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Dorm room tips from Metropolitan Institute of Interior Design students

Students are heading to the dorms again, as families everywhere try to find ways to bring personal touches to these spaces without breaking the bank. Fortunately, three students in advanced design from Syosset’s Metropolitan Institute of Interior Design have solutions that are both clever and cost-effective.

First, consider space. Roslyn-based Jackie Hurwitz, 51, says students should always bring extra storage pieces. “If you have no place to store things, you won’t have time to be neat,” she says. Also, make sure that what you buy will last for more than one or two months. “You’re spending money on all these items, so you want to be able to bring them with you to the next dorm room,” says Great Neck-based designer Deborah Lempert, 47.

Next, don’t bring too much. “Try to take as little as possible, and then find a place for it,” says Roslyn-based designer Jennifer Cash, 48. Finally? Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. “It’s your first place on your own,” says Lempert. “Make it fun and make it your own.”

The unisex dorm room: Jennifer Cash

Jennifer Cash in the unisex dorm room that
Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

Roslyn-based designer Jennifer Cash says she was inspired by Miami’s One Hotel when she created this unisex dorm room. “I was thinking very natural and earthy,” says the designer, who’s been studying at Syosset’s Metropolitan Institute of Interior Design for 1 1/2 years. “You should walk in and just feel relaxed.” A flat woven indoor/outdoor rug ($99.99, IKEA) is extra durable, and linen-look fabric drapes ($24.99 per panel, IKEA) soften standard-issue slatted blinds. Cash included multiple light sources, from string lights ($14.99, Bed Bath & Beyond) to a rice paper floor light ($19.99, Ikea). “I think lighting is so important,” she says. “Sometimes you just want a nightstand light on and sometimes you need more light when you’re at your desk studying (desk light, $27.99, IKEA).” A bed on risers is high enough to allow a steamer trunk ($89.99, Bed Bath & Beyond) and additional bins to slide underneath, while wire wall décor ($29.99, Target) and abstract panels ($64.99 for two, Target) spruce up the wall. The bed is functional but cozy. “The headboard is from Target ($130), and you can plug your computer into it and charge it,” says Cash. She hung mirrored storage shelves ($37.99 each, Target) over a butterfly chair ($59.99, Target), and a white and wicker storage unit ($149, Home Goods). The end result is a room that’s peaceful to come home to. “Make it feel like a home, and not just a place you’re stopping in for a little bit,” says Cash. “You want to feel relaxed there. College is a crazy fun time, but sometimes you need a little retreat, too.”

The woman's dorm room: Jackie Hurwitz

Jackie Hurwitz in a sample dorm room for
Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

A modern girl needs a dorm room that reflects her style, and not some stereotype. That’s the inspiration behind this aqua and gold space. “I didn’t wanted to do something obvious, like pink,” says Jackie Hurwitz, a Roslyn-based designer who’s been studying at Syosset-based Metropolitan Design Institute for 1 1/2 years. “I also wanted to bring in textures to make it more interesting. Then it was easy to layer things inexpensively.” Hurwitz hid the concrete dorm walls with removable wallpaper in brick and gold dot patterns ($29.99 per roll, Target), using double-sided tape instead of the self-adhesive backing. “Putting it up on the wall like they suggest is almost impossible. This way, it looks much better and smoother,” she says. “Plus, it’s much easier to remove a year later. I don’t even remove the backing.” A gray shag area rug ($49.99, Target) adds softness but is also easy to clean with a handheld vac, or just by shaking it out. She attached the gray upholstered headboard ($141.75, JC Penney) to the wall with double-stick Velcro, and then used risers that had outlets in them ($29.99; not shown, see Seen for visuals; Studio 3B™ 4-Piece USB Bed Lift Set) to add storage space beneath the bed. “Once you put storage drawers under the bed, it’s hard to get access to the outlets on the walls,” she says. “This fixes that problem.” Since many schools will let students bring in desk chairs, Hurwitz found a dramatic gray and gold velvet one ($149.99, Home Goods), then added a mirrored nightstand ($129.99, Home Goods) to reflect the room’s colorful aqua and gold theme, plus a white furry folding chair for reading ($59.99, Bed Bath and Beyond). The result is a room that’s both warm and personal. “Taking a cold, empty space and making that room feel unique is important,” she says. “It should reflect the student, but also feel homey, because a lot of kids are far away from home, and they want to come back to a room that reminds them of home.”

The man's dorm room: Deborah Lempert

Dorm room decorated by Deborah Lempert, an interior
Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Practical, space-saving ideas are essential to dorm-room living. In this space, designed by Deborah Lempert, a Great Neck-based designer who’s been studying at Syosset-based Metropolitan Design Institute for 1 1/2 years, the red, gray and white color scheme pulls together a room that’s full of clever solutions. “My son is a sophomore in college, and my daughter is looking at colleges this year,” says  Lempert. “So I know the challenges.” She used washi tape ($2.98 per roll, at Michael’s) to make wall art, and Command hooks ($4 to $18, Bed Bath and Beyond) to hang everything from hats to bags. A steamer trunk, also covered in washi tape, provides extra storage, as do storage drawers and a hanging shoe rack. A foldable lounge chair sits next to a floor lamp ($63.99, by Equip your Space at Bed Bath and Beyond) that features three shelves plus a charging station. The floor got covered in a cozy shag rug, and blackout curtains were hung from tension rods. “To shorten the curtains, I used double-sided tape,” says Lempert. “I can change the length later when he moves.” She also hung a tapestry ($32.95, Ambessone via Amazon), and got a desk lamp with additional storage to keep study needs organized. Overall, the small space is designed to help students get organized. “A lot of students don’t realize how small the dorm room space is,” she says. “They bring too much.” Lempert says that luckily, lots of stores have great, options that incorporate both storage and display.

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