Going off to college is a milestone moment at any time, but given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and shift to remote learning, the experience can be even more fraught and emotional than usual for students and their families.
Tennessee-based interior designer Jenny Reimold found a unique way to ease her 18-year-old daughter Grace Porter’s transition into her freshman year at the University of Alabama: revamping her drab dorm into a Boho-chic wonderland.
Together, the mother-daughter duo created a budget-friendly space that has since caught the eye of HGTV, Southern Living and more — not to mention, Grace’s peers!
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“I’m a mother of seven and Grace is the first one to leave the nest,” Reimold tells PEOPLE. “Having to do that in the middle of the pandemic — where I’m sending her off knowing there are online classes for the most part, there’s not going to be any football — I really wanted to create a space for her that felt like home because she’s going to be spending so much time in there.”
To begin, Grace found a print on Etsy that became the “inspiration piece” that they built the theme of the room around, pulling from the print’s color palette (neutrals accented by terracotta, peachy pinks and some aqua) to create a “coastal Bohemian vibe as a reflection of her Florida roots.”
The majority of the decor is affordable finds from HomeGoods, for which Reimold is a spokesperson, while most of the bedding came from Room 422, a dorm decor site that was founded by a UofA alum.
One of their favorite Room 422 finds was the stick-on headboard, which elevated the nondescript dorm bed “into an actual bed you would find in a bedroom,” Reimold says. And while they had to work around the basic bed frame and desk that provided by the school, they ultimately decided to swap out the generic desk chair for a chic bamboo one that “really tied in the look.”
Perhaps the room’s most impressive detail? A DIY bamboo chandelier from World Market. “There’s no lighting involved,” Reimold explains: In order to keep within the dorm’s safety regulations, she hung the chandelier with a bit of twine and velcroed in a battery-operated puck light in place of a lightbulb.
“It’s no fire hazard, there’s no wiring, nothing,” she says of the eye-catching statement piece, which offers a warm glow to balance the existing flourescent lighting.
Another design tip that helped to maximize Grace’s space? Well-curated storage solutions. “Stylish storage is key. You don’t need to display every single thing you have, because when you display everything in a tiny room, it looks cluttered,” Reimold shares.
The pair incorporated decorative bins, hanging shelves and a tall chest of drawers for the majority of Grace’s things, adding a bed skirt to cover items stored under the bed as well as shower curtains hung up on command hooks to section off the closet.
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“I do think a rug is kind of crucial,” Reimold adds. “First of all the carpet is probably old, or it’s elementary school tile.” A carefully chosen rug “makes things look cohesive and warm” and, as a bonus, makes for a more comfortable workout surface for Grace while gyms are closed.
Reimold’s other tips for turning a dorm room into a true home-away-from-home? Bring life into the space with plants and other greenery, add warm lighting with desk or standing lamps, stock a wheeled hamper with laundry supplies, and make sure to “layer, layer, layer until it looks right.”
Adds, the designer, “When you drop them off and they love their room, it just gives your mom heart a little peace of mind.”