College dorm rooms are the most transitional spaces many of us will ever live in. After all, students generally move year to year, if not more frequently. Yet, putting effort and cash into designing these spaces is more popular than ever. Blame it on marketing, or peer pressure— this is hardly a fleeting fad.
There’s no brand leading this trend as strongly as Pottery Barn Teen appears to be. While on the surface, it feels off-brand for a company that sells sofas for thousands of dollars to cater to college students, it’s a great way to build loyalty as well as tap a market and generation obsessed with social media.
But major brands aren’t the only ones tapping this market. Smaller mid to luxury-priced companies like Coley Home and Kerri Rosenthal (which sells art prints starting at $650) are also getting in the game. This is in addition to more accessibly-priced retailers including The Novogratz (which has a collaboration with student-friendly Bed, Bath and Beyond), Friends NYC, Housewife Jill Zarin’s Jill & Ally, and Mustard Made. This is by no means even close to a complete list.
Then there are brands like Domify which sells furniture and decor exclusively for dorm dwellers and others living in student housing. It’s worth noting that American Eagle became a major investor in the startup with a $3.45 million Series A investment in 2018. Dormify products are also sold on American Eagle’s website.
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A Great Opportunity
In the summer of 2020, Coley Home launched The Dorm Headboard, a customizable twin headboard for students sleeping in Twin XL beds. These headboards are designed to affix to the wall with high grip velcro, so as not to create any holes. With more than 80 fabric and trim combinations to choose from, any student can likely find the right design to help create their dream dorm room. “I think that students use this opportunity to express their personal style through their room design. It may be the first time they are living away from their parents and their childhood bedrooms,” says Coley Hull, Founder of Coley Home.
Hull has a point. Arizona State University freshman Maya Adelberg recently moved away from home for the first time. “Personally, I love decorating my room because I think it can show a lot about your personality. On the other hand, I moved across the country so making my dorm my own has made it feel more like home,” she tells me.
Pottery Barn Teen To Pottery Barn Young Adult
Pottery Barn Teen has been marketing to college students since 2010 when they launched the first Pottery Barn Teen Dorm Collection. With faux headboards from $149 to $299 as well as sofas and sectionals starting at $399 to over $2000, Pottery Barn Teen’s pricing is certainly on the higher end for a student’s budget.
However, the brand has opted to make these purchases worthwhile by offering pieces that aren’t just manufactured in an eco-friendly way, but can easily be used through graduation if not longer. “Today’s students have a strong awareness of the impact their purchasing decisions have on the environment. We design our Pottery Barn Dorm pieces to help bring style to a dorm setting, while also focusing on the sustainability of our products. From decor that doesn’t require nails so it won’t damage walls to organic cotton twin XL sheets, each piece is made from quality materials that are designed to last,” says Jennifer Kellor, President of Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen.
Pottery Barn Teen also offers extra convenience to college students and especially their parents with a ship-to-store feature so packages can be sent to any Williams Sonoma Inc store including Pottery Barn Teen, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, West Elm, or Williams Sonoma for pickup. This makes it easy to avoid college mail room chaos on move-in day.
In addition to sharing dorm room inspiration on a dedicated Pottery Barn Dorm Instagram account, the brand has also been providing plenty of ideas for their youngest customers through a variety of campaigns, such as a bedroom makeover with NBA fan and son of Kimora Lee Simmons, Kenzo Lee.
The Pressure Is On
However, there’s no denying that while students are being marketed to and that dorm rooms provide an outlet for them to genuinely express their sense of style— peer pressure and social media also play a big role. “Most girls aspire to have the rooms they see on Pinterest,” says Adelberg. “I know I spent hours on Pinterest scrolling through dorm rooms until I got the idea I wanted for my dorm.”
Adelberg purchased all of her dorm decor from Target, Etsy, and Amazon. She also collaborated with her roommate on a boho theme and color palette for the space. “We used dream catchers, evil eye designs, and shelving with plants. The main colors of our theme are sage green, white, and grey.”
However, for Tulane University sophomore Deva Laifer, dorm design is more about connecting with others. “Having a well-decorated dorm was important to me because that is my space and I want it to reflect my personality, as well as feel cozy and homey. When having friends come over, I wanted them to look at my side [of the room] and immediately know who I am. It is also my workspace and I am an art major so having my paintings around helps inspire me and get into my creative zone,” she explains.
While Leifer purchased items from Dormify, Amazon, and Pottery Barn Teen, she also created her own art for the space. “The paintings by my bed are all done by me and are of my favorite albums. I love music and painting so I thought combining them would be the best way to show who I am through my room. The other paintings (also done by me) are to show other vibes throughout the space. My favorite is the colorful one as it is a reproduction of Mark Kostabi’s It’s a Secret to Everybody which is one of my favorite paintings of all time,” she explains.
Whether students go all out like Adelberg and Laifer or simply invest in extra comfy extra long bedding, dorm decorating is by no means a long term game. There’s always another chance next semester.