Sep 13, 2022

Dorm Room Décor: Thrift Inspiration on a Student Budget

Moving away from home to attend school can be difficult. In addition to missing family or friends, many students find it challenging to feel settled and comfortable. And unfortunately, dorm rooms and student housing may only make it harder to feel truly at home.

With their plain white paint jobs, cinder block walls, and industrial carpeting, many dorm rooms feel cold and bare—not the best environment if you’re feeling anxious or homesick. So what can you do to convert your plain old dorm into your home away from home on a student’s budget?

We set out to show how easy (and affordable) it is to completely deck out your dorm room with items from Deseret Industries.

Step 1: Assess Your Space and Needs

Before you hit your local DI, the first step is to take a look at the space you’re working with. You’ll also want to evaluate your own needs to determine how to best use the space. And of course, you’ll want to outline your preferred design themes and color schemes.

Here are some questions you can ask as you assess the space, your needs, and your preferences:

  • Where will I do my homework?
  • What activities will I be doing in my room? (e.g. eating, reading, drawing, watching TV, etc.)
  • Is there a window in my room? What direction does it face?
  • Do I need to adjust my design preferences to accommodate a roommate?
  • What kind of lighting does my room have?
  • What décor items can I bring from home?
  • How much storage space do I have and where is it?

In our case, our student needed an area where she could read, watch TV, eat, and do homework. She preferred doing these activities on her bed rather than at the shared desk space.

Since this was a shared space and the other roommate had already claimed the bed against the interior wall, we knew we’d get the chance to decorate the window. The roommate’s style favored neutrals, but she was very easygoing about our student’s décor as well.

Once we got into the room, we noticed that there was only one overhead light. The light was very harsh, so we knew we’d want to invest in some softer lighting options. Fortunately, our student had a couple strands of ball-shaped fairy lights she could bring from home—along with two small rugs and a couple of other small décor items.

Finally, we identified our storage space. In addition to the shelf above the bed, there was a cubby in the headboard and some shelving in the closet. Our student is studying art, so she needed storage options for her paint and other supplies. She needed places to store her towels and other commonly used items (like scarves, keys, chapstick, etc.), as well as a way to keep her desk supplies and medications organized.

Step 2: Visit Your Local DI (or Other Thrift Store)

Once you have a better idea of what you’re working with, it’s time to head to DI.

When outfitting an entire room, we recommend starting with linens. In a thrift store environment, you (usually) have fewer options for items like comforters and bed sheets. So we started there.

We knew we wanted something fairly neutral, and our student had mentioned that she didn’t mind pale blues when paired with browns, tans, whites, and grays.

Fortunately, we were able to find a light blue comforter with a brown stripe. From there, we found a neutral white and gray sheet set, as well as pillows in a variety of neutral tones.

We were even lucky enough to find a backrest pillow that fit our color scheme, which we knew would be perfect for our student who likes to do pretty much everything on her bed.

After that, we browsed our DI to find wall décor items and curtains that matched the bedding we’d picked out. We also lucked out and found storage containers in a variety of blue, gray, and neutral shades.

Step 3: Supplement with Items from Other Stores

As great as your local thrift store may be, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find everything you need to complete your dorm room. So even if you’re decorating on a budget, it’s okay to supplement your thrifting finds with necessities from other stores.

That being said, we highly recommend shopping around to find the most bang for your buck. In our case, we ended up getting some curtain fairy lights, a couple of small plants, a lap desk, and some vase filler from the local hypermarket, wholesale store, home décor store, and craft store. We also wanted to make over one décor piece from DI with some new yarn (also bought at the local craft store).

And of course, we visited the grocery store for commonly used dorm room supplies—such as command strips, wall tacks, and batteries.

Step 4: The Fun Part

Now that you’ve gathered your décor and supplies, it’s time to decorate!

We recommend starting with your storage. Once you’ve figured out which containers go where and what goes in each, you can work with less clutter in the room. For us, taking care of this step first also ensured that we could use the bed to reach those high-up shelves without stepping on the new bedding.

Then we were able to start hanging wall décor. When hanging wall décor, it’s important to find out the rules for your dorm. While some housing facilities are fine with nails, most aren’t. In any case, we recommend using command strips whenever possible since they leave minimal damage and make it easy to move your décor if you’re not happy with the result. Make sure to use enough command strips to support the weight of the item!

For some décor items, you may have to get creative about how you attach them to the wall. While a curtain rod would have been ideal for our curtains and fairy lights, we were not allowed to drill or nail holes in the wall. But we also knew that the curtains and lights wouldn’t stick to a command strip.

Our solution? We layered command strips in strategic points along the wall, then used thumb tacks to attach the curtains and lights to the strips. This solution left us with no holes in the wall while still making sure the curtains and lights were secure.


Once everything was said and done, we loved the finished result. And we especially loved that we didn’t have to break the bank to get our student everything she needed.

Here’s how our costs broke down:

DI purchases:

  • Comforter: $8
  • Blanket: $6
  • Sheets: $4
  • Pillows: $8 ($2 each)
  • Curtains: $6
  • Antler picture: $10
  • Dot print: $5
  • Clock: $5
  • Flower prints: $6 ($2 each)
  • Glass vase: $3
  • Organizers: $9 ($1 each)
  • Wooden tray: $2
  • Woven basket: $10
  • Glass and silver bowl: $7
  • Jewelry stand: $1


  • Arrow string décor: $2
  • Harry Potter owl: $15
  • Back pillow: $3
  • Ukulele stand: $0.50
  • Small tabletop mirror: $5
  • Flowers: $3
  • Desk organizer: $3


Other purchases:

  • Plants: $15
  • Lap desk: $20
  • Fairy lights: $20
  • Vase filler: $5
  • Yarn: $10
  • Command strips: $10
  • Batteries: $10
  • Tacks: $2


Items brought from home:

  • Bulletin board
  • Ball fairy lights
  • Books
  • Book ends
  • Decorative fan
  • Rugs

Grand total: $208.50

Our student was left with a functional space where she could store everything she needed in a way that also fit her design preferences. We also loved the little touches that made the space more livable and home-like. The fairy lights brightened the space and made the harsh overhead light unnecessary. The artwork helped to cover the cinderblock walls and make the space seem more permanent. And the rugs helped everything feel more comfortable and less industrial.

What are some ways that you’ve used thrifting to build your home away from home? Share your dorm room makeovers with us on social media!