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Decorating dorms, adorning apartments

For students leaving home for the fall semester, moving into an apartment or dorm can be an exciting opportunity to set their own wake-up times, live with college-age roommates and choose their own decorations. 

Yet, a new living space comes with its limitations. Apartment and campus housing often offer less square feet than students’ previous residences — particularly shared bedrooms like Beta or Castor — so space can quickly become cramped.

Even if bedroom space is abundant, buying brand new furnishings can be expensive after the costs of textbooks, classes and rent. 

However, there are ways to adorn a room without too much clutter or weight on the wallet. The Oracle points out how to expand decorating on the cheap.

The poster sale at the breezeway between the Library and Marshall Student Center is a popular fixture during USF’s Week of Welcome, where students can purchase images of their favorite college movies and art reproductions.

However, it’s also simple to find online poster printing businesses like — which lists Tampa as a top customer location — and

If students like their own photography enough, these services can take digital pictures and blow them up to glossy posters with sizes like 18 inches by 24 inches or 24 inches by 36 inches.   

Another way to display one’s personality is by decorating walls with found objects. If you’re interested in collecting albums, for instance, cover a wall with a collage of one-dollar thrift store records.

Wall furnishings

Using walls can free up walking  space in the bedroom and make a comfort area more comfortable.

Rather than bringing a large wooden or cinderblock bookcase, for example, students can invest in a suspended bookshelf. Prices range on from $12 for a corner bookshelf that holds 15 pounds, to $80 for a larger wall hutch. 

A bedroom’s atmosphere can be further brightened with the time-tested college staple of Christmas lights strewn across the walls or a garage sale retro lamp positioned on a bookshelf.

Students can even reuse planters from home as storage units to save space. These can be a convenient, inventive nook for keys, jewelry and papers that might easily be lost within piles of homework or laundry. 

Use adhesives like tack puddy when putting anything on your wall, though — large nail holes and other wall damage will be costly enough to cancel any bargains one might have made.

Floor furnishings

After freeing up breathing space in your bedroom, you can clear room with inexpensive and multi-purpose ground fixtures.

Thrift stores also offer a good way to find cheap furniture and decorations — two nearby USF are Community Thrift  Store at 14244 N. Nebraska Ave. and Salvation Army in the next outlet. 

Salvation Army and Goodwill are great for marked-down furnishings one might find at Target or other department stores, while community thrift shops are better for retro or kitsch pieces along with the occasional treasure.

Whether purchasing a Tampa resident’s hand-me-downs or new store merchandise, it’s best to buy furniture with dual functions. Bellagio-Italia sells ottomans that are both seats and storage units. 

For more study space, try placing an end table at the foot of the bed so both surfaces are roughly level. The table can be used as a sit-down schoolwork spot on one side or a place to rest a laptop while in bed on the other.

Once the groundwork for an apartment or dorm room is laid out, students can consider additions like plants and themes.

Plants like ficus offer a mental feeling of roominess, but for anyone in a stuffed two-bed bedroom, smaller plants might be more practical. Try placing African violets or small cacti in a planter near a windowsill or somewhere they can receive indirect sunlight.

Although apartment and dorm rooms don’t allow students to paint the walls, there are still ways to tie bedrooms to a unified theme.

Minimalism is ideal for an open room with sleek black furnishings, but you can also coordinate decorations around certain objects.

For instance, a room ornamented with plants might be complimented by produce crates as storage units. For a room with  ‘60s furniture accrued from thrift stores, seek out lamps and vinyl stickers from that era.

Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment while decorating, and be considerate when sharing a bedroom with another student.