This $100 DIY Project Made My Dorm Room Feel Like a Hotel Room
When I first moved into my junior year dorm room, it felt like I was moving into a sad, dull box — one with cinder-block walls, linoleum floors, and outdated vertical blinds. But instead of being turned off by the uninviting space, the optimist in me focused on all of the positive architectural aspects the space had to offer. And suddenly, the 8.5-foot ceilings, big windows, and neutral color of the walls became the perfect blank canvas for this architecture student to work with.
Whenever I design a space, I focus on the energy I want it to have — here, it was all about being warm, calm, and elevated. My main priority was covering up the cinder-block walls in order to add an element of softness to my room without making the space feel too small. So I turned to a chic and sophisticated bedroom designed by my favorite designers, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, for inspiration. They draped the room’s back wall with curtains, which added a layer of depth and created a visual dialogue that encouraged a person’s eyes to move around the space rather than staying fixated on one thing. It was exactly the kind of solution I was looking for in my own space.
Once I chose the curtain material, decided on a color palette, and visualized the final look, I was ready to get started on what would turn out to be my favorite and most successful DIY ever. Here’s how I did it.
I found my curtains at HomeGoods for $25 per two panels. (I got a total of four panels, so it came to $50.) The ones I selected were linen and heavy, but if you wanted to go for a more airy look, you can opt for sheer, lightweight ones. Also, if you don’t want to use a tension rod, you could instead install a track on the ceiling and hang the curtains on that — it’s up to you!
1. Take measurements and gather your supplies.
One of the most important first steps of any project is to get your measurements correct before making any purchases. In this case, you’ll want to measure the width and length of the wall so you know what size curtains and rod you’ll need. I personally prefer hanging my curtains so they just skim the floor, or letting them be a little bit longer so they create a more formal, “puddled” look. Whatever you decide for the length, be sure the curtains are long enough to hang close to the ceiling — it makes the room look bigger.
Because I couldn’t drill holes into my dorm walls, I opted for a tension rod instead of an actual curtain rod. If you’re going to do the same, make sure you buy one that’s longer than your wall width; this will create the tension needed for the rod to stay in place.
Tension rods vary in the amount of weight they can hold, so I recommend picking out your curtains first, then selecting your tension rod based on the curtains’ weight. Unless you’re custom-ordering your curtains, you likely won’t know exactly how much they weigh before purchasing them, but look out for terms like “lightweight,” “mid-weight,” or “heavy” on the product packaging or in each item’s description online to get a general idea. Also, keep in mind the material of your curtains — if they’re made of sheer fabric, they’re likely on the lighter side; if they’re velvet, they’re probably pretty heavy. As a fail-safe, you could buy the curtains you want, then weigh them on a scale before picking out your tension rod.
In terms of the curtains’ aesthetic, think about your style and how you want your space to feel. I found that beige linen curtains allowed me to achieve a laid-back look, which is exactly what I was going for.
2. Install your rod and curtains.
For this step, you may need some help. I extended my rod to the length of the wall and slid the curtains on, making sure to use the back tabs that are sewn onto the curtains to achieve a pleated and linear look. If you have someone helping you, ask them to hold up one end of the rod while you slide the curtains onto the other end. If you’re alone, you can push one end of the rod against the wall while sliding the curtains onto the opposite end of the rod. Another approach would be to slide the curtains onto the rod while it’s on the ground, then place the rod against the wall.
From there, I ensured the rod was positioned parallel to the ceiling, then I lengthened the rod until it was tight enough to stay in place. Once I took a step back, I noticed some gaps where the pleating looked off, so I stapled certain folds together to achieve the look I wanted.
3. Style the space.
Next was my favorite step: accessorizing! I added my big arched mirror against the curtains to reflect light and make my room feel larger. To keep it from leaning on the curtains, I propped up a hairbrush between the mirror and the wall. This was in no way secure and I can’t in good conscience recommend anyone else try this in their space, but I guess the whole thing about becoming an architect is learning how to come up with innovative solutions on the job, amirite?
Once I finished this project, my dorm room finally felt complete and I could not have been happier with the results. The curtains ended up totally changing the energy in my room and added the element of softness I had been longing for. The way the light accentuated the fold of the curtains and the added warmth they brought to my space truly brightened my day. I ended up learning that it’s small projects like this that can make the biggest impact on a space, because not only did my room look better, but it also felt better to be in.