Good Dorm Keeping

by Farid Djamalov | 10/4/17 2:25am

Whether your dorm is in the remote areas of the River cluster or in the dead center of campus, in its skeletal state it is nondescript from any other dorm. It is incumbent on the resident to bring their room to life. However, when it comes to dorm decor, a clear dichotomy in attitudes exists at Dartmouth. As trend-conscious students vigorously scour online stores for items that replicate their Pinterest posts, others opt for functional over ornamental, purchasing the bare minimum at their local retailers. 

Ashlyn Morris ’21 said that she spent the last three weeks of her summer sifting through different websites in order to purchase room furnishings. 

“I browsed websites like Urban Outfitters to find cute pillows and lights that would be in line with my personality,” she said. 

In retrospect, however, Morris realizes that she had to acquiesce at times in her room design because she did not want her roommate’s decor to clash with her own. 

“A flow in style must be maintained in order to ensure unity within the room,” she said. 

On the other side of the spectrum lies Colin Fennelly ’21, who happens to live in the same building as Morris. 

“I didn’t give much thought [to my room decor] as I thought planning out my year was more important than decorating my room,” Fennelly said. 

 Some would be reluctant to dispense with room planning, acknowledging the indirect benefits that branch out from this seemingly frivolous act. 

Morris emphasized how a person’s room can reflect who they are. 

“Individualizing your room helps you preserve your identity and prevents you from getting lost in the campus’ big herd of sheep,” she said. “After all, your room is where you come back to sleep every night.” 

Now the question is, how does one individualize a dorm room in a way that makes them call it — instinctively and happily — a home?

Many may balk at the idea of decorating their rooms once budget becomes part of the equation. Nonetheless, one need not necessarily invest in a futon or any other furniture to vivify a room. There are numerous ways to spruce up a dorm inexpensively through small additions.  

Jamie Ma ’20 has an eye for style: Ma is a budding Instagram blogger with the username “dartmouthflair,” which features individual styles of various Dartmouth community members. Ma offered advice on how to make a room feel like home. 

“Use any kind of light, but not the ceiling light,” she said. “The lights in the dorm are so artificial and feel like prison. You don’t need Christmas lights, but get anything to avoid using that that harsh ceiling light.” 

One can also enliven their room with plants procured at Robert’s Flowers. From succulents and cacti sitting on the ledge of a window or a single luscious, leafy statement piece graciously sitting on your desk, plants will imbue the cold, barren dorm rooms with life. 

“Something that I have always loved but not been able to maintain is a plant,” Ma said. “If you can do it, it’s something you can watch grow. Also, I feel like it mirrors how you’re doing in terms of taking care of yourself. In the winter time, when it’s cold and there’s no green outside, it’s especially nice to have plants.” 

Caring for dorm plants also instills a sense of responsibility and routine. 

“By watering [plants] regularly, the diligence seeps through your day-to-day life as you are motivated to keep your head above water in terms of schoolwork,” Rijul Garg ’21 said. 

Another way to individualize a room is by putting up posters reflective of the inhabitant’s identity. Turiya Adkins ’20 hails from Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in a bohemian atmosphere. She plasters art laden with meaning onto her walls. The works embody her values and remind her of home. 

“All my posters have stories and mean something,” she said. “Being able to walk into my room and see the things that aren’t particularly from home but remind me of home makes me happy.”

She gave a quick tour of her room: a New York City map that came in a vinyl album, Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s “The Virgin” from the poster store in town, a Frida Kahlo self-portrait that Adkins said embodies her values and aspirations and a still from Steve McQueen’s “Ashes.” 

Garg warns that posters with shallow quotes should be avoided. 

“Tacky quotes become such an unnecessary addition to the room, as they do not convey anything about the people,” she said. “They’re just platitudes that have been overused.” 

Nonetheless, throughout the whole dorm decor process, what is most important is that you stay faithful to who you are. 

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the wide selection for dorm decor and create an eclectic room which doesn’t do justice to your identity,” Morris said. “You must always remember, your room is a projection of your identity, and you are the artist narrating the picture.”