Dorm Room Makeover

The day I’ve dreaded for the last six months (I’ll be honest, maybe more like 18 years) finally arrived:  the day my firstborn moved out of her childhood bedroom and into a college dorm room. All you mommas – you know what I mean, right?

Dorm Room Makeover by Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist


Audrey and her new roommate ended up with the smallest, wonkiest room in the entire dorm – and I’m not just saying that. The good news is that they really like each other!

That doesn’t surprise me, because her roommate’s mother, Allison, was one of my best friends in college and worked as my office manager for four years! It was fun being able to share this experience with Allison and shop together for the dorm room makeover.

This was the dorm room in its “before” state:

dorm room before makeoverbefore

Unlike when I was in undergraduate, they aren’t allowed to paint the walls.  So, we were stuck with BUILDER BEIGE.  The girls would have rather had a gray wall color, but I knew it was important to embrace what couldn’t be changed and stay in the beige lane. Our goal was to help them make this small space their own, and for these girls that means warm, cozy, orderly, a little bohemian, and in my daughter’s words: “not too extra.”

after dorm room makeover 

If you don’t have a teenager, you may not know the latest definition of the word “extra,” but I’ll fill you in. If someone calls you “extra,” you’re either trying too hard or being over the top. So there you go!

dorm room makeover decor

There literally wasn’t room to fit all the college-included furnishings – if you ever wanted to open the closet, that is. We had to remove one of the desks to make it work at all. But hey, they’ll probably be doing their homework in their beds anyway!



bohemian dorm roomsimilar blue throw blanket here

A little vintage 1970s, like the Asian lamp base and leopard print are some of the pieces that they liked because they are not what you’d find at HomeGoods. But the throw-back macrame dreamcatcher is a new piece from HomeGoods (oh, the irony)!

macrame dreamcatcher and vintage leopard artmacrame dreamcatchers here

The bumpout under the window houses ductwork for heat and air, but also serves as a ledge to place a lamp and personal items to cozy things up.

window ledge in dorm room with vintage orange lamp and succulentssimilar faux succulents here

My daughter loves the vintage bookends that were in my home office, so I let her take them.

A while back, Audrey bought a bunch of vintage postcards from an estate sale that she pinned around the mirror on her bedroom door at home. She brought half of them with her and pinned them on her new door. It’ll feel like a little bit of home when she gets ready in the morning.


The lovely crepe myrtle in front of their window is the best thing about the room, allowing plenty of light in the room while maintaining privacy.


I hope you liked Audrey’s dorm room makeover. She’s well-equipped and ready to take on this next chapter of her life, but I’m not sure I am!

elam hall at lipscomb university

Many women talk about how difficult this transition is, but no one really talks about ways that help you get through it!  I’m feeling all the feels of pride and loss, and crying more tears than I’d like to for both reasons. I’m excited for her and want her to move forward in creating a life for herself, but nothing will ever feel quite as good to me as her living under the same roof.

So I’m just putting one foot in front of each other and putting my faith in God’s plans for her and for me.

I will say that it helped me a lot to be a part of helping her make her nest in this new place. It helps to be able to envision her in the new room where she’ll spend much of her time. Apart from me, but always a part of me.

For all you mommas who have gotten through to the other side of watching your child go out into the world, please give the rest of us some hope that it’s gonna be ok!

On a happier note, I found out we were nominated for a 2018 Amara Blog Award for Best Colour Inspiration! I’ve been writing this blog for over 9 years now (wow, that’s hard to believe!) and it would mean a lot to me if you took a minute to vote for the blog here (one vote per person). Thank you so much!

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38 thoughts on “Dorm Room Makeover

  1. Carol Raetz says:

    Kristie, you did it again! Knowing you and your sweet daughter, I was really interested to see how you were going to pull a wonky, stark dorm room together. I love it! And having just tucked my oldest into his new college dorm room yesterday, this blog could’ve have come at a better time. Sigh. This transition is a good thing. But definitely hard. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Jessica Cook says:

    Her dorm room is gorgeous! I would have loved your help when I was at Lipscomb! Sure does bring back memories! Can’t believe Audrey is there now…she was just in 6th grade. 😉 My kids aren’t far behind so I’m already trying to prep my heart…

  3. Jean Herman says:

    I have lived through having both of our sons go away to college. Good News: I can tell you that it isn’t nearly as bad as you think….they come home for long holiday breaks, and sometimes summers too. In fact, I saw them more when they were in college than when they lived at home and were in high school and always out with their friends. Bad News: It is so much worse after they graduate from college and take their first job…When they are working, they only get two weeks vacation, and they aren’t likely to spend the little time they get off with you! Learn to LOVE Skype and make it a habit now. Enjoy these college years!

