Middle-earth: Tolkien Fantasies for Your Dorm Room!
Decorating a dorm room is always a challenge, given that, at most schools, you aren’t allowed to paint or hang things with nails or screws. In addition, storage quickly becomes a problem. But it becomes even more difficult for someone seeking the elegance of an Elvish home, the homey appeal of a smial, or the stately quality of the dwellings of Dwarves and Men, because if there are a few things most dorm rooms aren’t, it’s elegant, homely or stately! Well, here are a few ideas that should work well, no matter what the regulations for what you can do in your room.
I will address each piece in a dorm room separately, and try to give you a few ideas on how you can alter (or cover) them to fit into whatever theme your heart desires!
A Hobbit Hideaway
In general a hobbit dwelling should feel homey and lived in, so don’t be afraid to leave your boots at the foot of your bed! The color palette should be varied, but warm. Yellows, pinks, reds, and even some rich blues and greens can be very hobbit-like. It is not necessary to stick to a particular color theme, unless you want to.
Dorm beds are the ugliest things on the planet, but you must admit, they are about the right size for a Hobbit! The most important element on a bed is nearly always the linens. Don’t be afraid to go for patterns. In fact a homemade quilt (or one that looks homemade) is perfect for a hobbit bed. You may want matching sheets, but I recommend that they be patterned with flowers, or other sweet, country designs in warm colors. Don’t be afraid of pillows! Lots of large, fluffy pillows are very hobbity.
It is probably necessary to find or make a dust ruffle to cover those ugly metal legs. And if you get one that is opaque, you can always buy under-the-bed containers for more storage. And don’t forget a dream pillow, which you can find out how to make here at the Last Homely House! Do resist the temptation to elevate your bed on cinderblocks or PVC, as a hobbit could never get into a bed that high up!
Most dorm desks are fairly plain and made of wood, which is fine for a Hobbit environment, but you may want to cover your computer monitor (See Lord of the Rings Computer/TV Cover here at Last homely House). If you have a laptop, just wire it so that it sits on the keyboard drawer and hide it away when you’re through. Keep your electronics out of sight as much as possible.
Those plain white, institutional walls just won’t do! You may be able to find lightweight, richly colored molding at your local hardware store. Use teacher’s tack (that blue gummy stuff) to hang it at the ceiling, or three feet above the floor to create a chair rail. Be careful with teacher’s tack, if it is too hot and humid in your room, it won’t hold for long. In such a case, they make double-sided duct tape, which is a college student’s best friend. Don’t just use regular duct tape folded into loops, because then the molding won’t lie flush with the wall.
When hanging wall art, if you use a short wire on a framed picture, you can use removable plastic hooks from your local hardware store. Make sure you use a short wire to hang them, so you don’t see the hook. For wall art, you may want to frame family pictures, or find cute framed prints. Framed maps of the Shire are wonderful!
Fill any empty shelving with anything Frodo, Sam or Rosie would love. Try jars of homemade preserves, fruit, wax or fresh, old books, seedlings and dried or fresh flowers.
For extra storage space that also adds to the Hobbit feel, try searching flea markets and even unfinished wood furniture stores for old-fashioned wooden trunks. You can always refinish it in whatever warm wood tone best suits you! You may want to think about storing your hot plate or your foodstuffs here, to keep these entirely modern things out of sight. These lovely pieces look great at the foot of your bed.
Lighting is incredibly important to any room. Of course, candles or lanterns would be ideal, but most schools frown on those, since they tend to set off the fire alarm. For your Hobbit hideaway keep your lighting warm and old-fashioned. Shy away from using the fluorescent light in the ceiling. Instead, you may want to visit flea markets and antique stores to find shapely lamps and old-fashioned lamp shades. Use low-watt bulbs. For slightly brighter light during those all-nighters, find a “student lamp”, one of those with two frosted glass globes.
Curtains are the finishing touch to any room. Try for light colors to maximize the amount of light coming in. I find that simple un-dyed muslin draped over a white pressure rod put into the recessed window is lovely.
That cold tile floor is no fun, but even if you have carpet, it may be ancient, and stained with Eru only knows what. Here are a few easy, frugal ideas. Find warm, soft rugs with fun patterns. I like anything with a pineapple on it for Hobbits, as pineapples represent hospitality. This option may prove a little pricey, so you might want to cruise flooring stores for remnants (leftovers) of carpet or laminate that you like. Remnants are often a lot cheaper than buying carpet, since nobody does installation. They make beautiful faux-stone and faux-wood laminates that are very Hobbity. If you’re very crafty and want to personalize your laminate, grainier versions take paint very well. You may want to paint tiles onto your faux-stone!
