It’s that time of year, where students are heading back to school and dealing with the pressure of balancing studies, social lives and work. Although I’m an apartment-living grad student here in Brooklyn, NY, I know what it’s like to design on a budget, while also trying to fit clean lines into tight spaces. So, for those heading back to the dorms next month, or for anyone looking to decorate for less, here are 10 items that organize, de-stress, and offer affordable style.

We recently received an email from a male reader asking us to put together affordable dorm room decor, so I thought it would be a fun challenge! My main goal in developing this list was to find solid design elements with great price tags. I mostly stuck to neutral colors, and where there are lively patterns, buyers can exchange for styles that best fit their personality. It’s the framework for a complete room under $400.


1. Melltrop Dining table, IKEA, $49.99
This is a great desk option. Its square shape offers addition storage room underneath, and the easy-to-clean white surface keeps a small room bright.

2. Script desk lamp, CB2, $29.95 [Sale]
This white lacquer lamp compliments the desk. Both contemporary and cheap.

3. Honeycomb Hook, Urban Outfitters, $24.00
Hooks are a the way to maximize space, and the hipster’s favorite: honeycomb, offers a little personality to a fairly common solution.

4. Lack Wall shelf, IKEA, $29.99
Ikea’s Lack collection has become every modern furniture lovers go-to when designing on a budget. These shelves can be stacked up a wall, offering additional storage in a tight space.

5. Dorm Basic Bedding Set, Target, $79.99
This basic bedding collection in white takes care of the necessities. White keeps a small room looking big, while touches of color can be added through the purchase of bright pillows and throws.

6. Polarvide Throw, IKEA, $3.99
Nice detail and splash of color for four dollars.

7. Myskmalva pillowcases, IKEA, $7.99
These shams offer the touch of color I was talking about. Could be exchanged for any other bright or bold print to keep the interiors alive.

8. “Get Your Sh*t Together” 8×10 print, Orange Beautiful, $12.00
I have this hung next to my bedroom door as a cheeky reminder to stay motivated every day. Etsy is a great place to shop for limited prints and budget art. You’ll find something to fit any style.

9. Tab-Top Window Panel, Target, $17.99
Keep curtains simple and long. It’ll naturally heighten the ceiling and keep small rooms bright, especially if there is only one window.

10. Home Shag Rug in Mushroom Brown, Target, $129.99
Whether you’re working with tile, wood, or carpeted floors, I find that a rug really makes a home. Invest in a neutral color and you can change wall and window treatments, or even bedding without having to replace it. Also great for extra seating that’s actually comfortable.