then repurpose it as a coffee and tea cart in your first apartment. Plus, if the cart is made of metal, you can always spray paint it a different color if your style evolves a little.   

6. Don’t be Afraid of Trial and Error  

Honing your home decor style is more of a journey than a destination. As you grow through your college experience, your style might start to change, so don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Similar to your clothing, home decor is a reflection of yourself and your interests, so if those interests change or evolve, it’s totally okay to do a little bit of editing and redecorating.  

Jessie Quinn
Freelance Writer

Jessie Quinn is a lifestyle writer with words published in The Spruce, Byrdie, Well + Good, Shape, PEOPLE, and more. Jessie has a Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Journalism from Academy of Art University and leans on her background in fashion to inspire readers to hone their personal decor style as if it's their wardrobe. When she's not writing, Jessie can be found browsing the aisles of her local antique stores, creating DIY home decor projects, and taking care of her dozens of houseplants. Her eclectic decor style balances vintage, modern, and artisanal pieces that reflect her artsy style and love for handmade goods.