A recent survey of college students and parents suggests that how a dorm room is decorated affects the perception of happiness among students and how successful they will be.

The new school year may be long underway for college students living on campus. But it’s never too late for them to think about upgrading their dorm room décor. In fact, doing so may make them happier, new research suggests.

A recent survey of college students and parents by Open Mind Strategy and HGTV suggests that how a dorm room is decorated affects the perception of happiness among students (82%) and how successful they will be in their studies (76%). Three in 10 students said they get envious of fellow students’ décor, and 73 percent admitted that decorating a dorm room gets competitive.

Many opt to make their dorm feel “homey” by equipping it with throw pillows (47%), strings of lights (45%) or a statement rug (40%). Others bring furniture from home (seven in 10) instead of using what they believe are inferior furnishings provided by the school.

Almost half of females prefer a “savvier” look accomplished by blending smaller style outside elements with school-supplied items, and nearly four in 10 males indicate they want to do more substantial decorating, often providing their own unique designs to the room. Around one in four, meanwhile, will adopt a utilitarian style of decorating that involves doing just enough room dressing to make elements fit.

“Our living environments — even temporary ones — affect how well we live and perform,” says Killy Scheer, owner/principal of Austin, Texas-based Scheer & Co. Interior Design. “The effects of a well-designed space are the same for a dorm room or a home; they can inspire or comfort us, make us feel excited or safe, and increase productivity.”

That’s why, even though students are now closer to starting the second semester than the school year, it’s still worthwhile for them to reinvent a dorm room that fails to reflect their tastes and personalities.

“Back in college, I went shopping for bedding and dorm room together with my roommate and our mothers. We coordinated our bedding and accent colors to work together while still fitting in our own personal styles,” says Kathryn Nelson, Dallas-based interior designer.

One of the most important elements that sets the tone for a room is bedding, “which takes up a large swath of visual space in a small room, like a dorm. Adding toss pillows and throw blankets introduce layers of patterns, colors and textures that are also useful for reading, working on the bed or adding a layer of warmth for extra chilly nights,” says Scheer.

Of course, few things express a young adult’s likes and interests quite like wall décor.

“They can showcase their artistic style by hanging posters and prints of their favorite movies, TV shows or musicians. Personal photos, either in a collage frame, hanging from a string and fastened by clothespins or on a corkboard, can also personalize the room,” says Marty Basher, home design/organization expert with Modular Closets in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Comfortable seating, like a beanbag chair, gaming chair rocker or midcentury reading chair from back home, can make the room more relaxing, too.

“Also, anything that does double duty is great for saving space while looking good and functioning well — like a drawer unit that doubles as a night table or a storage box that can also be used as a bench,” says Scheer.

Don’t overlook the power of a fresh window treatment, either.

“Cover over existing ugly blinds with something new to help with both privacy and blackout for light control,” Nelson suggests.

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.