By Jenny Reimold | Photography By: Evin Photography
Following a transfer from Alabama to the University of Central Florida, my daughter, Grace, and I traveled to my alma mater to style her FIRST college apartment. Unlike the small spaces found in dorms and the pseudo-supervision that exists with a resident advisor, this shared apartment was a big transition…for both of us!
Despite my parents and best friend living close by, leaving my daughter 700 miles away was a bittersweet process that we prepared her for, but one that’s always making saying “goodbye” a bit rough. To make the most of her life’s new journey, I wanted her apartment to feel like home, not just a place where she studied. So I designed her small space to feel stylish, safe and welcoming to new friends she would make in Florida. Last year, we designed her Southern Living and HGTV featured dorm in one weekend; this year, we flipped her room in twenty-four hours. Here’s how we did it and my tips to styling any new space.
1. Start with a blank slate
If you’re a college student, you’ll most likely have an empty apartment or dorm. If you’re refreshing an already decorated space, remove what you want to replace before you start shopping. Bedding, lamps, and wall art are inexpensive changes that can have a big impact.
2. Get inspired by ART!
Whenever I style a new space, I always look for color inspiration either through artwork or often a patterned rug. For this space, Grace found a $24 watercolor coastal print at HomeGoods that had soft blues, pale pinks and natural shades that set the mood for the space. Using our inspiration piece, we re-purposed last year’s salmon pink artisan prints that we digitally sent to Smallwood Homes for framing.
3. Ground your space!
The foundation of any styled room is a fabulous rug. Whether those are patterned, shag or flatweave, every bedroom needs a rug, every couch warrants a soft space to rest your feet. I budget roughly $200 for a rug and typically find both bold and neutral selections hanging at HomeGoods. For a queen/king bed, an 8 x 10 can easily fit under the frame for a touch of softness. For a twin bed or in front of a couch in a small space, a 5 x 7 is an ideal size.
4. Add a personality piece!
These pieces of furniture are the ones that immediately make you say, “I LOOOOVE THAT!” When we saw this hanging egg chair, my daughter immediately knew she wanted it in her new apartment. Styled with a fringed throw and two accent pillows, this apartment corner became a cozy place to study and a perfect selfie station.
5. Create a magazine-worthy bed
Layer, layer, layer! We started by using Room422’s stick-on headboards in both the dorm and apartment to create a polished backdrop. Euro pillows can also serve as a faux headboard if one is not available. (Room 422’s oversized dorm pillow was also specifically designed for a twin bed and is the perfect foundation pillow.) At the very least, I always add three Euros to a king bed and two for a full/ queen for color, height and fullness. In this space, we layered both white and salmon pink textured comforter sets that we found for under $60 at HomeGoods. Usually, you can always find white sets on the shelves in the back of the store. (Last year, we used this easy-to-wash duvet cover from Urban Outfitters.) Design trick: Tuck a down comforter under the end quilt or comforter for added softness, an extra layer in the cold, or an easy-to-grab blanket for guests!
6. Reflect light
Make a small space seem bigger by hanging mirrors adjacent to windows to reflect natural light and make a space seem bigger. In this room, we hung a HomeGoods bamboo mirror above the bed and leaned a hand-carved mirror against the wall for full-length views and well-lit space for Tik Tok videos.
7. Swap the standard
Many college apartments and dorms come furnished with basic furniture that may seem a bit mundane. Make inexpensive swaps to add more custom touches. I’ve never styled a desk chair with wheels in a home…ever. This isn’t The Office; it’s a personal space in a small dorm or apartment, often next to a bed. Find a small accent chair or dining chair that adds both style and comfort to a desk area. The new white-washed nightstand is actually a small filing cabinet that I found at HomeGoods for under $75. Not only is it a great place to charge a phone, but it also serves as a place for important documents.
8. The $8 Hardware Hack
To add a little pizzazz to a mango wood writing desk, we swapped out the knobs with geological drawer pulls that we found at HomeGoods for $8. This is such an easy and affordable way to add style to apartment-issued furniture.
9. Get a green thumb!
Live plants have been proven to reduce stress, assist with illness recovery, boost your mood and improve air quality. Give your plant babies a new home with a boho-chic $20 HomeGoods planter and style them in well-lit corners, in main living spaces and in the bedroom for a touch of life.
10. Add security
Although our daughter’s new apartment is patrolled, one can never be too safe. Another parent installed a Ring doorbell AND Ring spotlight camera around the apartment. The motion-activated spotlight camera has LED spotlights and a siren alarm if needed. All of the roommates installed the app on their phones and now have an easy way to look out for one another.