Ask A Pittsburgh Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

July 23, 2013 6:00 AM

 Ask A Pittsburgh Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

Photo Credit: Credit, Angel Rodrigues

Andrea Cohen runs the Pittsburgh local website for Dorm and Campus, a guide to college life. One of the first things a student does when moving into a dorm is decorate their assigned space. A student’s dorm is a visual display of just what the student is all about. A business card of sorts, a student’s dorm states to its visitors the student’s individuality and what makes them different from every other person that has taken up occupancy there. Andrea gives insight into how exactly that process takes place and what kinds of things to consider when decorating and shopping for a dorm.

Photo Gallery: Must-Have School Supplies

Andrea Cohen
Dorm and Campus
Based solely online from Philadelphia, but serving all areas including Pittsburgh

Andrea gives five tips that need to be considered when taking on the task of essential dorm shopping. Whether you’re in a dorm for the first time, starting a new school year and need a fresh start or are shopping for someone moving into a dorm, these essential tips will carry you through to completion on your task.

What would you say is essential when shopping for dorm items for an incoming freshman?

“Comfortable bedding (preferably something that brightens up dorm rooms that can look a bit like prison cells), adequate lighting (if not provided), a fan (if dorm is not air conditioned) and storage units that contain the clutter in the most effective way possible (some schools allow for lofted beds or you can use bed risers to increase the space for storage under the bed). A few posters to personalize the space are nice or a bulletin board where you can post photos and things of importance to you, as is a rug if floors are bare or something to hang over the windows to make the room look more homey. The biggest issue with most dorm rooms is space, so as tempted as you are to buy out the store, try to refrain from purchasing or bringing too much – less is always more when it comes to decorating dorm rooms.”

What factors go into deciding what is essential?

“Many freshman are wooed by all of the attractive, functional and matching items that are marketed in stores and online for use in dorm rooms, and some may get carried away with purchasing, despite price or usefulness. After being in school the first year though, many would say that opting for the most essential items (with nothing extra) and sticking to reasonably priced options is the way to go. Dorm rooms often have lots of ‘visitors’ in them, and if you can’t handle the wear and tear that may occur with your new items (from visitors, your roommate or even just yourself because you’re living in a small space), you’ll find it a lot easier to deal with if you haven’t spent too much. Usefulness should be number one in determining essentials, but it is not always at the top of everyone’s list.”

What are you top five tips for decorating dorms?

“If you have a roommate, try to coordinate color schemes with him or her first (matching décor is a lot more pleasant to live with than clashing colors or patterns, no matter how nice each is individually), keep it simple (dorm rooms are small and the simpler, the better – small spaces are best decorated with less, rather than more), consider function first (if you don’t need it, don’t bring it – having lots of extra items, even if they’re decorative, takes up valuable space so unless the item serves a valuable function, leave it at home or in the store), choose things that are easily washable and consider your personality when choosing colors (blues and greens are soothing, while reds and yellows are energizing, etc).”

Related: Best Stationary Stores In Pittsburgh

Not all students live in dorms. Do you have decorating ideas that can be useful for off-campus living?

“If you’re living in an apartment or a house, rather than a dorm room, you probably have more space to live in and more leeway in what you can do to make the place your own. Many of the dorm decorating tips still work here though – such as communicating with roommates to make sure things are coordinated (if you have your own bedroom – do what you want though). Consider which colors best suit your personality, make sure you can clean things if they get gross and don’t overdo it when it comes to decorating your space. It’s nice to be able to personalize your living space, but unlike a family home, you’re often out and about a lot more, with other things going on to keep you entertained, so don’t go overboard in the finance department when decorating your living space. Chances are you’ll be moving again in less than a year.”

Related: Higher Education Spends Millions on Campus Cosmetics

Angel Rodrigues relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and loves exploring all things in the ‘Burgh. Whether it’s the local eateries, bakeries or shopping outlets, Pittsburgh is an exciting place to explore. You can find her work on

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