NEW YORK — Making a cramped dorm room comfy, colorful and classy on a budget can seem like a lost cause, but students and their families don't have to spend a lot.
Experts say a cap of $75 is realistic for students moving into a room furnished with a bed, dresser and desk but nothing else.
“You're not looking for investment pieces,” says Stan Williams, author of “The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating,” and a blog called elegantthrifter.blogspot.com. “You're looking for something that fits into a small space and (is) cheap.”
Susan Baxter, assistant professor of marketing and management at LIM, a college based in New York, recommends starting with information from the college on the room's dimensions.
Next, students should make a list of what's missing and compare prices on sites like pricegrabber.com. But before buying anything, check the college's Facebook page and its marketplace section for items for sale. Also try freecycle.com, which matches people giving things away with others who want the stuff, Baxter suggests. Here are ways to decorate four areas for less than $75 in all:
• Wall décor: Head to thrift stores and flea markets to pick up vintage postcards that can be created into a collage or even a framed painting whose original owner has tired of it.
• Lighting: Williams recommends buying a lamp at a thrift store but adding a quirky new shade from a a dollar store.
• Bedding: Colleges often sell linens, pillows and bedding, but students can do better on their own. Unfortunately, buying bedding used isn't advised because of the continuing spread of bedbugs. Many discounters sell “bed in a bag” sets, including pillows, comforter and sheets, for $60 or less. And make sure everything's easily washed to avoid dry cleaning costs.
• Furniture: Williams suggests thrift stores and flea markets for non-upholstered furniture like a small book shelf or table for your TV. And the old college favorite, milk crates, are still good for extra storage.