Dorms on a dime: students work with budgets to create cozy spaces

One of the best things about being able to live on campus is being able to make your room a home. For me, move-in day is both a lot of work and a lot of fun. Living on campus is an opportunity to make my own space away from home.

However, while having a space that is both cool and functional is desirable, finding a way to turn a dorm room into a home on a budget can be difficult.

Maryville College seniors Lucy Cleek and Charlotte Howard have tackled this predicament in their own unique way. The roommates have made for themselves an apartment all their own.

Walking into the Cleek/Howard apartment feels like walking into a work of art. The walls are covered in both original artwork and pieces taken from art magazines. Cleek, an art major, started ripping out the magazine art last year and had the pictures posted in her dorm room.

The art, combined with original works by Howard and Cleek, makes their living room feel more like a gallery than a dorm.

“People always comment on the art on the walls,” said Howard.

The most notable thing about the art is that it is neat. The edges of the magazine pages are straight and uniform, making it impossible for the Cleek/Howard walls to look cluttered. The roommates have also extended the art throughout their apartment.

In addition to the wall art, these two seniors have added their own furniture to the apartment. The thought of buying furniture can be scary for MC students, but fear not!

One option for obtaining furniture for campus life is to bring it from home. Cleek and Howard’s furniture is mostly left over from what their families do not use.

Furniture doesn’t have to come in a set, MC students, and the Cleek/Howard collection gives their apartment a cool bohemian feel.  Mixed in with a long family couch and a TV are an assortment of different lamps, a recliner and a chair that screams ‘50s chic, which they bought at a thrift store.

Also in the mix is a chest which Howard purchased at a thrift store, painted and lined with fabric on the inside.

Having been in the Cleek/Howard apartment, I got the feeling that almost anyone could be comfortable there. The apartment is bright, well-organized and feels homey.

Another senior, Bridget Sternisha, an environmental studies major, has used her own unique skills to decorate her room. Sternisha used scarves and cheap picture frames which she has repainted to decorate her walls, and impressively she has also used scrap fabric to sew together a banner for her room.

Sternisha said she tries to reuse old things and “spice them up.” The frames, she said, came from garage sales.

“Well, I went yard-saling for most of my stuff,” said junior Ashley Demarest. Demarest, like Sternisha, is very crafty. She cut out circles of fabric to decorate her walls and made her own curtains.

“I have a few things from the ‘30s that I have re-painted or reupholstered,” Demarest said. She also made her own earring holder out of lace and an old picture frame.

Making things for your dorm is a great idea if you have the patience for it, and if done well, things that are made add a whole new flavor to your room.

“The places that look the coolest to me are where people make their own stuff,” said Howard.

These four MC students showed me that it’s not very hard at all to make a dorm into a home.

“I feel like I live in a real apartment and not a residence hall,” said Cleek about her apartment.

There are a ton of thrift stores around town and a Habitat for Humanity store, which has things that can help make a dorm feel like more than just a dorm, near Foothills Mall.

Personally, I have found dishes, furniture, and all kinds of little odds and ends at thrift stores. Even Target has some awesome stuff on clearance that won’t break the bank.

The bottom line here, MC students, is don’t give up hope.

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