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Published: Sunday, 10/19/2003

Lessons on creating a high-style dorm

Mike McVetta, 19, and Vicki Beckett, 18, in Mr. McVetta's sparsely decorated room in The Crossings residence hall at the University of Toledo.
Mike McVetta, 19, and Vicki Beckett, 18, in Mr. McVetta's sparsely decorated room in The Crossings residence hall at the University of Toledo.
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The classic college dorm room is not quite your high school bedroom. It's usually a lot smaller, you're sharing the space with a virtual stranger, and if you think your parents had rules, wait until you hear the strict guidelines most universities have on what's not allowed in your living space.

Still, not to worry. Although the word dormitory literally means a room for sleeping, the offerings in dorm d cor have exploded in the last few years, with chains such as Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Pottery Barn Teen marketing directly to college students with brightly colored products solely for living comfortably and in style in a residence hall, the modern name for a dormitory.

And if you believe that registries are only for bridal and baby showers, think again. Linens-n-Things offers a Dorm Registry for young people so that family and friends can help pay for products, appliances, and other items from corduroy floor pillows to paper lanterns to perk up an otherwise dreary space and make it a home-away-from-home.

It has been more than a month since the fall semester started, and many area college roommates are only now discussing how their new space should be decorated. The University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, the University of Findlay, and Bluffton College are among regional colleges and universities that have residence halls for students. All four recommend that students live in the halls for at least their first two years on campus.

Elaine Turner, assistant director of administration for UT's Office of Residence Life, said the style of rooms on campus runs the gamut.

“I've noticed that most of the female rooms have that added touch and they go all out to have real neat and tidy rooms. Still, there are many guys' rooms that go all out as well. Some people bring their own comfy chairs, end tables, and lamps.

“Others will go with colors such as a blue and gold room to match UT's colors, and others will do a theme, such as leopard print. We try to encourage the students to get in touch with each other before they move in to discuss who's bringing what,” said Ms. Turner.

Terri Sharp, media relations director at Bowling Green State University, said a Community Living Standards guide is given to all students who live on campus. The guide encourages students to add personal touches to their rooms and/or suites, but there are limits to wall and door decorations and guidelines aimed at keeping the room safe and free of potential fire or other safety hazards.

Marissa Jackson, 19, works on homework in her room in The Crossings. Marissa Jackson, 19, works on homework in her room in The Crossings.
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Students interviewed on UT's campus, where about 3,500 students live in residence halls, said individual style is a higher priority than interior design. Most of the rooms on campus average about 12-by-14 feet, although in some halls, rooms can be as large as 13-by-16 feet. In The Crossings residence halls, living quarters are built as suites in which six students share space with three bedrooms (two students per bedroom) and a commons area or shared living room.

Alexis Taormina, 19, a freshman from Cleveland, said she and her roommate, Shakeia Cox, a junior Fort Wayne, Ind., spoke on the phone before the beginning of the school year about practical items they were bringing such as appliances, a computer, and a television.

“We just recently started talking about rearranging our room. We weren't going so much for a look, but wanted to make it a more personal room. We have a futon and a couple of chairs, and she is into martial arts and has a lot of Japanese symbols, which makes the room look pretty cool,” said Miss Taormina, who has posters of such celebrities as pop singer Justin Timberlake and United States soccer star Landon Donovan on her side of the room.

Glenna Morton, interior design expert for About.com, offers suggestions for dorm room d cor such as sticking to a theme, which, she said, will give your decorating choices some focus.

“Start with what you like. If horses are your passion, then an equestrian classic look may make you feel right at home. Or are you interested in skiing, surfing, guitars, movies, TV stars, Star Wars, dancing, football, classic music, cars? Start there,” she said.

Ms. Morton's top choices for dorm interior themes, she said, include ethnic, denim or chambray, citrus colors, cartoons, dragonflies, movie posters or TV show themes, quotations or sayings, southwest or Caribbean, the classic tie-dye or retro appeal, transportation themes (cars, trains, planes), romantic (sheers, pillows), and school spirit or sports looks.

From left, Eric Vennekotter, Ryan Hanke, and Barry Warncke hang out in their living room at The Crossings at UT. From left, Eric Vennekotter, Ryan Hanke, and Barry Warncke hang out in their living room at The Crossings at UT.
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Krista Michelle Arrigo, of Studentscoop.com, suggests that after students agree on a theme, they should focus on accessories that will give the living space personality, such as throw pillows and colorful curtains.

In addition to chains which offer dorm d cor, a host of online retailers and advice Web sites can get students started in the right direction. Several suggested sites include: www.containerstore.com, www.alldorm.com, www.barewalls.com, and www.dormmall.com.

Roommates Candace Cromley, 19, a UT freshman from Dover, Ohio, and Lindsay Helge, 18, a freshman from Hilliard, Ohio, had a head start on a theme because they share the same passion: running.

“We called each other before we moved in on who was bringing what and it's the typical dorm room, although we've tried to make it cute. We're both on the cross-country team and we have running posters on the walls and we put up our racing numbers on the walls from each [cross-country] meet.

“It was also kind of a coincidence that we both brought multicolored striped comforters for our beds,” Miss Cromley said.

BGSU freshman Cary Fell, 18, of Lima, Ohio, said creating a theme for her room was easy because she knew her roommate, Megan Frame, 18, of Wapakoneta, Ohio, before the school year began.

“We've actually been friends since seventh-grade ... our room's theme is ‘our friends from back home,'” Miss Fell said.

Miss Fell and Miss Frame, both math education majors, decorated one wall with a huge collage of photographs of friends the two share from home.

“We have so many fun, bold colors in the room,” added Miss Fell, who said her comforter is lime green with bright pink and Miss Frame's bedding is purple and bright blue.

“When people walk into our room, people already know a little bit about us because we've been friends forever. [Visitors] know what we're all about and it shows what's important to us,” said Miss Fell.

Emily Brewster, 18, a UT freshman from Perry, Ohio, said she and her roommate did not plan it, but all of their room's colors were blue and gold.

“It all just worked out like that,” she said.

Tessa Becker, 18, a UT freshman from Kalida, Ohio, said she and her roommate opted for extremely bright colors to add life to their room.

“We talked about a look to our room, and I have a jean [denim] comforter with bright colors on it, and my roommate brought a turquoise comforter,” said Miss Becker, who added that she and her roommate installed wooden shelves to create extra space for storage.

Friends Zach Fowler, Adam Ragle, and Ryan Szablewski, all 18-year-old freshmen from Tiffin, admitted that not much thought went into creating a special look for their UT dorm rooms, which they each share with other roommates.

“It's just a place to stay and sleep and study,” said Mr. Fowler, whose friends laughed when he described the “light tan” area rug that he and his roommate put on the tile floor.

Kyle Dawson, 20, a sophomore from Mansfield, Ohio, who lives in The Crossings residence hall, said individual style is respected in dorm living, and adds to a space's creative expression.

Mr. Dawson shares a sleeping room with Jarrod Turner, from Cleveland, and the two share a suite with four other students.

“We didn't really go for a look, but everybody just put up the decorations they had. One of the guys is an Army ranger in the ROTC, so he has a huge banner up. Everybody just did their own thing,” he said.

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