Dorm decor: a big-bucks business

Family Matters

August 21, 2005|By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub | Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

Decorating for back to college used to be a no-brainer. All you had to do was buy a new bedspread, sheets, pillows and a plastic bucket in which to carry your toiletries to the communal bathroom.

Not anymore.

Everyone is competing for your back-to-dorm dollar -- from Ty Pennington's TYU Back to Campus Collection at Sears to Room Solutions at design-savvy Target. Even Kmart is trying to generate hipster hype with the 0-60 Collection, a brand kicked off just in time for back to school.

These collections join the offerings from typical spots you shop in for dorm decor, such as Linens 'N Things, Bed Bath & Beyond and the Container Store.

So what's really happening here?

"We are seeing part of a broader trend that has to do with kids having more input into their home furnishings and caring more about them," said Michelle Lamb, publisher of the Trend Curve newsletter.

Years ago, Lamb said, college students lived with whatever their moms suggested. Folks "made do" with what they had or what they were given.

"People don't 'make do' anymore," she said. "College kids don't want used stuff. That's politically incorrect. If it's used, it's vintage. And even that's not about making do, it's about making a statement."

Jon Gieselman, Kmart's vice president of advertising and public relations, agrees that individual style is an important ingredient in dorm design.

"Kids want to make a personal expression of style," he said. "They can do it with apparel. They can do it with accessories. They can do it with a backpack and notebooks. It translates into home decor. You can create a personal sense of style in how your dorm room looks."

Kmart, Sears' new sibling company, is appearing more edgy in its back-to-school launch of the 0-60 Collection, which will continue throughout the year with products geared to different seasons. The youth-driven collection, which evokes a fast-paced life-style, includes bedding, furniture, storage and lighting.

"We are injecting a great deal more of design into the product," Gieselman said. "Take a storage bin. Just because it has a utilitarian need doesn't mean it can't look great."

The pioneer in bringing good design to the masses is Target, and this year's Room Solutions doesn't disappoint. It includes exclusive products from California Closets to help organize tight spaces, funky furniture such as foam lounge chairs, retro-style clocks and bright bedding and bath stuff in blue, green and orange stripes and waves. There are also decorative file boxes with matching folders and chrome Memorex radios.

One of the best ways to show who you are is to put your personal stamp on your dorm room with color.

"Students want things that are fun, not staid," Bed Bath & Beyond spokeswoman Noemi Villani said. "You are going into a dorm with white walls, and accessories are a great way to make it your own. And, if after a year you are sick of your pink shower tote, you can get one in another color."

Although getting the right bedding to express your personality is still important, Anne Evans of Linens 'N Things that said over time the emphasis has moved to other parts of the room.

"We realize that kids do a lot of living in small spaces," she said. "We try to cater to their multifaceted lifestyle of sleeping, socializing and studying in their room. The emphasis has moved dramatically to extra seating and fabulous chairs. Technology has driven the need for additional furnishings. We take into consideration that the kids may be using laptops and have things like the computer lap desk with a wrist rest. Kids want to be comfortable."

Technology needs were especially important to Anthony Scott of Baltimore County, an incoming freshman at Georgetown University.

With all the options available, Scott was impressed. "They have some cool stuff out there like MP3 players with clocks. They definitely caught the wave of technology and connectivity," he said.

Scott spent most of his money and shopping time on his laptop computer. "My laptop cost $1,500, so it was my most important purchase," he said.

Suzanne Wollen of Ellicott City, who will be a freshman at Virginia Tech, said shopping for her dorm room was "actually a pretty quick process."

"I kept putting it off and then one day me and my mom ran off and did it in one day," Wollen said. "I think the most important thing was my bedding, sheets, comforter and pillows."

Sun staff writer Erica Kritt contributed to this article.

The Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Gotta get it

If this is your freshman year, you may not have a clue what you'll need for your dorm room. Here are eight must-haves suggested by Anne Evans of Linens 'N Things and Noemi Villani of Bed Bath & Beyond.

Mattress pad and feather bed: You'll need a mattress pad and something to cushion your body, such as a waffle pad, foam mattress topper or feather bed.

Sheets: Check your dorm to see what size you'll need. Most have beds that require extra-long sheets, 5 inches longer than a standard twin.

Pillows: One or two for sleeping and some throw pillows for cuddling.

Towels: You'll need at least two sets in case one is still wet and you need to take another shower.

Area rug: The rug can cover a yucky floor and coordinate the rest of your room decor.

Surge protector: Don't forget this essential to protect your computer equipment against power surges.

Easy storage: Look for a vertical bookcase or crates that can be stacked as bedside tables or be arranged in different configurations.

Shower totes: They come in bright colors with sections so your shampoo and soap don't slip around. Look for one with holes so the water can drain out.

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