Making your room cozy

Students faced with the challenge of consolidating their living, eating and sleeping areas this weekend found an even bigger challenge waiting in their dorm rooms – making their new homes livable.

Bringing in pictures and posters from home, instead of looking at blank walls, can help students feel more at home, decorators say. While there is not a lot of space to work with, dorm rooms can be made cozy, the experts said.

“You’ve got to concentrate on maximizing what room you have,” said Michelle Humphrey, a decorator at Ford’s Furniture.

Storage, she said, is the biggest challenge. Humphrey said a lot of clutter, like small stuff jumbled on shelves, can be distracting.

Stacking baskets, using a few big things instead of a lot of little things to accessorize and grouping items, such as pictures and light or dark items, can reduce most clutter. Humphrey said making little things look hidden is especially important for women with makeup.

But recently renovated halls like Northeast, Southwest and McLean have extra storage space.

“The newer dorms have adjustable beds so if they want to put in clear storage things” they can do that, said Alisha Brewer, South Hall resident assistant.

A variety of storage baskets, including stacking compartments, are among the many dorm-convenient items located in a small back-to-school section in the front of Wal-Mart. Other items the store has available are microwaves, refrigerators, stringed twinkle lights, beanbags and chairs.

Despite the small space, dorms can be made to look very comfortable with the help of plants, colorful posters and pictures, Humphrey said.

“Plants are nice, especially real plants,” she said. “They bring a touch of nature, bring the outdoors in and freshen the air.”

Colorful posters are always fun, but it depends on the person. Andrew Houser and Travis Hastings, both freshmen from Franklin, Tenn., used to work at a movie theater so they adorn their room in Pearce-Ford Tower with movie posters like “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and “American Pie 2.”

Humphrey had a few suggestions as to how to hang items on the wall.

“Pictures should be eye level to the norm,” Humphrey said. In other words, hang pictures a little above eye level if you are a short person or a little below eye level if you are a tall person.

She also suggested leaving four to six inches between a dresser and the bottoms of pictures.

Other ideas for pictures include tack boards for making collages. Paper frames, available at Target, are less expensive than regular picture frames and are easier to mount on the concrete walls.

But concrete isn’t the only thing stopping would-be Martha Stewarts.

The policies for decorations vary by the dorms. Newer buildings such as McLean, Northeast, Southwest, Meredith and Zacharias have a wall agreement that residents must sign when they move in.

The wall agreement includes guidelines the residents must follow when putting posters and other items on the walls. Screws, putty, duct tape, nails and wallpaper are all forbidden from use.

Southwest Hall Director Ben Ellis said the wall agreement was written so that students leave their rooms relatively the same way they found them.

“All the policies are based on the fact that we changed the walls,” Ellis said.

Ellis recommends residents with drywall to use items like straight pins and thumb tacks to put up posters. In his hall he is also allowing painter’s blue tape.

But decorations can include more than just posters and pictures.

Novelties, such as Fort Thomas freshmen Erin Minsterman and Beth Coomer’s cotton candy machine give their room a unique touch.

Coomer said she and her roommate are also big fans of Britney Spears and the posters on their wall in Pearce-Ford Tower reflect it.

But Coomer said the cotton candy machine – which they won’t get to use until Labor Day because the sugar was forgotten in the move – makes her and Minsterman different from everyone else on their floor.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Coomer said, “It makes us individuals.”

As far as colors for a good study environment, Humphrey recommends bright yellow and red for high-energy people and blues and greens for those who are mellower.

Students wanting a soothing feeling are suggested to use colors side by side on the color wheel – like three shades of purple.

She said you can put almost any colors together as long as they are the same in intensity. For example, don’t use a dark blue with a light yellow.

Students should also look for decorations before they come to school, Coomer said. She started her search last Christmas, picking out items for her dorm room.

“I’d get stuff that’s wild and crazy,” she said. “Stuff that reflects us an individual.”

BEGITAL Herald reporters Ryan McBride and Hollan Holm can be reached at [email protected] ENDITAL