Student style: Decorating the dorm room — and beyond — with wallpaper


Twinkle lights, Polaroid garlands, throw pillows, faux fur rugs and decorative wall hangings have all become de rigueur dorm decor for creative college students, so how does an overachiever kick it up a notch? Think: wallpaper.

Temporary wallpaper, not the kind applied with paste, offers the ease and flexibility of old-fashioned contact paper, with the look, feel and design of traditional wallpaper. Sold in sheets and rolls, the adhesive backing is designed to be removed without leaving a trace. (However, it’s always a good idea to test a small area first just to be sure.)

The temporary peel-and-stick products like those sold by Dormify, Chasing Paper, PB Teen, Urban Outfitters and can be used to make over everything from a mini fridge to dated furniture and boring bookshelves. (It’s also a perfect way for the commitment phobes among us to spruce up a dining room, kitchen backsplash, powder room or more.)


Here are 6 tips to making it Instagram-worthy:

1. Overachievers apply here

“It’s not just for walls,” said Elizabeth Rees, founder of the temporary wallpaper collection Chasing Paper. The best candidates for covering are smooth, clean surfaces. “A lot of times people use it on old furniture,” said Rees, “like the top of a dresser, desk or the front of drawers, to breathe life into things that might seem old and tired.”

For non-wall applications, Anjelika Temple, chief creative officer of the blog Brit + Co. suggests using it on the inside, back of shelves, as drawer liners, or on the inside of cabinet or closet doors.

“Any piece of Ikea furniture is ripe for temporary wallpaper… It’s adding just a little more personality with a pop of pattern,” Temple said.


2. Do not pass ‘Go’

Wallpaper has its limits, however. Rees warns against use of the paper on roughly textured cinder block walls standard in many dorms. “I’ve seen people be successful with that application, but I think in those cases the cement walls were heavily painted… I would not suggest it.”

3. Get creative

Rees said she’s seen students hang the paper on sliding closet doors, in the small space above a desk and on the front-facing panels of shelving. “Wallpapering the mini fridge is a fun way to incorporate print and color into a space,” said Rees, “it’s a one-panel project so it’s inexpensive.”

Removable wallpaper as well as peel-and-stick decals with a chalkboard finish are another way to add functionality with a dash of design. “Friends can leave a message, sign your door, add pictures,” said Rees.


4. Practice makes perfect

To install the paper, Emma Chapman, co-founder of A Beautiful Mess blog suggests starting at one corner of the project and using a credit card or tool with a hard, flat edge to smooth the paper into place. If you do get a bubble, prick it with a sewing needle, then press it into place with the credit card, she said.

If you’ll be covering a large area, think about how you will be lining up your design.

“If you’re not feeling super-confident [about matching up patterns],” said Chapman, “try sticking with a design that has an all-over print like polka dots where you don’t have to line it up as perfectly as if you had trees or stripes.”

5. Order up

When matching up large patterns, consider ordering more paper than you need to accommodate the layout and, “Always check the return policy when ordering,” said Chapman.


6. Blessings of a blank slate

“Dorm rooms are pretty uninspired when you walk into them on the first day,” said Rees, “but it’s really a blank slate, something for you to customize and show some personality.”

Bonnie McCarthy contributes to the Los Angeles Times as a home and lifestyle design writer. She enjoys scouting for directional trends and reporting on what’s new and next. Follow her on Twitter @ThsAmericanHome



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