50 Money-Saving DIY Projects for Your Dorm

However dull and impersonal they may be, dorms do at least provide an excellent creative challenge for artistic, crafty and DIY-hungry college students. And just as well, too. Considering how most of them must work within a paltry budget, handmade and/or upcycled items make for an incredibly economic route towards beautifying a cramped space. Best of all, though, fashioning their own dorm décor and accessories means they end up with a room even more uniquely them than one bursting with more commercial (and expensive!) goods. The Internet overflows with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions, of patterns these creative collegiates can explore, and hopefully further customize for their liking! So the following suggestions serve as merely a teeny-tiny sampling of what’s available. Inspirations rather than straight-up demands. Use them to launch a flurry of ideas and projects, perhaps even creating some to share along the way.


  1. Film canister toothbrush holder

    Save old film canisters from the landfill and upcycle them into a quirky little toothbrush holders — perfect for photography majors!

  2. Mounted makeup mirror

    Particularly handy college students who don’t mind a little dorm hacking might want to look into building their very own custom makeup mirror. Some altering is necessary for those not wanting to incur the RA’s wrath, however.

  3. Felted bath mat

    Grab a pair of knitting needles and whip up a fashionable felted rug to beauty up a dorm bathroom. Crafty collegiates don’t have to follow the pattern here exactly, of course, so make it as technicolor, monochromatic, big, or little as desired. Try the matching tissue box holder pattern, too!

  4. Embellished hand towels

    One simple but incredibly eye-catching way to make a dorm bathroom shine is customizing hand towels. Embellish edges with pom-poms, lace, ribbons, bits of cloth, or other complementary designs for quick, easy décor.

  5. Tissue box caddy

    For the sewing savvy, tissue box covers make for a fun and functional way to add life and personality to dull, dreary dorm bathrooms. Pick material in complementary colors or funky patterns to show off some style.

  6. Plastic bag shower caddy

    All it takes is a plastic bag and a wire hanger to create a simple, viable, and wholly portable shower caddy perfect for communal bathroom living. Decorate it with waterproof fabric paint for even more personalization.

  7. Sink skirt

    If plumbing precludes fashion, consider sewing a skirt to cover up the coiled metal shame. Even the most minimalist designs can resonate in a big way.

  8. Wine cork bath mat

    Crafty college kids don’t have to know knitting, crochet or sewing to get their DIY décor on! Save or buy wine corks and fasten them together for a waterproof conversation piece of a bath mat.

  9. Soda bottle soap dish

    Instead of throwing out used soda bottles, rinse them out and upcycle their unique shapes and thin structures into easy (and green!) soap dishes.

  10. Mason jar soap dispenser

    Liquid soap users aren’t left out of the DIY game, of course! Affixing a pump onto a mason jar makes for a very fast, very easy dispenser — provided one knows how to properly use a drill.


  1. T-shirt pillows

    Give a favored, but frazzled, old shirt a brand new life by stuffing and sewing it into a fun and funky pillow.

  2. Blue jean neck pillow

    No sewing skills? No problem! This quick pattern transforms an old pair of jeans into a fashionable, comfortable neck pillow, great for lounging against while reading for class or fun.

  3. No-sew fleece blanket

    When nights grow chilly, snuggle underneath a cozy, custom fleece blanket that requires no sewing, knitting or crochet acumen whatsoever.

  4. Little teddy bear

    Nostalgic teddy bears provide comfort once homesickness descends and a warm nocturnal cuddle buddy when friends and lovers aren’t available. This pattern, however, does require sewing.

  5. Bed canopy

    Pick one of these eclectic patterns for an elegant way to provide a little privacy while simultaneously personalizing a small dorm space.

  6. Customized sheets and pillowcases

    Old sheets and pillowcases become new again with a little help from embroidering and/or embellishments. Fancy or simple, they provide both comfort and style for the creative college student.

  7. Headboard

    DIY headboards are as minimalist or ornate as skill level, resources and budgets allow, but there exists a pattern out there for everyone. Such projects transform a dorm bed into a comforting, homey space for sleeping, studying, and sexy times alike.

  8. Quick patchwork quilt

    Another way to reuse old sheets involves sewing them together into colorful patchwork quilts. More savvy craftsters out there might want to experiment with their own designs rather than the one outlined here.

  9. Comforter cover

    Instead of mixing things up with different comforters, whip up a few different covers and switch them out when things get too boring. It’s a cheap but effective strategy.

  10. Under-the-bed storage unit

    Dorm dwellers will always want for more space, and those handy with woodworking will love this upcycled storage unit which sits cozily beneath a bed. Here, discarded dresser drawers become useful containers for all manner of clothes, school supplies, snacks, personal affects, and more.


  1. Video box and tin can desk set

    Green college students with a flair for upcycling should get their hot little hands on some old video tape boxes and clean cans. They form the bases of a seriously adorable, highly personal matching (or not!) desk set.

  2. Bulletin/memo board

    There exists almost as many DIY bulletin and memo board patterns online as bizarre niche porn sites. Pick one that sounds reasonable and hang it near a desk for some stylish, space-saving organizing.

