You know those social media posts filled with the over-the-top dorm room decor? Yeah, this ain’t that. However, if you have a daughter entering college this fall and she wants her home away from home to be, well…homey, but you can’t break the bank or you have let the time get away from you, I humbly offer an alternative. 

Now, this is no knock on those who chose to go all out! In fact, I will offer some links to some great decorators who specialize in that at the end of this post. To each his own right? And a lot of that stuff may seem expensive, but when it comes time to move into their first apartment, guess who’s already ahead of the game?

But for my family, when my own daughter was facing freshman move-in, our budget was super tight. Not to mention, she didn’t know who her roommate was until July, so they got a late start on coordinating. Also, let’s face it, more times than not, the girls don’t room together after freshman year, and as the roommates part ways, so do all those perfectly matched linens and accessories. 

I decided to make the headboards for my daughter and her roommate. For a grand total of $75 for both headboards, the girls had the “inspiration” pieces to build on. I went to Old House Depot (my fave) and looked in their bundles of reclaimed wood, and found one that appeared to have enough to make them nice and tall.


Twin beds are pretty much 39 inches wide, so I simply laid out the wood and cut the planks into as many pieces that width that I could get. (All I have is a jigsaw. So I just did the best I could to make a straight line. Hey it’s supposed to look a little rough, right?) I combined the shorter pieces when I needed to in order to get another couple of rows.

Center the rows perpendicularly across your vertical supports (I used plain old 2×4’s—I think) and when you have them arranged as you prefer them, nail or screw them to the boards.

I saved a couple of extra planks to make a shelf on top, which I attached with L-brackets. That’s literally it. I did dry-brush a little paint in an aqua color over the green boards, along with a little metallic silver, which you can’t really see from these pics. They are against the wall in the dorm room, but we still zip-tied them to the bed frame for support.

The girls did opt for matching bedspreads (Bed, Bath, & Beyond clearance table) and the extra long dust ruffles to hide the under bed storage, which my mom made from super cheap fabric. Throw in a few pillows, a spray-painted storage chest, and the total cost to each girl was under $250. (Trust me, their books will probably cost more than that.) We were unlucky and got a corner room with an uncentered window so we had to go with an asymmetrical layout. Here was the finished room:

Hey, it is not as professional as the work of the designers linked below, (they are seriously talented) but it worked for us and we were quite pleased with ourselves! Also, as predicted, although the girls are still great friends, they didn’t room together sophomore year, and they moved into dorms which already have headboards. So…bonus! I now use my homemade headboards in the guest room right back at our house:

Here’s the point: You CAN make things yourself. Try it! Never stop learning!


Don’t do DIY? If you are in Mississippi, try these great resources:

Z La Design:
Melinda Courtney specializes in dorm design, beautiful accessories, and even does creates custom art. She has retail space at Vintiques in Brandon and at Southern Antiques in Laurel. 

After Five Designs:
Dawn Thomas creates beautiful designs and custom accessories for dorm rooms, but also for home interiors. If you came to the Mercantile event in 2017, you may have seen her work.

Latitudes was also at the Mercantile, and if you enter their store in Jackson, you know that they specialize in fun and delightfully funky designs. Perfect for the girl who wants college to be colorful.

Premier Fabrics:
It’s all about the fabric. If you’re ready to sew your own linens or pillows, you’ll find a great selection. They also know all the usual measurements for dorm dust ruffles and can make custom fabric headboards.

Just fyi, I haven’t been paid for any of the above. I just happen to think they’re great. 🙂

Happy college move-in time! And if you’re an empty-nester like me, when you get back home after the drop-off, grab your spouse or partner and toast each other on the beginning of an exciting new phase of life!

Enjoy the ride!