The most important thing to remember when creating your Hobbit Hideaway is that it should be homey, welcoming and livable!
An Elven dwelling should exude serenity, calm and peacefulness above all else. Keeping a tight color palette using whites, neutral grays, creams and even some muted purples, greens and blues will help you achieve this.
Solid, neutral linens with a few (1 or 2) large, comfortable pillows are perfect. I quite like a white duvet with soft gray sheets and pillows. You may want to pay close attention to the quality of your fabrics, as this is something the elves would have carefully considered. Egyptian cotton is lovely, very soft and light, if a little pricey.
A canopy or mosquito net adds an extremely Elven touch to your bed and is very easy to make, especially if you have a dropped ceiling. (One with ceiling tiles).
You will need:
At least 7 yards (yes, I know it’s a lot!) of wide, white or light colored gauze or netting
1 large embroidery hoop
4 short lengths of twine or cord (white leather cords are very pretty)
a rod or dowel long enough to reach from one side of a ceiling tile to the other (if you do not have a dropped ceiling, you should forego the dowel)
Tie your twine in four places evenly spaced around the embroidery hoop so that they form the points of an “x”.
Knot the other ends around the dowel so that went you hold it up horizontally, the embroidery hoop lies flat, parallel to both the dowel and the floor. (if you have foregone the dowel, just knot them together)
Cut your gauze in half and cross them over the hoop so that the twine is on the outside of the fabric. The gauze should form a cross on the hoop. You may want to staple or hot glue the gauze to the hoop, so that it doesn’t pull off.
Bundle the fabric together and drape it over your shoulder to keep it out of the way while you hang it.
Hang the canopy by lifting the ceiling tile and slipping the ends of the dowel under the lip of the metal grid that hold the tile in. Allow the tile to drop down to hold the dowel in place. (If you don’t have a dropped ceiling, you may have to resort to using clear packing tape to hang your canopy. Don’t worry, it holds very well and is not very visible.)
Arrange the canopy to your satisfaction
You may want to elevate your bed on cinderblocks or PVC to afford you a lot more storage space. If you have a short refrigerator, you can even stash it under your bed this way.
To create an Elven desk out of a simple school-issued one is quite a challenge. Remember to cover your electronics. To provide more storage space, as well as a good display case for any Elven items or papers you might possess, buy or build a small, functional bookcase in a light wood tone to place on your desk top. You can dress it up a little by stenciling Elvish script or designs like leaves of Lorien or Celtic knotwork onto the edges of the shelves. You may want to display a few items, like a quill pen, some particularly lovely calligraphy, or your replica of the Evenstar pendant.
Plain white walls may work for your particular taste, but if you just can’t stand them, fabric is probably the way to go. Find light fabrics in your chosen colors, and make sure you get enough so that it will reach all the way to the floor. You might like to sew or embroider leaves or another natural, repeating motif onto them. If you’re artistically inclined, you can also paint a design onto the fabric using a mixture of two parts acrylic paint, one part water. Make sure you let them dry overnight before you put them up.
Once you’re ready to put them up, mix three parts liquid starch with one part water and grab a paintbrush and a step stool. Paint the upper six inches of the wall with your starch mixture, and smooth the fabric on. You may want to create a few ripples for a curtain effect. Then layer on two more layers of starch over the fabric, waiting for it to dry between layers. When you want to take the fabric down, just pull it off (it may take some strength) and wash down that part of the wall with water and dishwashing liquid.
If your shelving is particularly ugly, you can use molding with a natural design to cover the edge of the shelves, just make sure you use teacher’s tack or spray adhesive, something that you can steam off.
If you have your own bookcase that might take paint you may want to paint it white or gray and use your recurring natural design to dress it up.
Elven lighting should be soft and diffused. The easiest way to achieve this is to swag a slightly opaque fabric over your fluorescent light. You could also hang white Christmas tree lights behind your fabric on your walls. The easiest way to do this is to simply tape up the strands of lights using clear packing tape.
Plants are essential to bringing the outdoors in! Find something green that will drape or climb, to add that natural element to your room. If it flowers, be sure to get something in a color that will complement your colors.
For curtains, buy a pressure rod if you have a recessed window. Put the rod up first, and then drape a long swath, of beautiful fabric over it. Use a strip of the same fabric, a thin chain belt or even a vintage necklace to tie the fabric back to one side. Place your plant on the side of the window that will get the sun
For your floor, search flooring stores for remnants of a beautiful faux-stone or faux-marble in colors that will complement your scheme. A stone with pink or rose highlights will help to warm up all the neutrals and whites in the room.
The most important things to remember when creating an Elven haven are elegance and serenity.