Dorm Tours

See Why This RA’s Spacious Studio Went Viral on TikTok

Home Type
Apartment (on-campus)
Marist College
Poughkeepsie, New York
Square feet
Sq ft
A string light on the wall of a studio apartment.
Credit: Kiana Pathirana

Being an RA in college is a big job — but it can also come with some big perks. For Marist College junior Kiana Pathirana, one of those perks is living alone in one of the studio apartments on her school’s picturesque campus. When she posted pics of her space on TikTok (in a slideshow set to Taylor Swift’s “August,” naturally) people were blown away not only by how spacious it looked — which is rare for many schools’ on-campus living quarters — but also by the playful, colorful decor she used to make it feel like a happy home.

All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Credit: Kiana Pathirana
Think Outside the Box Sign, $15.00, at Michaels; Canvas Wall Tapestry – Be Kind Be Brave, $29, at Natural Life; Command Large and Small Decorative Hooks in Brushed Nickel, $18.49, at Target

Kiana’s Space

How did you land this apartment? I was lucky enough to be assigned to this space! Each Marist College Resident Assistant (RA) in the part of campus where I live gets their own studio apartment similar to this one. 

What was your initial impression of the space? As soon as I opened the door and saw the view, I was thrilled! The very first night in this room was an all-nighter as I instantly started planning how I wanted this room to look. I even sketched how I wanted the lights on my wall to be placed at 4 a.m.! 

What was your goal for decorating? I’m a student-athlete, resident assistant, and currently have an internship — even though I absolutely love everything I do, I knew I would need a place to relax and recharge in at the end of the day. My environment contributes a great amount to my headspace. 

What’s your space best known for? My space is certainly most known for the lights! Most of the comments on my viral TikTok are questions and comments regarding how I was able to install my lights the way I did. All of my friends constantly make remarks about how awesome they are. I’m delighted that those who come into my space are able to enjoy it as much as I do.

Credit: Kiana Pathirana
Leaf print bedding set at Kohl’s; tan knit blanket at T.J. Maxx; Room Essentials™ 50"x70" Sherpa Weighted Blanket with Removable Cover; $49, at Target; Blossom Dusky Blue Bunny, $27.50, at Jellycat; Gray Elephant Warmies, $29.99, at Warmies; Eeyore Squishmallow at Amazon; UGG Back Rest Pillow at Bed Bath & Beyond; 7.5 x 9.5 ft. nuLOOM Nomad Tammara Striped Braided Rug, $319.99, at Kohl’s

Kiana’s Style

Define your personal home style: Minimal, boho, and happy. I love incorporating a variety of colors, which I feel like a lot of students steer away from because it can be hard to pull off in a small area. Many people stick to a particular color scheme, like pink and gray, for example, but I believe mixing and matching colors creates a unique vibe. My bubbly personality is reflected in my design style as it’s a vibrant space that has the ability to radiate good energy on me and those who visit!

What’s your favorite element in your space? My room would not be the same without the view! Marist has a gorgeous campus built alongside the Hudson River and I am so grateful to open my curtains to it every morning. I’m always excited to wake up and look outside, since the clouds settle in various ways on the valley depending on the forecast. It’s stunning to see how nature is constant yet changing daily. Additionally, since the sun sets over the river, I get a beautiful treat when weather allows. This is so helpful for my mental well-being because it’s like an effortless self-care task — all I have to do is sit back and enjoy the sky.

Credit: Kiana Pathirana

Best DIY project? In addition to the lights (more on that project later), I would say my door decorations (otherwise known as “door decs”). Each RA makes door decs for their residents, and each other, to display on the outside of their doors. They’re basically the equivalent to friendship bracelets in the RA community! I have some old ones displayed on the air filter door in my studio — they pull double duty of adding a cute dose of personality while also disguising an odd feature.

Credit: Kiana Pathirana
OttLite Desk Lamp at Costco; trinket dish at Natural Life; 17 Month Planner – Grateful Rainbow, $24.95, at Natural Life; Wonderboom Speaker at Target

Kiana’s Budget

In an effort to remove the stigma associated with talking about money in college, we’re asking students to share how they plan and budget for their space.

How much does your housing cost per semester? $7,150

How much did it cost to decorate your space? $1,120. I am very grateful my parents go along with, and fund, my decorating visions!

What was your biggest splurge in this space? The rug! I wanted a statement piece that I could base the rest of my decor off of. I bought it from Kohl’s for $207.59 my sophomore year.

Best budget find? My pin boards, which I paid about $25 each for at T.J. Maxx going into my freshman year. A standard corkboard can easily cost upwards of $20, but mine have stylish white frames, too.

Kiana’s Advice

What was your biggest challenge in creating this space? My biggest challenge, by far, was putting my lights up in a squiggle design. These lights came as a nearly 50-foot LED strip that I had to hang on my wall with Command hooks. 

The first struggle was figuring out how to fit the strip onto the hooks. It was a tight squeeze and I felt like I was crushing the lights, which made me nervous because I didn’t want to damage the bulbs, but with a lot of patience, it ended up working out. 

When it came time to hang the lights, my greatest obstacle was figuring out a formation to get the lights up above my cabinets. The main wall is an awkward length, which made it extremely difficult to get the lights in a squiggle that didn’t take up too much of the strip, while still looking good. This took so much trial and error… it was like a puzzle! I also had to figure out how my 4’10” self was going to reach the wall space above my cabinets! I ended up standing on the drawers underneath my desk and moved them around as I went along. Overall, this project took about four and a half hours and was filled with frustration, but it resulted in the coolest outcome.

Credit: Kiana Pathirana
Siiluminisoy Small Stall Boho Shower Curtain, $18.89, at Amazon; FROZZUR Chill Pill Bath Mat, $23.99, at Amazon; pink bath mat at T.J. Maxx; EKOLN soap dispenser beige, $6.99, at IKEA

What are your favorite tips for students who want their space to look like yours? My biggest tip is to invest in larger items to fill the room, rather than smaller items as they may cause clutter. I have a few large items that really maximize the space while still leaving an open and airy feel. When I have too much stuff around me, I begin to feel disorganized internally, which is why I enjoy having larger yet minimal decorations. 

I also recommend utilizing the walls, rather than shelf and desk space, for decorating, as you will most likely want to use those surfaces for practical purposes. By hanging your decor, you’re able to personalize your space without taking away from valuable storage and study areas. 

And finally, even though being a college student can be very time-consuming (trust me, I know), dedicating a couple hours a week to cleaning your space will help so much in the long run. A clean space means a clear head!

Credit: Regena Ottaviano

This submission’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

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