College student sitting in dorm room, looking at their computer.
College student sitting in dorm room, looking at their computer.

Goingback to school in 2021 feels more hopeful than it did this time last year—why not reflect that optimism in your study space? The best student workspaces inspire creativity, enhance concentration and encourage productivity.

To help you strike that balance, here are our favourite modern dorm room ideas, organization hacks and décor tips so you can furnish a student space that’s guaranteed to make the grade.

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1Invest in a desk with shelves or drawers to maximize space.

Desks with storage are a must in small workspaces, otherwise things get messy,” says Toronto interior designer Brenda Danso, who uses her background in mental health to create functional, happy spaces. “Look for one that has a drawer or two to hide away supplies or one with open shelves for stacking books and providing a perch for decorative items.” We love the many stylish options for small offices now available and how they’re no longer limited to utilitarian design. For a modern take, look for student desks with pops of pattern, muted colours and natural finishes.

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2Use trays, small bins and desktop organizers to reduce clutter.

An overloaded desk or bookshelf is more than just an eyesore. Scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute actually found that clutter drains our brains, making it harder to process information.[1] Having trays, wire bins and desktop organizers with designated spots for pens, papers, a cell phone and accessories is one of those dorm room ideas that helps to make productivity—not piles of stuff—the focus.

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3Pick a chair with castors to easily access school supplies.

Office chairs with castors are great, even in a small office, because they make it easy to swivel and reach things—such as a printer or cabinet—without having to get up,” says Danso. “They keep you close to your desk and in work mode.” Plus, castors can operate on both carpet and hardwood floors for added ease.

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4Choose workspace-specific lighting to avoid eye strain.

“Students often settle for overhead lighting in their dorm room or bedroom at home, but it’s not intense enough,” says Danso. “Task lighting—such as a designated desk lamp—is a must.” She prefers lamps that bend easily so they can be adjusted to the task at hand and advises choosing a bulb that emits cool light. “Warm lighting is very soft and ambient and encourages relaxation,” she says. “To stay alert and productive, go for a higher-wattage, cool bulb that gives off a crisp, bright light.”

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5Streamline your room with large storage containers to hide mess.

“Out of sight, out of mind!” Roll out the organized approach of your desktop and shelves to the rest of your dorm room décor. Craft storage carts, large woven baskets and chic laundry hampers are storage solutions that feel fresh and stylish. Plus, more organization means less time searching for items and more time hitting the books!

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6Add personal elements like plants and artwork to inspire creativity.

While functionality is key, let’s face it: Young adults want a study space that feels welcoming. “Plants are one of my favourite ways to add flair to a student’s dorm room or small office space,” says Danso. “They impart colour and life.” She also likes to layer in inexpensive framed artwork—from inspirational quotes that inspire success to bright, colourful pieces that energize.

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7Hang a floating shelf to show off successes.

Floating shelves are inexpensive yet have this really great designer look that elevates the space,” says Danso. Use them to display family photos, scholastic awards and mementos that reinforce past successes and encourage productivity to reach future goals. Displaying items higher up will also help reduce the clutter on your kid’s desk. (Mom bonus: After graduation, you can repurpose the floating shelves in your living space.)

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8Set up a hot-water dispenser to promote productive breaks.

Nipping out for snacks and coffee is not only costly; it’s time-consuming and can lead to deadline-busting distractions. A hot-water dispenser is a smart way to quickly and safely boil water for everything from hot drinks to instant noodles, soups and more. “It’s important for students to take a break,” says Danso. “Making their own drinks and snacks lets them pause, while the accessibility means they’ll waste less time travelling and spend more time being focused at their desk.”

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Article Sources

  1. Harvard Business Review. The Case for Finally Cleaning Your Desk.

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