9 Ideas for Sprucing Up Your Boring Concrete Dorm Walls

published Nov 1, 2023
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close shot of bed with checkered black and cream pillows and photos on the wall
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Prop Styling: Thomas Hoerup & Vicky Wasik

When I was preparing for my first year of college, I had big plans to make my dorm room feel chic, cozy, and homey. However, when I saw my space for the first time, I’ll  admit that I got nervous about my ability to make it look less, well, dorm-y. I could work with the bad lighting and standard-issue furniture, but what really gave me pause were the concrete walls

Not only are concrete walls boring to look at, but they’re also difficult to decorate — especially with all the rules that come with living in a dorm. At most schools, you’re not allowed to put holes in the walls to hang things, nor can you use mounting materials that will rip the paint off the wall, like heavy-duty tape. 

Despite these restrictions, I’ve found plenty of ways to spruce up my drab dorm walls to make my space look exactly how I want it to — without risking my security deposit. Here are some of the best options.

Credit: Maryann Reese

Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

One major item that helped transform my dorm room was peel-and-stick wallpaper. With so many different designs and styles to choose from, wallpaper allows you to set the tone for your space regardless of your aesthetic. This renter-friendly option is easy to apply — it’s right there in the name; just peel and stick (although specific directions may differ based on the brand you select). This means it’s also easy to remove at the end of the school year, or whenever you feel like changing up the look of your walls.

Credit: Sydney Hargrove

Curtain Lights

For those who want their room to feel warm and homey, curtain lights are an easy way to make a big impact, filling up your whole wall with soft, dreamy lighting. These lights are easy to hang (using mini Command hooks), and also easy to take down.

Credit: Haley Karinja

Picture Frames

I know all our phones are filled with the photos we snap for social media, but there’s nothing like a printed-out photo in a frame. You can keep it simple by putting one big one up on your wall, or do a full gallery wall featuring a bunch of different sizes and colors. If your personal photos don’t fit the vibe of your space, you can frame any kind of photos or art that speak to you. My favorite way to hang frames is with durable, double-sided tape. It keeps them on the wall without having to drill holes — just be sure you’re using super-lightweight frames so they don’t come crashing down!

Credit: Madison Renee


Dorm rooms are notoriously small, so adding a mirror (which helps visually open up the space) is a must. You could go with a small decorative one in a fun shape or a big, rectangular option that allows you to check out all your OOTDs. Just be sure it’s lightweight enough to be hung by Command strips — you can check how many strips you’ll need to use based on the mirror’s weight.

Credit: Benedetto Rebecca


Hear me out: Hanging curtains across your wall (instead of, or in addition to, your windows) looks so elegant and unique. All you need is a set of curtains — choose any color and pattern you want to go with the style of your room — and a tension rod. (Check out this Dorm DIY for step-by-step instructions on how to do it.)

Credit: Angie Arias


Shelves make the perfect addition to any wall. Whether they’re above your desk, in your bathroom, or pretty much anywhere else, they add extra storage while also providing space to display small decor. Most lightweight shelves can easily be hung with medium-size Command hooks, or you can get a freestanding shelf to place against your wall. 

Credit: Makenna Underwood


Tapestries can add so much to a space. They can cover up large swaths of your dorm wall to make it feel more cozy and comfortable. There’s such a wide variety of them too; you can find a design and color scheme to match pretty much any aesthetic. If you like the look of peel-and-stick wallpaper but want some more texture and dimension — but don’t want to deal with installing a DIY curtain wall — a tapestry might be just the right kind of wall decor for you. You can easily hang a tapestry with some Command strips, and in minutes you’ll have an accent wall.

Credit: Camille Penick

Faux Vines

Faux vines are a fantastic choice for decorating dorm room walls, adding a touch of nature to the space without the maintenance of keeping a plant alive. You can use Command strips or hooks to hang them, or even heavy-duty double-sided tape to place them behind your bed, above your desk, or anywhere else you’d like a pop of green.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Washi Tape

Washi tape can really liven up a space. Whereas other methods for hanging and displaying your wall decor are meant to be hidden or at least blend in, washi tape is decor in itself! The tape is meant to be seen; it comes in a huge variety of colors and patterns to express your style. Use it to tape up photos or posters — or use it by itself to create some interesting designs.

Maryann Reese

Musical Theater

Maryann Reese is a sophomore at Christopher Newport University, studying musical theater as well as minoring in leadership studies and dance. Maryann has been a professional content creator for three years and she is thrilled to be a part of Dorm Therapy!

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SchoolChristopher Newport University '26
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