Home Away From Home

A guide to setting your child up at college.

Your son or daughter has survived the application process and is now off to college. It’s an exciting time that will be a learning experience extending far beyond the classroom. Most likely, setting up a living space with someone your child has never even met will be his or her first lesson. How can you help turn that barren-looking 14-by-14-foot room into a comfortable place that looks good and works for both kids? New Jersey Monthly gave Kara Giorgio, an interior design student at Kean University in Union, a $1,000 budget to create the ideal dorm room at Seton Hall University in South Orange. Giorgio rose to the challenge beautifully, designing a room that uses a bold color palette, personal touches, and attention to organization to make—and keep—the space inviting and functional.

Giorgio’s first step was to put down a large carpet remnant and hang curtains. To define separate areas for relaxation and work and to maximize space, she moved the beds to one side of the room, pushing them parallel to the walls so they also serve as sofas; headboards face the TV for late-night viewing. The storage trunk doubles as a coffee table that defines the room’s seating area. Carpet from Capitol Carpet in Green Brook. Curtains, tableware, and toss pillows from Target. Duvet from the Isaac Mizrahi Mix Master set, also at Target. Sheets and faux-leather floor pillows from Linens ’n Things. Metal touch lamp from PB Teen. Storage trunk, TV/refrigerator cart, storage drawers, and picture frames from the Container Store.

Color helps create a cohesive space. Giorgio says to pick just a few colors in advance so “each roommate can go out and buy to their own tastes but still not detract from the order of the room.” Here, the accessories conform to a palette of black, white, red, and silver. Coverlet from Target. Sheets by Isaac Mizrahi for Target. Magnetic message board from the Container Store. Modular storage cubes from PB Teen.

Storage solutions are a big factor in dorm decor. A mesh hanging sweater bag and red-and-white locker bins help keep things organized and accessible. An over-the-door hook and matching bookends add a fun touch. Sweater bag, hook, and bookends from the Container Store. Locker bins from PB Teen.

4 Tips for Dorm Living

To get the year and their new home off to a good start, Craig D. Allen, director of Housing and Residence Life at Seton Hall University, offers these suggestions for students who live on campus:

Connect in advance. Most colleges and universities send out roommate contact information before the semester begins. Take the opportunity to get in touch with your new roommate and talk about the stuff you’re planning to bring. Keep in mind that a dorm room needs only one of certain items, such as a TV or refrigerator.

Pack light. Bring essentials and a few things to personalize the room, but don’t overdo it with things you won’t need. If you plan a trip home within the first few weeks of school, wait until then to bring your winter clothes so you won’t cram the room with things you won’t need right away. Check your school’s Web site for what and what not to bring.

Stick to the schedule. Follow the timeline and procedures established by the school for students’ move-in day. To most efficiently move in more than 800 students within a seven-hour period, Seton Hall assigns time slots alphabetically.

Communicate. Talk to your new roommate about some basics. What time do you each get up in the morning and go to bed at night? What time do you prefer guests to leave the room? Should you set a schedule for cleaning the room and the bathroom? Allen believes that “90 percent of the issues that students have with their roommates could be taken care of if they talk to each other about those issues.”

Article from September, 2005 Issue.


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