Molly Spessard, Nashville feng shui expert, recommends that, first and foremost, the best thing to do for any decorating situation is to declutter. “Eighty percent of the work is preparation. When you’re unpacking, ask yourself, ‘Do I need this? Do I love this? Can I live without it?,’ ” Spessard says. “If you have too many material items in your space, your focus and energy is spent on them and not on the people and experiences around you.”
The guiding principle of feng shui is that everything is alive, connected and changing, so to positively represent who you are and what you want to become, it’s best if those things manifest themselves physically in your living space. “For example, leave space under your bed,” Spessard suggests. “You don’t want to stuff a lot of old papers and dirty clothes under there. It blocks the healthy energy flowing to and from that space.” Good rule to follow, as it’s fairly safe to assume that the bed is the last place a college student wants a bad vibe.
Speaking of beds, both Spessard and Rachel Lowe, president of 12 South’s Two Elle, agree that sheets, blankets and pillows are the best items on which to devote a little effort. “The bed is a good place to splurge,” Lowe says. “You spend a substantial amount of time in there; it should be what you want.” And to find what you want, check out Lowe’s shop. The back room has an excellent supply of unique quilts and decorative pillows that are unlike the ones lining shelves at the big box stores.
For the creative types, Lowe and staff recommend cutting the sleeves and necks off of vintage T-shirts and sewing them over pillows. It’s a cheap way to personalize your taste and guarantee that your style is unique. Along the same lines, the store has an array of colorful mismatched mugs and dorm-friendly melamine plates, all painted with character and no two the same. Two Elle also carries a line of soy-based candles with a smokeless burn, so your room will look festive and you won’t get slapped with a dorm violation fee.
Another way to skirt authorities—this time for the proclamation against holes in the walls—is to invest in corkboard. You can get it at any craft store, and if you use sticky tack to put it up, there’s nothing to stop you from nailing and painting the hell out of it. If you’d rather buy your wall coverings than make them, check out Hatch Show Print on Broadway. It has an incredible selection of historic posters for music lovers, and that way you can avoid having the same 24x36 of John Belushi as 10 other people on your hall.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the color schemes. Even with the most limited space, it’s possible to make selections that enhance what you’ve got. Spessard believes light colors for the walls are best, especially in a dorm setting, where sleep and study areas are condensed into common space. “Stick with yellows, peaches or other neutrals,” she says. “You want the area to feel cozy and nested.”
As for all the other stuff, Lowe thinks it’s a wise idea to mix up the usual. “Get bright, colorful dishware,” she says. “It’s a nice change from the standard white, and it’s a good item to try out bold shades.”
If you’re still having trouble, you can always start out with old faithfuls such as Target or Ikea. But remember, if your mom has been picking out your sheets for 18 years, now might not be a bad time to give it a go on your own.
“Decorating your room is the perfect opportunity to think about what you love,” Spessard advises. “You get to control this environment, so let it be exactly what you want.”