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Dorm Room Ideas and Essentials

We are officially a Longhorns family now and I have to say I'm loving all the burnt orange baby. Yes, we have hit the time for dorm shopping! Today I'm giving you a peek into my concept boards and shopping lists including dorm room ideas and essentials to get my sons ready for dorm life (they're obviously thrilled to have their mom get super excited about designing this space, she says sarcastically...).

If you're also looking for everything your kids might need to function well in college, today I'm highlighting a few things that I have discovered are very important in this new stage of life for us (and adulting for them)! Don't worry, I have linked a bunch of things at the end of this post, and most of the things I've selected for my guys also come in multiple colors and various schools besides burnt orange and UT, ha!

Dorm room ideas, must haves and essentials for 2023 by Nancy Lane Interiors.

Dorm Room Ideas and Essentials

Dark Rugs

Yes, light color rugs can be so beautiful. But trust me, dark rugs and dark bath mats will last a lot longer, especially if your kids aren't the laundry once a week type. I'm hoping we've trained them to be, and they will be reminded of this until we drive away at drop off (and beyond)! The one you see above is indoor/outdoor and low pile so easy to clean and vacuum.

Also on the list is a stick vacuum that separates to become a "dust buster" hand held vac. I'm sure that will come in handy, at least I hope they use it. ha!

Pillow Headboards

I didn't know until a few weeks ago that these "pillow headboards" existed or that we needed them (in my defense I always lived off campus at UGA and never in the dorms). Dorm room bed frames have the bare minimum, and that means no headboard of any sort these days. The triangular cushions ( bottom left above and linked below) give the illusion of a headboard, but also create a supportive place to sit up in bed and study or eat, or even to put under their feet, bonus since space is at a premium.


Y'all know this Texas weather can be nuts - small scale fans are a must! My peep April gifted a set of these fans to our boys for graduation. Having sent her two boys off already I've leaned on her tremendously as to what they might need. As usual, she knows her stuff...these are remote controlled and rotating. I may have "borrowed" one to use until they leave, you know - just to test it out. Bottom line: they're genius! Order one for yourself and your student!

Organization with the Space You Have

Cloth organizers will be the unsung heroes of this dorm room, I'll go ahead and predict. We purchased a few for each bed to act like hanging nightstands so they don't have to climb out of their bunks to get things off their desks, or off the floor. I found another cloth organizer you can drape over the mini fridge that I think will be great for dry condiments, snacks, flatware, and anything else food related.

Two Sets for Textiles

They will have no excuse to not have clean towels and sheets - one set on the bed and in the bathroom, and one on standby when that set is being washed. I even ordered two shower to cover the plain liner that comes with the room, and the other in a different colorway that will cover the doorway of their long open closet area that's directly across from their shared private bath.

Dorm room ideas, must haves and essentials for 2023 by Nancy Lane Interiors.

Command Strips + Suction Cups

Dorms are very strict about no holes in the walls, so command strips and suction cup hooks will come in VERY handy. You can use these to hang curtain rods or makeshift tension rods to cover up the closet (if yours also don't have doors to contain the chaos like theirs). I found organizers that hang using suction for their shower and sink areas plus a rolling shelving bin that I could see holding cleaning supplies and TP. Lucky for them they have a couple of built in shelves around their room (yep, while they chose to go to the same school, I insisted on the same dorm room for their first year least they know the habits of their roommate after all) so these plastic storage bins will keep their clutter contained.

Designer tip: bring your label maker for those bins!

Dorm room ideas, must haves and essentials for 2023 by Nancy Lane Interiors.

IKEA-esque Bags

These bags are such a great size, and we can carry a few at a time per person as they move in. I can see them even using these for laundry when the pile gets particularly tall. I do like these a bit better than the standard IKEA bag because they are able to be closed as well plus they come in a variety of colors and patterns. #win-win You could also use these to store out of seasons clothes under their beds.

Hanging Closet Organizers

These are great for maximizing space, and you can fold shirts, jeans, and sweaters in the cubbies if your dressers are full. The one I linked to below is the same one I used in my own closet refresh a while back where I also used fabric "drawers" inside the organizers for out of season clothes like sweaters or in a dorm room you could organize socks, undies, or other smalls. The choice is yours.

Here's a handy printable checklist for you but definitely do your own research and see what your kids' dorm or apartment comes with any of the items below and also ask about measurements of the room and the bed before you start adding to your shopping cart. Their dorm at UT comes with its own fridge and microwave along with XL mattresses and the furniture itself.

Dorm Room Ideas and Essentials checklist by Nancy Lane Interiors.

We're not quite done, but we've made a good dent in the shopping list. I hope this list helps you prepare if you've got peeps leaving the nest like me. If you see me lugging those big bags around UT Austin next month, be sure and yell out "Alright, alright alright!" {an homage to UT alum Matthew "hey, hey, hey" Mcconaughey}!!

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