Tips on how to make your dorm feel like home

Using posters, strategic lighting, photos and other memorabilia, Masciarella manages to turn her once plain Mahoney-Pearson dorm into a space she is proud to call home. Photo credit: Jarrod Houseknecht

For many, packing up one’s whole life and moving to a university is overwhelming to say the least. Along with leaving friends and family behind and taking on a rigorous class schedule, the comfort of coming home to the same house is now no more.

University of Miami student Alexis Masciarella found a way to fix that. The sophomore opened up her Mahoney-Pearson dorm room to a Hurricane reporter, offering advice and inspiration to other students struggling to make The U feel like home.

Immediately after entering, the eye is drawn to Masciarella’s extensive poster collection. Her walls are decked out with mementos of the Human Rights Campaign, her favorite musicians and the nineties film “Cruel Intentions.” It is as if her room were a personal art gallery that offers a quick glimpse inside her bright personality.

Along with her favorite posters, Masciarella made sure to include the things that mean the most to her: memories of friends and family, a poster for her 2040 presidential campaign and, of course, a Tyler the Creator Igor wig. Photo credit: Jarrod Houseknecht

Posters are great ways to make friends and give a click glimpse into one’s identity, as common interests are often conversation starters. They are also readily available and usually inexpensive online on sites such as Amazon and RedBubble, and UM even has its own poster sale at the beginning of the school year.

But Masciarella mentioned some of the difficulties of decorating such a tight space.

“The most challenging part of living in Mahoney is most definitely finding an adhesive to hang up my items on the wall that is strong enough to hold them but not damage the wall,” she said.

Masciarella’s decor is not limited to posters, but also contains everything from a cowboy hat to picture frames. These items can be difficult to hang at times, but are possible with some creativity.

Scattered between the Tyler, the Creator superfan’s collection of “Vote Igor” memorabilia are images of memories with friends and loved ones. Most were taken with Polaroid or disposable cameras, but even without access to those, it is relatively inexpensive to print out iPhone images at a Walgreens, CVS or Walmart kiosk. Dorms should be a happy place, and filling them with great memories of loved ones is the perfect place to start.

Decorating is also a time to get creative and artsy. Masciarella showed off some original art that’s on display. A former student of the university’s graphic design classes, she shows off her talents with a comedic yet empowering flyer calling for a revolution lead by herself as the elected president in 2040. A fun message like that is sure to brighten her morning.

A major focal point of sophomore Alexis Masciarella's dorm is her mirror decked out and covered with painted snakes. A personal, statement piece like this is the perfect way to make any new space feel familiar. Photo credit: Jarrod Houseknecht

A more unique addition to Masciarella’s room is her painted mirror. Covered in painted snakes of various colors, this staple of her room is anything but ordinary.

Masciarella has also taken advantage of non-conventional decor such as lighting. Sometimes the dorm’s unattractive fluorescent lights burning your eyes early in the morning or late at night is undesirable, so getting some colorful string lights or a neon sign is the perfect way to fix it. Masciarella uses a lit, yellow smiley-face neon sign to let others know they’re in her home.

A dorm room can be even livelier with real life added into it, which is why Masciarella went out of her way to include plants. Whether it’s just a small succulent or a tiny tree, having something alive can really pull together a room.

Some students also struggle with ways to manage the open closets that UM gives its residents. An open closet does not have to be a curse, as long as it is kept neat. Getting a shoe organizer to hold bedazzled Vans and platform Doc Marten boots and color coordinating shirts is the perfect finishing touch.

Most importantly, have fun. Decorating shouldn’t be laborious; it should be a fun way of sharing personality.

“I should be able to walk into your dorm and tell that it’s yours,” Masciarella said. “There’s something very homey about my dorm. I can walk into it, and it’s my space. No one else can mimic what’s mine.”

With just a little effort, anyone could find themselves loving their living space just as much as Masciarella loves hers.

Using posters, strategic lighting, photos and other memorabilia, Masciarella manages to turn her once plain Mahoney-Pearson dorm into a space she is proud to call home. Photo credit: Jarrod Houseknecht

An additional look inside Alexis Masciarella’s dorm:

Masciarella brings literal life into her space by decorating with small succulents. Photo credit: Jarrod Houseknecht

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While many students have trouble adjusting to the open closet space, Masciarella makes the most of hers by adding shoe racks and plenty of storage. This personal touch not only adds a hint of home, it also keeps her organized. Photo credit: Jarrod Houseknecht