  4. Colleen Moss says:

    I love it, Kristie! You did a great job (both on the dorm room and preparing Audrey for her next season of life). Way to go, momma!!

  5. Karin Hensley says:

    Now that our nest is empty, I will tell you it is just as beautiful on the other side. To see your children find their way and make good grown-up decisions just proves all along what we know…that these gifts belong to the Father and He has them under his wing of protection and loving them along. Not every decision will be a good one, but I know you’ve prepared Audrey in the best possible way…with Jesus at the center of her wheel and she’s going to be just fine! My office is right behind Elam if she ever needs anything!

  6. Vicki says:

    Yes, it is hard, but not as hard as it used to be. Do you remember pay phones? Writing letters and waiting for a letter in return? You have many ways to stay close, and communication is both quicker and less expensive. I know that doesn’t help the empty feeling of not seeing her every day; but we have to let them fly.

  7. Lynn OBrien says:

    It is going to be okay. I took my sophomore daughter back to Elon University last weekend. She had to go back early because she is going to be an RA and had to go through training. Elon is perfect for her and she is very happy there so that makes me happy, but I do miss her.

    There is a Facebook group called Grown and Flown for parents dealing with kids growing up and flying away whether it’s to college or the military. It is a great resource of ideas, suggestions, laughs and support. You should check it out!

    That Crepe Myrtle is beautiful and you made perfect use of that bump out! Audrey’s postcards are a nice touch. I see she has a guitar. Is she going to study music? How far away from home is she?

    Good luck to both of you!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Hi Lynn,

      I will definitely look up that FB group – thank you for sharing. Audrey plays electric guitar and sings lead in a rock band. However, she’s too practical to study music as a viable career! She’s studying forensic accounting, but will still be playing music gigs for fun. In fact, she’s playing tonight with her band at an event called Noisefest.

  8. Nancy says:

    The dorm room looks great. If I were your daughter, I’d let you go all extra! Yes you will adjust to this change in your lives. All of our kids have moved out, boomeranged back and moved out again.

  9. Molly says:

    No painting? They should not have had beige walls if they were going to make that rule. But you did a beautiful job, Kristie! Very well done, as always. 🙂

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      When we toured this summer, they had just painted. The lady giving us the tour was talking about how great it was that they had a neutral that “goes with everything!” I didn’t snicker, but it was hard to hold it in . . . 😉

  10. Michelle M says:

    My son is on his way to Freshman Year in Montana next week. He is my third kid to go to college, but the baby. I can’t contain the tears. They do great though, and I loved your post! Thanks!

  11. Patricia Hutchinson says:

    I love it!! Looks so much like a home! I have twin boys leaving next week. I’m happy they are living together. I don’t think they have one thing that matches (except the standard issue furniture). And, the only thing they are taking to “decorate “ are the pro football and baseball team flags! I can’t wait to shop and decorate with my daughter in four years!!

  12. Karina says:

    Oh my goodness! Michael is not far away at High Rise! Audrey is going to have a fabulous first year!! Such a great school. We are moving Michael in tomorrow but it’s a bit different for boys. All they need are flags and Christmas lights. 😋.

  13. Laura P. says:

    Hi Kristie, I totally get how you’re feeling! You kiss them goodnight every day from the time they’re born and then *poof* they are gone!! It is tough for us moms but also it’s what we’ve wished for them! I will tell you that they don’t forget all you’ve taught them so I hope that is a comfort to you. It is fun to watch them blossom! As for the dorm room, wow is that gorgeous! I love that Audrey brought along her postcards and your bookends. Wishing her and you a wonderful year!

      • Laura P. says:

        Hi Kristie, I voted for you…hope you win!! You certainly deserve the honor.
        Just saw your note about sitting in the kids’ rooms and allowing yourself a good cry. Letting go is a process! Your younger daughter is still at home for a few years, right? I remember when my older daughter went to college it was the first time my younger daughter got to be the only child at home! It will be a special time for you and your daughter, especially since you have a few years before starting the senior year craziness, searching for her college, and all that begins again. Enjoy your baby at home and all the texts and calls from your college girl! I was never the mom that wanted my kids to go back to school at summer’s end, so I empathize with that empty feeling, even though we raised our kids to have wings to soar!

