Double-duty dorm decor

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

There was no such thing as multifunctional furniture when I headed off to college 20 years ago. And if there was, I wasn’t aware of it.

In my dorm room at Michigan State University, if anything served dual purposes, it was my desk, which had a bookshelf on top for storage. The bookshelf wasn’t mounted to the top, which I learned the hard way when I used it to climb down from my loft and promptly pulled the shelf on top of me. That was fun.

Today, multifunctional isn’t just a fad, it’s a must for many. For baby boomers downsizing to smaller homes and millennials moving into their first apartments, furniture often has to serve multiple functions, especially when space is at a minimum.

And if there was one space that isn’t exactly roomy, it’s dorm rooms. Dorm room sizes depend on the university, the residence hall and the number of students assigned to each room. The University of Michigan, for example, offers single rooms for one student, doubles, triples and even some quads (with four students to a room or suite).

As challenging as furnishing a small space can be, it also can be liberating. You don’t have room to go crazy with “stuff” (as much as you may want to and no matter how many good deals there are at Target). And you have to be thoughtful and deliberate with what you do have.

Kathryn Bechen, the author of “Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space,” (Revell, $12.99) says furniture placement is key when you’re living in one room. Less is more, she writes.

“Think function first,” writes Bechen. “Either place all the furniture artfully around the perimeter of the room so there’s a large space in the middle, or create mini-zones.”

And stick with neutral upholstery, advises Bechen. It helps create a “serene and clutter-free look,” she writes.

And of course, the closet is critical. Bechen says velvet hangers work great in small spaces because they take up little room. She also recommends storing sweaters or shirts on shelves; use clear plastic bins for winter clothes, sheets or blankets.

Melanie Graham, an organization expert for the Container Store, which just opened its first Michigan location last month and plans to open another on East Big Beaver in Troy in mid-September, says to look at every inch of available space and be creative about how to use it.

“Look under the bed, over the door, on the walls, on the floor – wherever you can find a bit of open space,” says Graham.

When it comes to choosing multifunctional pieces for a dorm room or any small room, remember the main part of that word: function. Once you have that in order, everything else will fall into place.

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