How to Decide on Dorm Room Décor When You & Your Roommate Are Polar Opposites

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The end of summer means the beginning of college. Goodbye to your 7 a.m. classes and parents’ “because I said so.” You want to try an intramural Quidditch and join an a cappella group. And you can finally rush your dream sorority, meeting new friends ASAP. Everything starts falling into place. Your roommate seems awesome, and you both like to spend your free time shoe shopping. Except—your roommate scrunches her nose seeing those blue duvet covers you gushed over all summer. Now what? Your bedroom decor styles don’t match up at all. The world isn’t tumbling down quite yet. Follow these guidelines for some ideas on how to find a perfect compromise if you and your roommate don’t agree on dorm room decor.

Find out how to make dorm room decor with your new college roommate.

1. Start on neutral ground

If you disagree on room décor, make a compromise. How? Choose a neutral setting. If your roommate loves hot pink but the color makes you think of your childhood birthday parties, choose a softer pink or a light pastel. Lighter colors always lift the mood in a room. They make people happier too, so opt for something lighter over darker when in doubt. While your roommate wants to jam to rock n’ roll that fits the theme of charcoal-grey room, try something more neutral and bright like light yellow or light grey. Accent colors let you show your personality without completely taking dorm room décor control over your roommate’s. The neutral color base will give you both a chance to accent your side of the room. Or risk trying to make a room vibe when the color scheme includes emerald green, bright purple and hunting orange.

2. Leave the baby blanket at home

If you can part with something your roommate doesn’t like, get rid of it. Your roommate probably doesn’t want to stare into the eyes of the vintage doll collection your grandma gave you. Leave it at home. That way your room at home feels even more special. And you deserve a fresh start in college. But don’t feel like you can’t bring anything. University of Wisconsin-Madison junior Mackenzie Christman said she brought pictures of her friends and family to remind her of home. “Pictures are an easy way to not get homesick. They’re easy to pack and don’t take up a lot of space,” Christman said. A few decorations to remind you of home, like your stuffed bear from childhood or your High School Musical blanket with a portrait of your love Zac Efron, always helps curb pending homesickness.

3. Divide and conquer—your side of the room

Clearly you didn’t spend enough time on the roommate search. Your tomboy style does not impress your couture-obsessed roommate. You still need to find a way to live together, though, even if you need to create a bit of separation with a curtain. Don’t literally divide your room in two and never speak again because you disagreed on throw pillows. But consider using a curtain to divide your personal spaces or face your beds in opposite directions so you only see your dorm room décor. Your bed could face a wall with a giant exotic frog poster and a Joan Jett and the Black Hearts poster, while your roommate looks at vintage photos of the city streets of France and Vogue’s ultimate style tips.

4. Bond over retail therapy

Who doesn’t love a little school shopping? And not shopping for No. 2 pencils and composition notebooks. If you head to the store for new clothes or pillow cases to match your bedding, invite your roommate along. Carpenter said, “College is a time for people to go off and finally be their own independent person. I was most excited about decorating my room because I didn’t have anyone telling me I couldn’t.” If you pick out dorm room decor together, you’ll both get a say in what goes into your room. Plus, you’ll get to know each other better along the way. Stop at places like Ikea or Target for discounts, or my personal favorite, second-hand shops for funky finds, like a retro lamp shade. UW-Madison students can check out Dig n’ Save for deals on furniture and dorm room décor.

5. Buy a statement piece together

Your broke college student budget doesn’t allow for big purchases—but split it with your roommate and you can double your budget. Think about something your dorm or apartment needs to feel more homey. Milwaukee School of Engineering junior Trevor Suarez said, “Get a comfy couch to watch movies and Packer games with your friends. Having a comfy and roomy place to sit not only makes your room feel more like home, it is inviting to others on your floor. To go with the couch, you need a big TV as well as a coffee table to put your feet up and relax!” Going in together on a big-ticket item will make you both appreciate the shared space you once avoided like the plague.

6. Despite disagreements, dig below the dirt and find a focus

My freshman year I lived in a Greenhouse Learning Community, which focused on sustainability and preserving the environment. Students applied to live here, so you basically guaranteed that you’d live with a huge plant nerd. Our common interest made it super easy to find dorm room decor. What did we do? Filled our room with plants! Carpenter said, “I had a hammock underneath my bed and chair in the corner I had twinkly lights up pictures of the friends as well as Polaroids and a tapestry.” If you and your roommate share a specific interest, decorate your room how you’d like, but connect it all together with one item.

7. Break down your emotions before you “break up”

Only communication solves conflicts. If you and your roommate have different opinions on dorm room décor, talk it out. Tell each other your likes and dislikes and soon you will reach a compromise. Stay open-minded, and tell each other your feelings towards certain patterns or room themes. Christman said, “To be honest, I didn’t know if we would get along at first. My roommate is super craftsy, and had her whole room organized. My area of the room was way messier than hers, and I know it bothered her. By talking it out we made an agreement on how to meet in the middle. I’m so happy we did, because now we’ll be roommates next year too!”

Make dorm room decor shopping easy at College Magazine’s one-stop shop.

We Lose Ourselves Throw Pillow

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Shooting Star Tapestry 

Price: $45

Emilie is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in journalism and anthropology. She is a huge plant nerd and loves people watching. If she’s not planting flowers or eating carrots, you can find her wandering a museum.

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