This past summer, my mom and I have created a time for ourselves in the evening after our day's work is done. We sit down on the couch, she unpacks her teacher lesson plans, I pull out my laptop to work on my weekly Odyssey article, and then we tune into an episode of Fixer Upper.
Nights spent watching these home renovations aren't exactly my most productive. Honestly, I'm more engrossed in the hardwood floors and spacious front porches than my writing. However, watching Joanna and Chip Gaines take "the worst homes in the best neighborhoods" and transform them into stunning pieces of real estate fills a sweet spot in my soul that longs to create a living space that's open and fresh, bright and inspiring.
The problem: At the age of 19, I'm not exactly financially prepared to buy and renovate a home.
The good news: A college dorm on move-in day is like a blank canvas—a college student's perfect chance to work a little fixer-upper magic themselves. (Goodness knows that room will need it!)
Don't let this golden opportunity go by! Try out these Joanna Gaines inspired tips and tricks to create a home out of a dorm room.
1. Neutrals create a neat look.
White is the new black. And so are tan, and beige, and grey, and—you guessed it—black.
Instead of cramming your small room full of color—some of which will match, some of which won't—use the walls like a fresh backdrop to accentuate one or two key colors.
Stick to a background palette of neutrals to create a neater, tidier look, as opposed to some dorm rooms that feel distracting and messy due to mismatching colors.
2. Be unique — be you!
While we're on the topic of "neat and tidy," another pro tip is to find your central theme and stick with it. While Joanna's neutral color schemes and rustic vibes touch every home she renovates, the homeowners often add their own flair to the home.
The trick is to not go overboard—you want to keep a fresh, uncluttered look. That being said, don't be afraid to be unique and totally yourself while decorating. This is your room, after all.
So, if you like flowers, hang pressed flowers in a frame and display fresh (or fake) ones in a vase. If you're a reader, like me, display some of your favorite books on a shelf and hang a favorite quote on a cork board.
3. Create contrast.
When sticking to a neutral color palette, the last look you want to achieve is that of a grayscale paint strip. If you take a look at the homes designed by Jo, you'll notice how features stand out. She typically sticks to neutral colors but uses the contrast between the colors or an accent color to make a room pop.
4. Light 'em up!
Unlike homes on Fixer Upper, the average dorm room does not come equipped with a camera and lighting team, nor will it have large windows to let natural light stream in. To fix that, invest in some good (and cute!) lighting options.
A desk lamp is a must and can be found at Walmart or Target for under $10. String lights aren't just a fad either; they are popular for a very good reason: you can hang or tape them virtually everywhere, they cast a warm, ambient glow, and they even come with different styles of bulbs. A standing lamp isn't the most common piece of dorm furniture, but it will improve your lighting quality tremendously!
Make sure to buy bulbs of the same color! Nothing is worse than having harsh white light from one lamp, while the other casts a warmer, more natural one.
Not only does Joanna thrive with neutrals, she excels with naturals, including indoor plants. While a fiddle leaf fig tree might be out of reach for a college dorm, succulents, cacti, and air plants make lovely choices.
6. Create a HOME.
Joanna and Chip are family-oriented; they transform neglected spaces into shared spaces that bring people together.
For nine months of the year, your home will be a dorm room that you are sharing with one or two other girls. The key is to make the space shareable so that you all can enjoy it. That may mean a *pleasant* discussion over who gets the bottom bunk or how to reconcile two different decorating styles. At the end of the day, you want your room to be a place where both you and your roommate feel relaxed.
7. Stay within your budget.
This is one of the facets of renovation that often creates the biggest challenge: the extent of every renovation is limited by the clients' budget. As a young adult in a season of life characterized by looming student debt and tight budgets, it's important to know how much money you can—and are willing to—spend.
There are many posts that describe great ways to save money, but I'd like to touch on a few here.
Goodwill, Salvation Army, thrift stores: Great places for dishes, frames, and random decor items.
Your university's Facebook group for students: You can buy and sell nearly anything, as well as ask people for tips on room layouts, getting good deals, and finding specific items.
Don't buy everything right away: It's easy to see so many cute decorations and ideas only to move in and realize you have ZERO space for some things. Bring the necessities and bring what you love, but pack within reason. Chances are the town you attend university in will have a Target, Walmart, T.J. Maxx, and similar stores to buy finishing touches at once you've settled into your room.
I hope that these seven tips give you a head start in decorating your own fixer-upper!