Everyone remembers the heartache of their first college dorm. It was minuscule, with nearly all space monopolized by the prescribed bed, nightstand and desk combination. It had walls painted a nightmarish shade of brownish green or maybe aquamarine with miscellaneous holes and scratches speckled across them. The single window was only a slit hardly yielding any light and its screen was left leaning against a wall, uninstalled. Without any air conditioning, the air of the late Philadelphia summer was stagnant and heavy in that tiny room, crammed full of your family. You remember wondering then if it were too soon to transfer…

To be able to transform a space like a dorm room is a valuable skill. Private space, space you can move through as yourself and feel comfortable, is an emotional necessity. Small things can transform even the most seemingly bleak situation—the division of space through furniture, smart lighting and personal artifacts. The impact these changes can have on a space is surprising, and the impact they can have on you is even more so. These rooms designed by Penn students should provide some inspiration. 

Professor Richard Wesley, the Undergraduate Chair of Architecture, picked two of his favorites below:

Room 1
Name: Caroline Huber, C'17
How would you describe your style?: I’d call it bohemian meets mid–century modern—just sticking to my LA roots.
What design choice do you think is the most important?: Keep it clean.
What Professor Wesley likes: Appealing contrast of natural and artificial materials, patterns and textures; clean and contemporary look (paint color, floor and desk lamp, lounge and desk chair and desk) with a warm and cozy feeling (rug, fabric on lounge chair and sheep skin).

Room 2 
Name: Marissa Picozzi and Cindy Wang
How would you describe your style?:I really enjoy a minimalist, neutral base/background with a few eccentric pops that you can change up from time to time.
What design choice do you think is the most important?I definitely think that having one or two consistent elements/pieces is important in design, just because those elements can have carry greater meaning over time and really ground your design.

What Professor Wesley likes: Dramatic cloud–like cloth ceiling with a playful use of cascading colored cloth flowers; delightful manner of introducing and relating something unexpected with the elements of a traditional room.

Honorable Mentions:

Room 3
Name, year, major: Lorena Serrano, W'17
How would you describe your style?: I would say my room is modern with a chic/artsy twist. I love the clean, all white look, but the pops of color add a certain flare to it and make the room much more interesting.

What design choice do you think is the most important?: I think organizing well and having as much possible open space is super important. Having everything organized, the white furniture and good lighting all make the space seem uncluttered and stress–free.

Room 4
Name, year, major: Jayne Hoffman, N'18
How would you describe your style?: I would describe my style as classic with a twist of modern. I like to work off of a background of neutral colors and add in some personal style. Currently, I chose metallics to brighten up the neutral palette of my room.

What design choice do you think is the most important?:  Being that many students here live in small dorms or apartments, I would say the best use of space is important, as well as making your living space a cozy atmosphere to escape to. Both of these were my objectives when designing my room!

Room 5
Name, year, major: Hannah Fagen, C'17
How would you describe your style?: My style is simple, warm and cheerful.
What design choice do you think is the most important?: The most important thing about designing a living space is ensuring that it fits all of your needs, and sets a good tone for your life. I start and end my days here, and believe that the spaces in which we live have great power to influence the way we feel. My room is where I study, write, sleep and host friends, so I made sure to give ample and intentional spaces for each of those things. Decorating doesn’t have to be laborious or expensive; most things in my room are from discount stores, Ikea or old furniture from my parents.

Room 6
Name, year, major: Ashley Cukier, C'17
How would you describe your style?: I'd describe my style as functional because my room really works for me/the student lifestyle.
What design choice do you think is the most important?: I think it's most important to think about what you want to use the room for when designing a living space. For example, I knew I wanted to be able to study in my room but also for it to be a good place for people to hangout, so I kept the wall decorations minimal to avoid distractions and put the sitting area away from the desk.

Room 7
Name, year, major: Amy Chen, C'18
How would you describe your style?: I wouldn't really say I have a set style—I just like to be comfortable, and I let that dictate my design choices.