7 Decorating Influences To Consider For Your Apartment Or Dorm

When you design your living space, you’ll probably find yourself gravitating towards certain trends that you like. However, figuring out your favorite decor and finding items that work for your home can be a hit or miss if you don’t actively know what styles you’re searching for. To create the perfect apartment, condo, or dorm, here are seven decorating styles to consider for your space:

1. Industrial: says chic and sophisticated in a badass manner.

The industrial interior design is a very unique style with a cool feel that any Millennial can appreciate. It brings the abandoned warehouse and dark iron, old brick look to life in your home. If you like the steampunk look (which has some related elements), or ever wanted to go for a dramatic and distinctive style in your home, then you’ll definitely like the industrial design.

This interior trend is true to its name, characterized by dramatic decor that looks like it could’ve once served an industrial purpose: unfinished wood, Edison lightbulbs, steamer trunks, leather seats, brick, iron, and faded or dark colors. With an open layout that focuses on negative space as much as the objects in a room, industrial design is perfect for a flat, accentuating empty space to give your home a bigger feel. It’s a cool, non-classical look that caters to a Millennial style and provides a fun hangout space. If this sounds like what you want, then you should definitely deck out your space with the industrial chic design.

However, if you don’t want to completely abandon a cozy style, you can sprinkle little pieces of industrial decor throughout your home to add that extra bit of intrigue. Go for an industrial desk lamp with an Edison lightbulb, put a steamer trunk in a corner, add salvaged lumber shelving, install decorative cogs as a wall fixture above your bed, etc. Mixing and matching is always a good idea in decorating — some designing hobbyists have recently combined elements of industrial and country design, called “industrial country”, which caters more to wood than metal and often sports a distressed, white look.

Industral design
Photo by Aaron Hubber

2. French Country: A high class spin on country

French Country takes the look of a farmhouse in the country and adds an eloquent twist. A Country French room has soft colors, ornately carved furniture and light fixtures like chandeliers and candelabras, mixed with open windows, natural light, and humble decor pieces such as pitchers, washboards, distressed wood, etc. Live plants such as flowers are often used to add to the natural feel underlying this style.

The French Country look is an easy and classy way to spruce up an apartment; since most apartments are already white (cream rugs, white trim and doors, etc.), no major color changes are necessary. Dress up your home with easily accessible, quaint country items that add a homey, warm feel; then complete your look with some higher quality furniture pieces — just google “french country furniture” and you’ll get a wide selection on this popular look. When you’re searching for the style on your own in antique stores or on craigslist, look for rustic, soft-colored furniture (usually a shade of white or cream) with scrolling carvings and nature-focused engravings. Finish with a touch of nature and include a potted plant or two. If you don’t want to work at keeping a plant alive, you can add some dried, lavender sprigs to perfectly complete the look. And since the French Country look loves patterns — original French country homes used a cotton fabric covered in pastoral scenes, typically with a blue-on-creme color scheme, that is referred to today as “toile” — you can spice up your apartment with a patterned rug, throw, pillow set, or with blue porcelain items such as a vase.

Crowded French Country Shop
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor

3. Shabby Chic: Feminine and whimsical twist on French Country

Shabby chic puts a decidedly feminine, whimsical twist on the French Country style, which is closely related. Shabby chic doesn’t quite follow the look of a gypsy caravan, but it certainly adds a prominent, fairytale feel to a room with chandeliers, dried flowers, pinks, and ruffles. If you want to create a similar design in your own home, look for French Country and follow with frills: a corner table with distressed, white paint and elegant engravings says “French Country”, while items like a chalk white birdcage, surrounded by pink perfume bottles, tailors the look to “shabby chic.”

Note that some people have overdone and over defined the shabby chic style, especially with DIY projects that add a lot of cheap “bells and whistles” but miss the elegance and magic of the shabby chic mark.

Hint: if it looks like something from your great grandmother’s house, it’s not shabby chic. Don’t fall for this decorating mistake.

Sorta Shabby Chic.jpg

4. Island Bohemian: Outdoorsy and unique

The island bohemian look is a popular style these days, and adds a fresh, outdoorsy look to a room with tropical plants, island style wood such as bamboo and rattan, jute rugs, and cool whites and greys. With island bohemian decor, rooms should be kept open and accentuate natural lighting. Cloth & Patina blog has a very excellent post on this look that you can see here: http://blog.clothandpatina.com/?p=612.

If you want, you can add to the classiness of your island boho style with a safari chair. A type of British colonial furniture, these chairs were originally used by aristocratic officers who wanted a collapsible version of the finery at home. Departing slightly from the island bohemian decor, a leather safari chair will add diversity to your style and create a unique, refined touch that can also serve as a conversation piece.

