It’s that time again…our children are heading off to college or even just starting school. For those parents that are a little unsure of what to expect for sending students off to dorms, one of our expert designers has come up with a perfect article for you…Enjoy!!


Dorm Room Basics
by DeSitter Design Partner – Vanessa Nunley Designs

The List…

It certainly is hard to believe that summer is coming to an end and that college bound students are heading to campus. This is such an exciting and yet terrifying time for students and parents alike. This year we have a college senior returning to live for his third year at the fraternity house, so there’s not much I can do about the filth and squalor. However, we also a have a freshman daughter heading to campus for the first time, so I’m pretty hopeful that we can create a home-away-from-home oasis in her dorm room.

Having been through this once before, I am feeling confident that we have assembled a comprehensive list of must have Dorm Basics, which I am happy to share with you.

Heading to College; The List……


  •  Thick foam mattress cover (not that your student is the Princess and the Pea, but those standard dorm mattresses are pretty skimpy)
  • Mattress pad, preferably a zip up bag (who knows who else has slept on that mattress…and what-not)
  • Super fun comforter to coordinate with your roommate if your student is a girl. If your student is a boy…..dark colors or gray. Trust me, eventually everything becomes gray.
  • 2 sets of Twin Sheets, Extra Long (I know for sure the sheets got changed every time we visited our son Nick, but with our daughter Amanda I’m feeling hopeful those sheets will see the laundry room on a more consistent basis)
  • 1 additional pair of standard size pillow cases (the Twin Sheet sets only come with one pillow case)
  • 2 pillows
  • 2 pillow protectors
  • 1 Twin size blanket for layering when the weather gets cold
  • 1 bolster pillow for sitting up and studying in bed
  • 1 lap desk for sitting up and studying in bed
  • Throw blanket – layers always make for a more inviting and home like retreat
  • Bed lifts (making the bed taller so you can store more stuff underneath….creative storage in small spaces is a must!), unless you have the opportunity to loft your student’s bed
  • Alarm clock…. Unless your student uses their cell phone as an alarm clock

Bath and Storage:

  • Shower caddy (for easily transporting toiletries from sleeping quarters to the communal bathroom)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body soap, shaving cream, razors, deodorant, perfume/cologne, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, RETAINER, face soap or cleansing pads, moisturizer, acne treatment, all prescribed medications, nail clippers, nail file, lip balm, Q-tips, cotton balls, comb, brush, hair dryer, curling iron, straightener, styling products
  • Shower shoes (a protective barrier between your feet and God only knows what is lurking on the floors)
  • Bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths….. 4 Bath towels seems like a good number
  • Bathrobe (for the boys? Maybe an ascot ala Hugh Hefner?)
  • Laundry basket/hamper, depending upon your system. We prefer a plastic rolling cart with wheels and a handle rather than a cheapy mesh jobby, which tends to rip and tear, rendering it useless and obsolete
  • Laundry detergent…… I like the pod packets to send along to school. Lugging a big jug of detergent seems like a lot of work. Besides, I rather they focus their energy on sorting the lights from the darks
  • Stain remover. Because I have a method for everything, I encourage my pals to treat any stains as they occur…..HA!
  • Hangers
  • Space saving, swing arm hangers in case closet space is tight
  • Over the door hooks would be super helpful. We found that the doors in Nick’s dorm were too thick to accommodate the standard hooks. You might have to take your chances.
  • Under bed storage boxes if your student’s bed is on risers
  • Storage cart with drawers
  • Plastic storage bins
  • Hanging closet organizer
  • Garbage can
  • Ironing Board and Iron…if they know how to use it

Decorative Items:

  • Butterfly or disc chair, futon if you are really lucky
  • Storage ottoman/cube
  • Area rug
  • Floor lamp
  • Strands of twinkling lights
  • Wall décor…..framed pictures, posters, etc., and don’t forget something fun for your student’s front door

Study Station:

  • Oscillating fan, even if your room has air conditioning
  • Desk lamp
  • Desk storage and organizers, pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, flash drives, scissors,
  • Cork board or dry erase board
  • Dry erase markers, magnets and push pins
  • Flashlight (in case they lose power, or for midnight pranks)
  • Powers strip
  • Extension cords
  • Duct tape
  • Lap top
  • Chargers
  • USB cords
  • Printer and accessories? I’m not sure it’s necessary. Every school we visited has something crazy like a 500 page printing allowance, which can be used in your dorm building, the library, the student union, etc.
  • Calendar
  • Calculator
  • Backpack
  • Music
  • Speakers
  • Headphones
  • Umbrella
  • Overnight bag for road trips 


  • TV
  • DVD player/game system/Apple TV/Roku…. They love to have access to Netflicks
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • TV stand/Bookcase…..we like two tired metal storage racks. Perfect for bins and a place for the TV on the top
  • Footlocker…..that locks


Hmmm…this one is a puzzler. If I’m iffy about how laundry’s going to go, I’m thinking housework may never happen.

  • Paper towels
  • Tissue paper
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Cleaning solution
  • Broom and dust pan
  • Swiffer Sweeper, wet and dry
  • Garbage bags


  • First aid kit
  • Ibuprofen
  • Benadryl
  • Band-Aid’s
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Cotton balls
  • Thermometer
  • Cough & Cold medicine


  • Snacks
  • Beverages
  • Equipment and accessories for any of your hobbies and favorite activities
  • Books, music, DVD’s


  • However much you’re willing to wash and can store
  • Footwear
  • Outerwear
  • Workout wear
  • Purses and accessories


  • Positive attitude
  • Open mind
  • Sense of self
  • Patience
  • Discipline
  • Organization
  • Hard work

Best wishes to you and your families as you create a comfortable and welcoming haven where your children will learn, love and thrive………


Serving Chicago and surrounding suburbs, at Vanessa Nunley Designs, I embrace the Art of Making a Home; creating spaces that are gracious, elegant, beautifully appointed and comfortable. It is important to me to learn about your greatest dreams and desires for your home, allowing me to help you develop and interpret a personal style that reflects the way you live. Drawing on fourteen years of Interior Design experience, together we will transform a concept and vision into a stunning reality.