5 ways to decorate and use dorm walls without damage or (getting in trouble)

Nothing to see here 👀

Dorm room walls with art on them
(Image credit: Future / Dormify)

The concrete cube that is most dorm rooms seems impossible to really make your own — but as TikTok has proven, it's not impossible. One of the best ways to boost a super-sad interior is by decorating your dorm room walls. Whether you're a Danish pastel girlie or are into weirdcore, you've got options.

Getting your walls looking good is exciting, but there are some ground rules. While it might feel like your university or resident assistant is trying to pour down on your cute decor parade, following guidelines helps you swerve a nasty fee when moveout rolls around. And while there may be rules, you can still make your decorating ideas happen — I have tips on how to do just that.

Below, I’ve rounded up some ideas and products that'll help you hang up stuff on your dorm room walls without getting in trouble with your RA.

How to hang art and decor in a dorm without causing damage

These helpful tools, methods, and accessories will help you curate cute walls and leave with no damage in sight... or at least no damage that isn't easily fixable.

Adhesive strips and hooks

Adhesive hooks and strips easily attach to walls without damaging them and when you're done, they pop right off. They're perf for hanging up lighter items like pictures and posters or to use by your door to hang keys and lanyards. They're also reusable! Our personal faves are 3M's Command Strips. The sticky (but strong) backing prevents damage to your dorm room’s walls and they won't hurt the paint when you remove them either. They come in different weights so you can determine if you need something durable enough for hanging a towel or something for your photo wall.

Removable putty

Putty is a non-damaging adhesive that can be used to hang up posters and other light items. There are several brands but all do the same thing. They act kind of like tape but feel like clay. Putty is easy to remove and won’t leave any residue behind either. Win win!

Freestanding shelves

When it comes to storing stuff in areas that have zero shelves or wall storage, sometimes free-standing options are your best bet. This also completely swerves the need for wall hooks, screw-in shelves, and permanent installations. Wire, stackable, metal, and plastic shelves all provide additional storage space. This is a great option for storing items such as clothes, towels, and books.

Over the door hooks

Over-the-door hooks, pockets, and organizers latch over the top of your door without any kind of drilling needed. They're perfect for hanging up items like coats, bags, and towels. It's an ideal way to save space in small areas and frees up room on your walls for more artwork and posters. You can also grab adhesive hooks to stick to your door or the wall next to it as well. 

Tension rods and shelf brackets

Tension rods act like your standard drill-in versions, but they don't require any tools and won't cause wall damage. These additions are perfect for hanging up clothes, curtains, and space dividers. It'll prevent the need for wall brackets, screws, and other potentially risky wall storage options. 

Tips for decorating your dorm without damage

Now that you’ve got all the tools to hang your decor without facing any trouble with your RA, below, I’ve provided tips on how to get the job done!

  • Hang your art at eye level: This will make your art look more balanced and aesthetically pleasing. A good rule of thumb is to hang your art at about 57 inches from the floor.
  • Cluster your art: By grouping your art in clusters, a much more cohesive aesthetic is created for your dorm’s walls. Try grouping your art by size, color, or theme.
  • Pick different shapes and sizes: Utilizing different shapes and sizes of art will assist with creating visual interest in your dorm. This will help break up the monotony of your wall space.
  • Hang art on light-soaked walls: This will have your wall looking more vibrant and alive. If you have a lot of natural light in your dorm room, try hanging your art near a window.
  • Explore different placements and arrangements: Don't be scared to experiment with different placements and arrangements. The best way to find what looks good is to try different things. Hang your art up and then move it around until you find a layout that you are satisfied with.
  • Enjoying the decorating process: Have fun with it! Decorating your dorm room should be a fun and creative experience. Don't be afraid to express yourself through your art choices.
Aida M. Toro
Freelance Writer

About Me:

Hello! My name is Aida M. Toro and I am a freelance writer that loves cultivating stories about amazing people, fashion, interiors, art, and food. I currently write for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam, The House Magazine, Hobnob Magazine, The C-Word, and Real Homes. I live in West New York, New Jersey, which is literally a 10-minute ferry ride or 20-minute bus ride away from New York City. Although I was born and raised in West New York, I consider NYC my home, as I believe it to be the place where all dreams come to fruition, and of course, spend most of my time in. When I’m not writing, I love perusing the city streets and taking snaps with my iPhone of street art along with random things, scoping out new restaurants as well as their spaces, shopping at some of my favorite stores, spending time with family and friends, walking my cockapoodle Benji, and working out at Lifetime or DOGPOUND, which are some of the top fitness spaces in Manhattan and overall the U.S.