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Ask the Expert: The Dorm-to-First-Apartment Transition

Ask the Expert The DormtoFirstApartment Transition portrait 6 7

Ask the Expert: The Dorm-to-First-Apartment Transition

September 24, 2018

September is nearly over, which means there’s no denying the end-of-summer, back-to-school feeling that comes when the mornings grow chillier, the days shorter, and the leaves browner. And whether you’ve just moved into a dorm, or off-campus housing, or a first “real” apartment, this is the time to think about what you’ll need to make your new dwelling feel like home.

For advice, we turned to Clementine Quittner, a dorm decor doyenne who is in her final year at Brown University (she’s also the daughter of Gardenista editor Michelle). She started off in a cubicle-sized dorm room (roommate included) her freshman year, segued into a shared suite of rooms, spent her junior year overseas, and is now living in an apartment off campus with a group of friends. How has she made the transition from cramped dorm room to more spacious living quarters? And what will she take with her when she moves into her own apartment after she graduates?

Here are her tips:


if you&#8\2\17;ve made do with sleeping on a dorm standard layer cardboard  18
Above: If you’ve made do with sleeping on a dorm-standard-layer cardboard-esque “mattress” (which you likely topped with a layer of foam in a futile attempt at comfort), a new mattress is a no-brainer purchase. A Casper mattress made our list because unlike traditional mattress showrooms, whose layouts are designed to lead customers to a higher-priced mattress, Casper uses a direct-to-consumer model that keeps costs and confusion low, and delivers their mattresses in a manageable box, making them easy to maneuver through narrow apartment doors. Casper’s mattress selection includes three models: the original and much-revered Casper ($995 for the queen size), the ergonomic Wave ($1,995), and the streamlined Essential ($600).


complete the set with casper&#8\2\17;s cool supima cotton sheets, which are 19
Above: Complete the set with Casper’s Cool Supima cotton sheets, which are made from 100 percent cotton from California using a percale weave that’s both crisp and soft; $140.

Window Treatments

&#8\2\20;it has taken me until my last year of college to follow this advic 20
Above: “It has taken me until my last year of college to follow this advice,” says Clementine, “but it really makes a difference. Whether you’re living in a dorm or living in a place off-campus, odds are your bedroom came with some sort of strange, hospital-esque blind or drape situation. Order some cheap curtains (I like the longer, sheer, white ones that you can tie in a knot at the bottom) and buy adjustable curtain rods that fit around the edge of your windows.” Photograph by Mathew Williams from A Luminous, Euro-Style Row House in Washington, DC, Courtesy of Studio Oink. Similar sheer curtain panels are $49.95 to $79.95 from CB2.

Indoor Plants

&#8\2\20;college is a time for maturing, and if you’re ready to take 21
Above: “College is a time for maturing, and if you’re ready to take it to the next level, owning some indoor plants is an effective way to practice keeping another living thing alive.” An Instagram-worthy Snake Plant comes with its own planter from The Sill; $51.


&#8\2\20;if you’re going to splurge on one thing, splurge on a duvet 22
Above: “If you’re going to splurge on one thing, splurge on a duvet. Buy a full- or queen-sized duvet freshman year (it’ll just be extra fluffy on your twin bed) so you can still use it once you move out of the dorms and get a bigger bed.” Shown is Muji’s Feather Duvet; $360.

Linen Linens

&#8\2\20;perhaps this is because i grew up in the gardenista household (whe 23
Above: “Perhaps this is because I grew up in the Gardenista household (where every upholstered item is cream-colored and naturally dyed), but I am partial to neutral colors and linen fabrics. This is yet another great way of practicing growing up, because you’ll have to either limit the amount of colorful beverages you drink in bed, or become an expert in bleach pens.” The 100 percent linen Orkney Duvet Cover is $285 from Rough Linen.

A bonus piece of advice from Clementine: “Salvation Army! If, like me, you are decorating with mostly a mix of cheap furniture, found objects, and leftovers from graduated students, secondhand/vintage furniture can make your room look so fancy! I bought a beautiful, carved-wood, Victorian dresser and vanity for $20 last year and still get compliments on it from everyone who comes over.”

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Frequently asked questions

What should I keep in mind while decorating my first apartment or dorm room?

When decorating your first apartment or dorm room, consider your budget, the size of your living space, and your personal style. Make a list of necessary items, such as a bed, desk, and storage, and prioritize functionality over aesthetics.

What are some essential furniture items for a first apartment or dorm room?

Essential furniture items include a bed, desk, chair, lamp, and storage solutions. A sofa or lounge chair can also be useful for guests, and a dining table or kitchen island is helpful if you have space for one.

How can I make the most of a small living space?

To make the most of a small living space, consider multipurpose furniture such as a bed with storage underneath or a coffee table that doubles as a desk. Use light colors and mirrors to create the illusion of more space and keep clutter to a minimum.

What are some budget-friendly decor ideas for a first apartment or dorm room?

Budget-friendly decor ideas include hanging photos or artworks on the walls, using throw pillows and rugs to add color and texture, and adding plants for a fresh touch. You can also find affordable decor at thrift stores or online marketplaces.

How can I add personality to my first apartment or dorm room?

To add personality to your living space, consider incorporating items that reflect your personal style, such as artwork, textiles, or souvenirs. You can also create a gallery wall of photos or artwork to showcase your interests and memories.