What are some great dorm room hacks/mods?
September 13, 2005 4:59 PM   Subscribe

What are some great dorm room hacks/mods?

i live in an apartment on a university, and have my own room. the walls arent an issue since we can screw or nail things in. right now im building a vertical bike rack, but what are some other cool diy things i can do give my dorm room more functionality or atmosphere?
posted by chuckforthought.com to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A popular modification when I was in school was a loft bed. People would put their beds way high up and use the space underneath for a desk and chair.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:21 PM on September 13, 2005

Or a couch (under the loft bed). You can also paint your walls which can add a LOT to a boring room, or make it seem more spacious/cozy depending on cool/warm color choices.

Screwing xmas lights to the ceiling in interesting patterns is a favorite of mine. Put hooks in the wall and hang a light chair (perhaps stolen peicemeal from your university's library, perhaps not) upside down from the hooks. Voila, conversation peice and convenient storage for the chair.

once you've got better, preferably ambient light, and cover the pathetic built-in lighting using colored paper, cut-out designs, or fabric.

Scour the streets for thrown-out stuff and put it on your walls. Paint it first if you like, or don't. Also a good source for furnature depending on your city.
posted by lorrer at 5:42 PM on September 13, 2005

Mix things up a bit.

It may be against your university's rules to paint your dorm room, but since you live in an apartment, maybe not?
I second what lorrer said, never use the lighting they install. I still have nightmares about the lighting in my dorm room. Get real lamps instead.
One thing I did was frame all my posters. It protects them, they look neater, and everyone who walked into my room commented on how it was more like an apartment than a dorm.
posted by Lycaste at 5:53 PM on September 13, 2005

Most people raised their beds using PVC pipe as leg extensions many years ago when I was a freshman. Dunno if our nanny-state / litigious society will allow that now. Also, if you're into blacklight (and what freshman isn't), Woolite flouresces nicely yet is nigh invisible in standard light.
posted by keswick at 6:26 PM on September 13, 2005

Make the whole thing computer controlled. Hook all appliances up through X10 Hardware, then go wild. Let people turn certain things on/off over the net. Write some programs to control a light in response to things like new email/IM. Set up a projector with all sorts of cool stuff projected onto your ceiling... with software like Google Earth the possiblities for cool hacks are endless.
posted by phrontist at 6:52 PM on September 13, 2005

I had a friend in college who started off building a loft but ended up building an entire second floor in his dorm room. I have no idea how much he spent on lumber, but it was awesome!
posted by kimota at 7:02 PM on September 13, 2005

Readymade magazine is a great resource, and they have a book out.
posted by mike_bling at 7:33 PM on September 13, 2005

Carpet for the floor - I bought a roll of berber and used it the 3 years I lived in a dorm. Also check out flor.com for cool carpet pieces to mix and match. You'll need a vacuum, but it's worth it if the alternative is that vinyl tile.

Loft beds are always awesome. I installed a shelf on the bed portion so I could set down my alarm clock and glasses. I also took advantage of the extra lumber to install hooks for cups and my cooking stuff.

A trunk can make a handy bench + storage.

Of course, glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling!
posted by Sangre Azul at 7:42 PM on September 13, 2005

My roommate and I had several 'dorm engineering' projects. He even made a web site to show them off.

We had the ubiquitous loft/desks made from bunk-bed frames propped up on cinderblocks and and home-made light fixtures, to name a few.

Caution: Site is from 1996.
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:45 PM on September 13, 2005

I hate Slashdot's search function; but if you can navigate it, there have been some great threads about dorm hacks, pranks, homemade gadgets, etc. over the years (usually in September). Browse at +3 and you'll find some classics.
posted by cribcage at 8:00 PM on September 13, 2005

Response by poster: i have a double bed which really cuts down on space, and might be difficult or dangerous to make a loft bed.
posted by chuckforthought.com at 8:58 PM on September 13, 2005

The hall I live in has two-person dorm rooms. This year, I got together with three friends and we snagged the two rooms at the end of the third floor. We've moved all four of our beds into one room and turned the other one into a living/rec room. Additionally, we built stadium seating for the living room; a giant shag carpet covered platform my couch sits on, providing an extra level of seating. The stadium seating accommodates about a dozen people comfortably, and we have tons of floor space plus a large amount of storage space under the platform. Instant social scene. Having the separate room also allows for pulling all-nighters without disturbing sleeping roommates.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 9:05 PM on September 13, 2005

Some of the best mods I've seen: installation of a firepole from a room-spanning loft [which had two separate beds], hanging couch, a loft-like thing with at an intermediate level and a hammock on top, hammocks installed in other ways, an upper level with fish netting [the heavy duty stuff, not the stocking sort] for sitting on, various projector setups beneath lofts, RFID tags used to open doors, many incredible murals, lofts of all sizes and shapes [including some with huge mattresses or multiple beds], computer-controlled lighting [modified by music in some cases], a fingerprint scanner [to open a door, I believe], etc. If your university won't complain about holes in the walls or paint, you have free license to do almost anything.

