Home Away from Home – Design Tips for Dorms and Off-Campus Apartments


If you’re a Canadian university student, chances are you’re currently hunting for a place to live for the next term. There are a number of cities with strong student populations, including the Vancouver, Calgary, London, Hamilton real estate, and Guelph real estate markets – but no matter where you’ve chosen to attend post-secondary school, you may be feeling a little home sick.

Part of the reason students have trouble adjusting to their new lives living away from home is that their rooms tend to feel impersonal and temporary. One of the easiest ways to change this is by incorporating some personal and stylish décor. While some options may be off the table in a rental space and on a student’s budget, there are still a number of ways to incorporate your aesthetic into your new student space. 

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Here are some design tips to help make your dorm or off-campus apartment your home away from home.

Creative storage solutions

One of the main things students don’t have the luxury of, whether living in university housing or in an off-campus unit, is space. Raising your bed, or using a loft or upper bunk option, may give you some much needed room for storage or potentially even room for your desk, depending on how high you are able to raise it. It may also be a great idea to look into some double-duty storage items that will create more practical space for essentials like clothing. An example of this could be a patterned or boldly coloured ottoman which provides seating but also hidden storage, so you don’t have to sacrifice style in the name of functionality.

Effectively using your wall space

Due to restrictive room footprints, many students have to rely on wall space to add their personal touches. One great way is by designing a gallery wall. Whether you are putting up personal photos to remind you of home, a collection of your favourite artwork or a mixture of both, the perfect gallery wall is all about personal preferences. Using temporary hooks or other wall-friendly solutions make it pretty easy for students to achieve this look. 

Source: Frequence3.org

Your walls can also be a great place to mix style with function. Having a mirror outside of a shared bathroom can be crucial on days when you are rushing to class and don’t have time to wait for your roommate to vacate the space. Choosing a wall mirror that fits your personal taste can also add some personality to the room, and create the illusion of a larger area.

Another item that students can use to boost their aesthetic, but has great utility, are string lights. Whether the student is reading, having a movie night or hosting friends, string lights offer an alternative to super bright overhead lighting while adding to the overall appeal of a space.

Experiment with the details

To keep your room from feeling too standard, play around with different details in order to make it suit your needs. Consider adding a bit of life with plants. However, as not everyone has a green thumb, it may be beneficial to pick a low maintenance plant or even just going with an artificial option. No matter where you put them, a splash of green could be just the change you need to make your room feel a bit more like a home.

Your bed is another area where details matter. Whether you are aiming for a more modern look or your main objective is comfort, your bed is a central part of that. Do some research into what you want your bedroom to look like and shop around a bit to find the key pieces to help pull the look together. Also be mindful that not every décor choice you make will work well with your lifestyle. For example, although a white bedspread may look stunning, it is often hard to keep clean. Looking around will help you find the most practical alternatives to help fit your vision. 

The main takeaway for students is to incorporate both decorative and functional tools into the space in order to get the most out of it. No matter what the final product looks like, making the place more your own will make getting settled a bit easier. 

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