A Taste of Home on Campus

A Taste of Home on Campus

Sending children off to college can be stressful. You worry about their ability to make the grades, stay out of trouble, and mature safely away from home. But one thing you won't have to fret about is adequately equipping their college residence - if you're well prepared, that is.

Whether it's a cramped dorm room, shared apartment or rented home on campus, parents can play a pivotal part in properly furnishing and decorating their student's digs for functionality and short-term fashion, say the pros.

"You have to think function, design and versatility," says Mark Riddle, Design Associate at Room & Board's Washington, D.C. location. "In smaller spaces, you need to carve out areas that work for whatever activities happen in that space, even if it's as simple as eat, sleep, study."

Unless the residence already includes it, at minimum you'll need a bed, desk and chair, one or more lamps, modular/stackable storage containers for possessions, bedding and towels, plug-in power strips and (if allowed) a small fridge and microwave - all of which can add up to $500 or more. Options, depending on available space, can include décor like posters and wall hangings; a nightstand and dresser; TV; storage cabinet, small entertainment center or armoire; music system; game console; lounge/beanbag chair; dining table and chairs; bookcase; and couch.

"A dorm room is such a small shared space and is often temporary, so a full couch with matching loveseat will not fit," says Melissa Schmalenberger, professional organizer and owner of MS. Simplicity in Fargo, North Dakota, who helped two of her sons move into college housing over the years. "Your best investment is a multifunctional futon that also offers a place for visiting friends to sleep on."

Indeed, "multifunctional" is your student's best friend.

"For example, a bench with shoe storage inside can help create a little entrance area and provide a place to sit while you put your shoes on," Riddle says.

Schmalenberger's best advice for mom and dad? "Go as cheap as possible, even looking for second-hand items. Buying pieces from outgoing college students works well, and let friends and family know what you're looking for. You don't want to buy too much for the space, especially if you're travelling a long distance."

Victoria Stepanov, founder/lead designer of Sense of Space, a Rego Park, New York headquartered interior design firm, agrees.

"Spending a lot of money isn't very practical, since these items get beat up, assembled and disassembled very frequently," Stepanov says. "Also, everything you can hang off the floor, like over-the-door hangers and wall shelves, is a good way to make the space more clutter-free."

For these and other reasons, it's best to view the space before acquiring the stuff your student needs.

"Measure before you buy, draw a layout with graph paper, and speak with a school employee or landlord about what's allowed in the space," says Lori Miller, owner of Lori-Girl Creations, a Huntington, New York based interior design firm, who recommends shopping for these goods at Ikea, Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Walmart and Craigslist. "All roommates should be involved in these decisions, too."

When it comes to college colors and styles currently in vogue, Miller recommends not being afraid to express yourself chromatically. "Oranges, pinks, blues and grays are leading the way. Consider pops of color anywhere in the space, but with clean lines and a casual feel," she says. "Try picking your favorite piece and using all of the colors in the piece - for example, if you choose a comforter with orange, yellow and purple, pick sofa pillows and artwork in those colors, and use a rug, draperies and picture frames to coordinate."


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