If I were moving into a dorm room today, I'd start by building a loft/hammock combo, install sufficient shelving, and painting the walls an interesting color [with space left for a mural or a few smaller bits of painting.] Once I've moved in to a room anywhere, other modifications [fancy and strange lighting, furniture I've built, etc.] generally come later, as I've needed it or been inspired. What you do depends a little bit on what you're interested in and what you're capable of. If you're decent with powertools and such, building a lot of your own furniture can be a lot of fun, and can result in some really interesting room configurations. If you've got programming or electrical engineering experience, control things through your computer, or build circuits that control things like lighting. If you're good at art, paint your walls and furniture. What you do also depends on what you want your room for - studying? sleeping? sitting around and relaxing? socializing? Think about what you want to do with the space in general, and work on ways to figure out how to make that thing easier and more comfortable.
posted by ubersturm at 9:31 PM on September 13, 2005

The only "hack" I can think of for a dorm room is to use a hammer to strike various objects: also known as "hacking". Anything else escapes me.
posted by angry modem at 9:47 PM on September 13, 2005

Every college student needs a custom condom dispenser attached to the wall, possibly with neon lighting around the sides to double as a night light, and mirrors on the ceiling. For extra "cool" points, build a large diorama of your dorm room and make it a centre-piece.
posted by cmonkey at 10:05 PM on September 13, 2005

A small bar with a built in keg.
posted by evariste at 10:10 PM on September 13, 2005

A pet, if you're allowed one. My friend Rachel had the awsomest angora hamster, a decrepitly ancient for a rodent that flaked dime sized flakes of dandruff through his thinning white fluff. We would race him down the hallway, and then one morning we had to have a funeral for him. In his utter revoltingness he made the place more homey. Of course, you might prefer a cat or dog.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:43 PM on September 13, 2005

Beware lofts if you're a problem sleeper. Or a heavy drinker.

Not funny.

I used to choose dorms where it was possible to get a cross-breeze going, but I guess you don't have much control over that, now.

I liked tracked spotlights - you can illuminate a close area (more intimate, right?) while the rest of the messy room remains unlit.

You know that "sticky tack" stuff that they sell that you're supposed to put up posters or whatever with? Get a big, no, *BIG* ball of that. If you get smells permeating from the hallway or if you want to prevent smells from entering the hallway, roll that stuff between your hands until you get a long string of the stuff about 1/2" or 1cm or so in diamter. Stuff the length into the space between the door and the doorframe. Easy off, and once you have it up, easy on the next time. No <screeeeeeeeehhhh> of tape, either.

If you have the cash, a HEPA filter-equiped air filter-thinger ime can decrease the number of colds you get.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:58 PM on September 13, 2005

i have a double bed which really cuts down on space...

All the more reason to raise it up out of the way and put a couch or table or desk underneath. This is the first and main hack all dorm rooms need.

...and might be difficult or dangerous to make a loft bed.

Do not fear. Single, double, triple, it's just a bed. If the frame isn't good for putting up high for some reason, put the frame in storage somewhere (some nasty, spidery basement space, perhaps?) and put just the mattress in the loft.

Here are construction plans. You can do it, Duffy Moon! Or maybe you can't, not if you're totally lame with tools or just have no tools, but then you can hand the plans to someone who needs money and have him or her do it for you. I bet there are people on campus who do this sort of thing for a living (or beer money, anyway). It will be worth the money to get it done, and if you get a bolted construction, you will be able to dismantle it and move it to the next place.
posted by pracowity at 3:55 AM on September 14, 2005

I highly recommend the loft if you don't think you'll have trouble with it.

Depending on the size of the room, hanging a King size sheet from the ceiling makes for an awesome divider. It worked perfectly in my sophomore year dorm room, cutting out the light from the living space to the bedroom area.

Try stacking the provided desks and chest of drawers (assuming they provide you with them) to make more space. Stack one desk on top of another and it makes an entertainment center (the TV goes where your legs would normally go). Stacking the drawers simply makes a tower of drawers.
posted by bwilms at 10:22 AM on September 15, 2005

posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:23 PM on September 18, 2005

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