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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Home sweet home: students get creative decorating dorm rooms

Year by year, as new students move into Ithaca College residence halls, they transform a small, bare space into a new home.

Whether it be painting their walls, bringing knickknacks from home or filling the space with Pinterest-inspired crafts, these students bring a new life and color to their dorm rooms, each as one-of-a-kind as the person who lives there.

Sophomore Josie Cyrus said she created a homey feel out of her room.  

“Most of the dorm rooms are like a blank canvas, but I feel like it leaves a lot of room for you to be yourself, and for me to feel comfortable, it needs to feel like home,” Cyrus said.

Many of the ideas that were brought into the dorms were motivated by popular websites that encourage crafts, such as Pinterest, BuzzFeed and even Google Images. Students, such as sophomore Christy Calcagno, used them to craft things such as painted canvases, photo collages and homemade decorations.

“Pinterest is pretty much our life,” Calcagno said. “My roommate is an artist, so she painted a lot of the Disney canvases that are around the room, since we knew we’d totally go with a Broadway-Disney theme.”

Calcagno said she based her room design on what her and her roommate both love, covering it with bright colors and self-painted canvases of Disney quotes.

“Putting creativity and beauty together makes a great room,” Calcagno said. “Everybody is different, but coming together with your roommate and finding a common interest is great.”

However, some rooms veered off onto a different course. Freshman Sky Mattioli decided to improvise how she would decorate her room rather than using websites.  

“I did look online, but I didn’t think they helped because they weren’t my personality,” Mattioli said. “Do what makes you happy and comfortable. Don’t worry about what it’ll make other people think. Just feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to really nerd out.”

Students have made their rooms comfortable in many different ways, but largely through one common theme: adding a bit of “nerdiness” to their room. From Harry Potter to Disney to comic books, these fan favorites can be seen in the rooms of many of the college’s students.

Instead of using websites to craft decorations, Mattioli brought all of her favorite items from home and placed them around the room to create an individualistic, homey feel. She talked about how she and her roommate hit it off when they discovered their mutual love for anything Harry Potter.

“My roommate and I brought a ton of Harry Potter stuff,” Mattioli said. “We have wands everywhere. I also have a fullsized Harry Potter cloak and an Iron Man onesie to bear the cold.”

These little knickknacks aren’t just seen in Mattioli’s room. All of the students interviewed spoke of how the little knickknacks in their rooms made them feel more at home.

“Those [little knickknacks] show ‘This is your personality here,’” Cyrus said. “It’s the very fan-centered stuff that reminds me that it’s my room.”

However, although the college is offering this new decorating option for dorm rooms, there are rules that are mandated by the state of New York that affect how students can decorate their dorm rooms. Jenny Pickett, assistant director of operations for the Office of Residential Life, said a majority of these rules mandated by the state, such as a room wall only being able to have 20 percent of it covered, have existed for many years, and they are mainly instituted to keep damage costs and fire hazards low.

Newer rules have come into effect more recently that aren’t mandated by the state, with bans on common decorating items like window gels and tapestries, Pickett said.

“Most of [the rules] are from the state, but there are some things we’ve added,” Pickett said. “The window gels are really popular. A lot of students put them on their door. They actually stain the door if you leave them on too long, and to repaint the doors is $40.”

The college’s Residential Life program does allow opportunities, however, if students want to personalize their rooms as much as they can: They are allowed to paint their dorm room walls. Pickett said students schedule meetings to show her their ideas, and if she approves of the color, the students paint their walls themselves.

“Students are responsible for paying for the paint and the equipment,” Pickett said. “Assuming they’ve done a good job [painting the wall], they don’t have to repaint it at the end of the year.”

Pickett said if the paint job is sloppy or too thin to cover the wall, the residents must pay for the room to be repainted at the end of the year. However, if the following year’s residents dislike the color of a wall that had been painted the previous year, then Pickett organizes to have Residential Life paint over it for free.

The number of students who paint their rooms has been on the rise, Pickett said. While usually there are only one or two students who paint their walls, this year seven students have painted their walls a different color.

Even for the majority of students who keep their off-white walls, Pickett said bright colors are a common decorative theme. From posters to canvases to comforters, students use many different things to keep their room bright and cheery. They are not only a way to make a room look homey, but also a way to keep a healthy mentality during the long, dark winters that Ithaca experiences. Senior Breanna Kmiecik said she saw many highly decorated rooms during her time as a resident assistant at the college.

“Typically students with more decorated rooms and personal items from home, with bright colors, seem to enjoy their space more,” Kmiecik said. “Through my experience as an RA living in a residence hall and off campus, having a place you feel comfortable in definitely makes a huge difference for the winter and your mental health.”

Kmiecik said the bright colors that can light up a room have been proven to help support people’s moods during wintertime. There have been studies linking color and mood, such as the color yellow promoting happiness and brightness, Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of the United States, said. Although there aren’t any specific bright colors,  Pickett said most students choose to cover their room with their favorites. Calcagno said the most important thing she would rely on during the winters would be the bright colors.

“I think we have every color of the rainbow in the room,” Calcagno said. “There’s also a ton of cute quotes around the room that, during finals week and the winters, we can just look at to get through the day.”

Mattioli also said having her room decorated with her own personal style makes life that much cheerier.
“You just want to make yourself smile,” Mattioli said. “So if that involves bright clothing or posters or certain clothing, it really is the best thing.”