Dorm Life Expands, Though the Rooms Remain Small
Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 23, 2012 13:08
Over generations, the dorm room hasn't gotten bigger. But the amount of must-have stuff – including technology – that needs to squeeze into that space has morphed into a much longer list.
"All our rooms now have Wi-Fi access and satellite TV packages," said Peggy Luers, coordinator for housing administration at California State University, Sacramento. "That was not an option when I was in school."
"Students need to be aware that the space they're moving into is probably smaller than they're used to – and they're sharing," Luers said. "Don't bring everything all at once. You don't want a crowded room. You need a place to study."
In Sacramento State's residence halls, the average room size is 11 by 15 feet; that's only 165 square feet. Including a full meal plan, housing costs each student $9,750 to $10,230 for the academic year.
The rooms come furnished with extra-long twin beds, desks and chairs. There are closets and a little drawer space.
The challenge is to make that room feel like home.
"We want them to be comfortable. They have a place to bring out their personality, but they also should use some common sense," Luers said.
And follow the rules.
Each college has its own variations of dorm do's and don'ts with some constants. No nails in the walls. No painting. No pets (except maybe fish).
But that leaves plenty of decorating options.
Major companies have taken notice, fulfilling dorm needs as part of their teen marketing. According to retailers, the average incoming college freshman will spend more than $900 this year to outfit his or her dorm room.
For example, Bed, Bath & Beyond partnered with Sacramento State to create sample dorm rooms for prospective students and their parents to tour. Target carries XL twin bedding and Room Essentials foldable furniture. Tuesday Morning made dorm living key to its back-to-school push.
Catering to this youth market, Pottery Barn recently opened its first West Coast PBteen store in Westfield Galleria at Roseville, Calif. The store also offers the PBdorm line.
"The PBdorm line is a little more sophisticated," explained Nancy Guettier, vice president of visual merchandizing for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen. "The colors are more muted; a lot of plum and gray. (The brand) offers a smart, savvy solution to college life."
At the new PBteen store, soon-to-be college students can literally see themselves in dorm room settings. A digital design center allows them to put together their own combinations and share them with friends on video screens.
Dorm life means laundry. (PBteen offers cloth laundry bags with instructions printed on the outside.)
Said Luers, "My advice to parents: Teach your teens how to do laundry before they arrive in the dorms."
Because linens may look alike, distinctive patterns or colors can help roommates tell items apart. PBteen also offers a monogram service for its linens.
Bedding and towels start the list of must-have dorm items. Pillows (especially an oversized back-rest variety) are a plus.
"Your bed is not only a bed, but also your couch and study spot," Luers said.
Most dorm rooms come in basic off-white. Area rugs are another way to add a splash of color and personalize its small space.
For friends who stop by, more seating is appreciated. That's where beanbags and collapsible chairs come in.
"The Hang-A-Round chair, for example, can be folded up and put in the closet or under the bed," Guettier said. "And it comes in lots of fun fabrics such as 'Furlicious,'" a sheepskin-look fake fur.
Lighting is important, particularly for study time. Consider task lights for desks or clip-on fixtures for reading in bed.
To keep clutter under control, maximize the dorm room's small space with organizers, another product area that's expanded greatly in recent years.
"Organization is key," Luers said. "Use that space, including under the bed and in the closet."
Said Guettier, "You're challenged by space. When you want to study, it's better to clear the clutter. You can put everything in its place. These products are both stylish and functional."
On the walls, poster putty and removable adhesive allow students to put up decorations and practical bulletin boards without messing up the paint. For example, PBteen's Style Tiles allow for mix and match of chalk, dry erase and cork boards to fit any wall.
A well-equipped dorm room needs a mini-fridge, microwave and television, but not two. That's another area where technology comes in.
Said Luers, "Students have access to so much more information now. They can go on the Internet and communicate with their roommates before they arrive.
"In years past, you didn't know anything about your roommate until you got here," she added. "Now, you can coordinate colors if you want to. You avoid duplication. That means less stuff that Mom and Dad will have to lug back home with them."