Island Bohemian
Photo by Orlovo Maria

5. Bohemian or Moroccan: a comfy and exotic feel (especially good for small spaces)

A bohemian or Moroccan look can serve you well if your goal is to completely redo your apartment or dorm look without tearing the room apart (and racking up fines). For one, you can cover dull floors and walls with colorful rugs and tapestries.

When you’re adding your decor for the Moroccan theme, look for vivid hues and patterns with middle Eastern styled shapes (such as the ogee). When decorating in this style, you should definitely consider including Moroccan lanterns, which aren’t too expensive, look especially beautiful, and are also a nod to the Moroccan tendency to incorporate light into design. Decorative furniture should be low to the ground, and the overall design of your dorm room or apartment should invite guests to sit down and get comfortable, like a reading nook might do. Whether you go with a Moroccan or a Bohemian style, the end goal should be a room which feels cozy and bright.

If you have a dorm room, you should definitely consider either look, since the abilities of these decorating trends to close a room off and yet make it very inviting are especially perfect for a humble room with little space. With an apartment, you have more freedom to open up the space a bit more, so feel free to add a modernizing touch by emphasizing the feel of a clean, geometrical space with natural lighting.

Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo

6. Retro: a tastefully fun look

Retro’s a fun and quirky look to go with in your apartment. The bright and unique style of each retro item allows you to decorate your room without having to go overboard in coordinating the look, unlike other designs (looking at you, shabby chic. Basically all of the high styles). This allows you to have a bit of variation in how much you want your dorm or apartment to go retro. You can add a few movie posters here and there to your walls — framed, of course — plus a tabletop jukebox to your desk and say au voire to the decorating work. Or you can go all out, with Smeg’s kitchen collection of refrigerators and microwaves (absolutely adorable; if Smeg won’t let you order from them, Urban Outfitters has a retro fridge for dorm rooms that’s almost as cute).

Retro decor is a bit of a Wild West designing territory; feel free to experiment and follow your creative tastes as much as you want. You can go hip hop: a wooden box filled with colorful cassette tapes, or pop obnoxious: pillows with Marilyn Monroe’s face on them in various shades of Window’s Computer’s favorite colors, or with-the-times cute: hang a drive-in restaurant sign above your bed, and don’t forget to add the Coca Cola red look somewhere.

You can definitely get a good amount of retro decor online; the retro cabinet from above can be found here, and the Igloo fridge (which can still be found on Ebay and certain websites in perfect retro blue) is here.

7. New York City: go sleek (and throw in a few Broadway hip hop colors) or go for the elegance of an aged city

I wouldn’t say New York City is an officially recognized style, but with the hype that surrounds the city that never sleeps — in fashion and decorating — it might as well be. And with Millenials’ increased awareness of international trends and culture, it seems only right to bring the touch of a big city to your own home.

The traditional New York City style likes to follow a sleek and sharp look, so make sure to

NYC Skyscraper Blackout Curtains
Buy at holeroll.com

follow that trend in your own home. Incorporate a lot of the stark, black and white contrasts that go with the classic look — a black and white subway sign, blackout curtains that filter light to give you the glittery silhouette of NYC skyscrapers at midnight (picture at right) — then mix things up: add a flare of hip hop color that you’d get from the more vibrant Broadway Street (I’d recommend just browsing the Hershey’s store for this), or go for the hidden signs of a golden relic long past: the Gilded Age era.

If you pay attention in NYC, you’ll find ornate and abandoned skyscrapers left behind, and you can sometimes tour the abandoned subway station (yes, there is an entire abandoned subway station) if you’re lucky enough to get tickets. There’s a whole, abandoned city layered underneath the new, sleek touches of the modern age NYC. For a unique city theme, incorporate a touch of this feel by adding in yellow and gold colors, aged tile, and patterned window covers (to match the intricate skylights of the era). Grand River CorbelTack up a shelf with corbels on your wall somewhere to herald the decorative carvings that once frequented old buildings and city windows for the rich. The Grand River corbel selection by Houzz might match some of your tastes: click. If you’re afraid of drilling holes in your walls, use the corbels as bookends.

And if you happen to have $2,500 on hand, you can also buy something like this “distressed ionic capital table” from RH (Restoration Hardware), or a similar, cheaper replica like the one on copycatchic (https://www.copycatchic.com/2015/03/restoration-hardware-distressed-ionic.html).

Restoration Hardware Ionic Capital Coffee Table
Ionic Capital Coffee Table


Little note: the New York City Gilded Age look is especially good for a dorm room, since it can easily add a sense of taste and personality to a drab room without going over the top with varied decorations or expenses. Unless you buy the RH coffee table.


So there you have it — these decorations can be used entirely on their own or in your own homemade trail mix of decor. Remember to have fun experimenting, and don’t forget you’re catering to your style. Also, these are just a few of the countless decorating styles you can use in your apartment/dorm (my personal favorite right now is a classic Swedish style), so feel free to explore beyond the boundaries of this list and find your own favorite!


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