How to Add Color to Your Apartment or Dorm Room

Contemporary Living Room by Exeter Interior Designers & Decorators Mandeville Canyon Design

Just like any other living space, you want your dorm room or apartment to be personalized and comfortable. However, these places include restrictions established by your landlord or residential advisor, such as not painting the walls or not using nails or tacks to hang things up.

How can you fill up your room with color while following these guidelines? We have come up with some renter-friendly ways to work within these limitations to customize your space.

Paint Your Furniture Instead

apartment colorful bookcase

Photo by Flickr user Eliazar Parra Cardenas.

You might not be able to take paint to the walls, but you have free rein with the furniture you own. In an apartment, this could be the inside of a bookcase or cabinet. For a dorm room, it could be a small shelving unit you bring along to house your clothes, textbooks, or stockpile of snacks.

Use a Room Divider

room divider screen

Photo by Flickr user Wicker Paradise.

A colorful divider can be used for its intended purpose to designate your roommate’s space or to differentiate rooms in your apartment. Or if you are short on space, lean it against a wall and use it as decoration.

Incorporate Linens or Pillows

dorm room colorful bedding

Photo by Flickr user Steve Bozak.

Use your bedding to your advantage. The obvious route is to choose bold colors for your sheets or pillowcases. Or you can go the opposite direction and use neutrals to help them blend in and make other colors in the room pop.

apartment throw pillows

Photo by Flickr user Lucy Orloski.

Throw pillows can be placed on your bed, couch, reading nook, or comfortable chair to add some extra color.

Create or Buy Artwork

dorm room artwork

Photo by Sarah Marchant.

If you are an artist, paint a vibrant picture you can put up. If you aren’t so inclined, maybe purchase a painting by a local artist or a print from an art museum instead. You can even display vintage album covers, movie posters, memorable quotes, or works of graphic design – the possibilities are endless.

dorm room quotes wall

Photo by Nicole Weigum.

You will probably be able to hang large pieces of art more easily in an apartment. For a dorm room, try to find smaller ones. If they won’t stay up with command strips, prop them up on shelves, desks, or countertops.

Put Up Photo Prints or Family Portraits

display photos

Photo by Flickr user Lizard10979.

Your photos of family, friends, and previous vacation destinations have great sentimental value – and they offer another way to add color! For these, you could find or paint frames the same color to make a gallery wall. Put them up in places you encounter daily, such as on a door or next to a light switch.

Lay Down an Area Rug

apartment area rug

Photo by Flickr user snickclunk.

This is especially effective if you have hardwood floors or a neutral-colored carpet. However, if your dorm carpet is dark blue or forest green, you probably should find a different way to inject some color.

Try a Lamp

Eclectic Living Room by New York Interior Designers & Decorators Christopher Burns Interiors

A brightly colored floor or table lamp is a fun addition to any room, and it’s made practical if your dorm room is dimly lit. Or you can makeover a plain white lampshade by decorating it with your Instagram photos.

Hang Up Window Treatments

apartment colorful curtains

Photo by Flickr user Suzette Pauwels.

Curtains or a window valance with a pretty pattern can greatly enhance a space. Curtains also help tremendously to help block out the light that may flood in from the sun, headlights, or streetlamps. For a college student trying to get just one more hour of sleep, this can be crucial.

Get Creative with Temporary Wallpaper

Rustic Closet by Shelburne Media & Bloggers Tamar Schechner

This is more applicable to apartment dwellers. Temporary wallpaper has recently become a trend for renters and indecisive decorators alike. Pick out a design that fits in with the rest of your living space, and if you get tired of it later, you can always take it down with ease and replace it with something new.

Work with Functional Items

Closet Organizers by Other Metro Furniture & Accessories PBdorm

This could apply more to college kids with limited design options. Consider investing in that pink laundry hamper or purple trashcan for one more way to add a splash of color to your room.

Use Accessories

dorm room accessories

Photo by Kelley McCurdy.

Of course, you can utilize personal items to breathe life into a room. The spines of books, dishes, souvenirs, jewelry, stuffed animals – anything is fair game. Flowers or plants are also an idea, but in the midst of a hectic schedule of classes and extracurriculars, college students might not remember to tend to them.

Be Consistent

Eclectic Living Room by New York Interior Designers & Decorators Shagreene

It’s good to stick to one color scheme or visual theme to keep your room looking unified. Some people prefer a more eclectic feel, but this can be hard to pull off and often the room ends up looking like a haphazardly-arranged eyesore instead.

Play Up the Lack of Color

lack of color artwork

Photo from Better Homes and Gardens.

I touched on this briefly earlier, but one decorating method could be intentionally using neutrals in your furniture or bedding. That way the few colors you do use will be more eye-catching and make more of a statement.

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