        On another note, have you had any feedback about the rental home you decorated in Florida?!! So beautiful!!

  14. Cynthia Gallentine says:

    Kristie, I’m right there with you (and several others, too, apparently)! I am helping my oldest move into his dorm room tomorrow which, happy for me, includes a tiny bit of decorating. Yay! Thank you for such a thoughtful and well-timed post. It said what I was was feeling today and helps to know other moms feeling the same way. Best wishes for Audrey’s first year at Lipscomb and comfort for your heart, too!

  15. Sheila says:

    Ha, my kids always say, “Don’t be too extra” but then they also are grateful that I am kinda extra. Nice work. I have visited your daughter’s college with my daughter!

  16. Gloria says:

    Kristie, that room is amazing! Warm, inviting and practical!
    I must admit that I am a bit jealous. Will be driving Brandon to Wake Forest this week and getting him settled on Wednesday. We have not met his roommate yet and, even though I have purchased all his room’s necessities, I have a feeling that I will not be able to be as involved as I would like to be… that being part of the process of letting go. For me, my second and last son to leave the house,. I am very sad (tears welling up in my eyes) but I know the worst will be when I head back home on my own (dad will be working). Bitter-sweet times indeed. I will be thinking of you in the next few days.
    Voted for you my friend, you are amazing and a wonderful source of inspiration to me!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Prayers for you as Brandon moves on – I know you must be so proud of him. I hear Wake Forest is a great school and really beautiful!

      I find myself thinking so much about when they were babies and little bitty children – how much I miss those times, and how that part of my life is finished. I went upstairs where their bedrooms are about an hour ago, and had to sit and cry awhile.

      Thank you so much for the vote – I really appreciate you!

  17. Kate says:

    My three daughters went to school out-of-state, so I never saw their dorm rooms except in photos or at graduation. Each room reflected their personalities without any help from me. I found throughout the years that what I think they’ll like, sometimes isn’t. (I have the same issue with my mom – her gifts often end up in the closet or given away. ) I only buy things for them now with their input (no surprises) or a wish list. We’re all happy and I’m glad I’m not becoming my mother.

    My middle daughter introduced the word “extra” into our family. She first used it to accurately describe one of her aunts .

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Gifting is hard, isn’t it? Even for those we are closest with. My girls usually use the term to refer to other teenage girls. Or adult women that overdo things. No doubt, I am often pretty “extra!” haha

  18. Debbie Hostetler says:

    I’m surprised that Elam is still there! I figured they wld have torn it down by now! What flo
    or is Audrey on? Weren’t we on the second? Her room is adorable! And u did a wonderful job decorating our room when we were there!! Great memories with u, my friend!! Love u!!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      They haven’t torn it down, and it looks no better than when we were there! But they did tear down the nicest dorm, Yearwood, to put in Allen Arena a few years back. Apartments for married students went in behind Elam, so there’s no parking anywhere nearby anymore!

      I remember painting our freshman dorm room mint green and peach before you moved in. It was pretty bad, and you did not like it!!! I’ve gotten a little better at paint colors and decorating since then, thankfully! Audrey is on the 2nd floor, too. I think on a different hall than we were on – but I can’t remember exactly which rooms we were in freshman and sophomore year (definitely on two different halls). Maybe freshman year was 234? 235? I don’t know, but our rooms seem bigger than the one she is in now.

      How’s your handsome son, Eli? Where is he going to school? And how are you doing with the empty-nesting thing???

  19. Kathy Cutforth says:

    I was surprised by how hard the empty nest thing was for me when our only child went off to join the Army after his first year of college. He left the day after Christmas and his Dad, who works for FEMA in another state, left the day after New Years, leaving me alone with the cat. We are both veterans, so I felt like I practically went through basic training with him, reliving every step of the way. Now our son is coming home after finishing his lengthy job training, and will be off to Korea for at least a year. I’m happy and proud he made it through, and sad to see him go so far away.

    I left home for college far away and for my first job, and then joined the Army and moved to Germany with hardly a backwards glance. I was dead broke in college and pay phones from overseas are really expensive, so phone calls were seldom. Now I have a taste of what my Mom went through. I was too busy living my life to sympathize much back then!

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