  3. Dry erase board

    Reappropriate an old, discarded picture frame and use it to doll up a boring dry erase board. It’s a quick and painless way to get crafty without getting bogged down.

  4. Marble magnets

    A DIY classic, further customize that brand new dry erase board with these adorable, easy and cheap little magnets.

  5. Jar or cup picture frame

    Fill a clean, clear jar or plastic cup with pictures of loved ones, soothing scenery or something inspirational for desk décor that makes studying just a little more tolerable.

  6. Back pillow

    When pulling an all-nighter or puzzling over a particularly sinister assignment, reduce the stress and lean back on this comforting handmade back pillow.

  7. Wrist rest

    Reduce the risk of carpal tunnel and other wrist distresses in style! This particular project does require sewing, however, but such comfort can also be provided via knitting, crochet or even slicing up a bit of soft, squishy foam.

  8. Blotter

    Paper, cardboard, adhesives and elastic are all it takes to protect desks and even provide an extra space for doodles, notes and reminders.

  9. Amigurumi

    Desks just aren’t desks without a knickknack or two, so dorm dwellers may as well make their own! Amigurumi are tiny knit or crochet toys that may or may not double as stress reducers. Find one that suits your taste, budget and skill level and adorable up that dull wooden space.

  10. Drawer organizers

    These handy space (and time!) savers double as creative strategies for using up old scarves and cans. No dorm desk should want for drawer organizers of some sort.


  1. Braided rag rug

    All this pattern requires is material, no sewing or tools necessary! However, it does involve a right fair amount of braiding, tucking and tightening.

  2. Cardboard furniture

    For the curious and quirky dorm denizen, cardboard furniture might prove just as much a lively conversation piece as a useful way to seat visitors without taking up too much precious space.

  3. T-shirt beanbag chair

    Upcycle old t-shirts into pillowy reminders of childhood that also happen to provide cozy extra seating for movie nights, small parties or study sessions.

  4. Floor pillows

    Stack these floor pillows underneath the bed when not in use and pull them out whenever necessary; they’re a great seating solution for those particularly cramped dorms, but the pattern does require sewing.

  5. Fluorescent floor lamp

    With a bit of electronics savvy, DIY-loving college kids can add a sleek, almost sci-fi flair to their dorms using long fluorescent lights and a handmade stand.

  6. Drain pipe shoe rack

    Clean up clutter and place this intriguing and incredibly easy shoe rack near the door. One can make it freestanding or dependent on wall hanging. Guests worried about tripping over stray boots and sneakers will certainly appreciate such a gesture.

  7. Tatami mats

    Dorm dwellers who love traditional Japanese aesthetics might love this contemporary take on an ancient decorative (and useful!) accent.

  8. Welcome mats

    Greet visitors with crafty DIY pizzaz before they even cross the threshold. Welcome mat patterns come in such a staggering variety of skills and skill levels, budgets, resources, tastes, and more, so everyone will likely find something suitable.

  9. Shag rug

    Lovers of all things retro without a trace of knitting, sewing, or crochet acumen can still craft their own ’70s throwback. This shag rug pattern takes some patience and plenty of repetition, but it’s nothing that can’t be done in front of a television set’s warm, nonjudgmental glow.

  10. Dress dummy floor lamp

    Fashion majors, DIY designers and fans of classic designs can class up their space while adding some extra lighting using an old dressmaker’s dummy.

Windows and Walls

  1. Paper dogwood flowers

    With a little patience and care, crafty students can get a lot out of these lovely flowers, which would look great glued to real or fake twigs and hung on the wall.

  2. Puffy paint window clings

    Turn this childhood staple into customized window clings that give drab dorm rooms a liberal splash of color and personality.

  3. Sheet music wreath

    Such a stylish, vintage-inspired wreath requires no occasion to adorn a wall, door or window! More literary types might want to use old book pages instead of sheet music, but the striking effect remains largely the same.

  4. Vinyl wall clings

    Most schools ban painting dorm rooms, but there’s almost never rules against vinyl wall clings! They provide the same effect without all the risk. And best of all, these lovely decorations can be peeled off and reused after a move!

  5. Window garden

    Add a splash of life to a drab dorm with perky plants nestled in the windowsill for hot sunshine action. Students who love cooking and enjoy kitchen access might want to consider growing their own tasty herbs.

  6. Custom picture frames

    One needs no woodworking experience to whip up customized picture frames for rooms allowing reasonable wall hangings. All it takes is some Mod Podge, paper, ready-made wooden frames and photos or art to show off.

  7. Curtains

    Keep that hangover under control while simultaneously customizing dorm space with curtains. Most patterns will need to be tailored to make sure they fit the window, of course.

  8. Fabric walls

    It’s about as simple as DIY gets. Rather than painting a wall, cover it in colorful or patterned fabric to create the same effect without angering up the RA’s blood. As an added bonus, students can pin notes and tiny curios to it and not leave any holes behind.

  9. No-sew window treatments

    Scarves, shower curtains, leftover fabric and more can all be pressed into service as effective, decorative window treatments for college students without any sewing skills.

  10. Paper wall lamp

    Light up a darkened desk or bed area in style with this gorgeous paper wall lamp pattern, which will look lovely in almost any color scheme.

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