Designer dorm rooms: Another trend we can do without

My first reaction when I saw the Washington Post’s story on “designer dorm rooms” was that the piece underscored a trend that did not exist. It’s not unheard of for big-time newspapers such as the Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times to take unusual occurrences and blow them up in to full-fledged trends, in a bid to get ahead of the curve.

Alas, after reading the story, and hearing and seeing repeated examples of increasingly large numbers of materialistic minded high school- and college-age youth, fed by cues from their parents, I have no doubt the story is all too true.

According to the Post, one of the latest (obnoxious) trends is hiring a professional decorator to transform dorm rooms into “cozy retreats.”

“The average dorm room — even at some of the most elite colleges and universities — is not only tiny but also ugly: white paint, standard-issue furniture, fluorescent lighting and nothing that requires nails in the walls,” according to the publication. “It’s a challenge for many millennials who have never shared a bedroom or bath and aren’t accustomed to roommates or going without.

“Helicopter parents are not inclined to drop their darlings at the dorm entrance with two suitcases and cheerfully wave goodbye,” the Post added. “Instead, they’re turning to their own interior designers or professional organizers …”

Two thoughts come to mind: When I left for college, I loaded up my 1963 Chevy pickup, which was 20 years old at the time, and I drove myself to college four hours away. My dad bought me a good set of craftsman tools, my parents wished me good luck and that was it.

When I transferred to a school across the country two years later, I drove the same pickup more than 3,000 miles by myself. After a week on the road, I called them from Kalamazoo, Mich., to let them know I was fine. I contacted them when I made it to my final destination. They couldn’t have been any less “helicopter-ish,” for which I’m eternally grateful.

Point No 2: If my parents had come in and redecorated my room with some outlandishly expensive decor, I would have been the laughingstock of the dorm, and rightfully so.

Of course, I arrived at college with little more than a few beer posters, a couple of baseball pennants and a clock radio. That I, a guy, had a dearth of items to “decorate” my dorm room wasn’t surprising then, nor would it be today, apparently.

According to the Post, the upscale dorm room trend appears to almost entirely a female phenomenon, “fueled by social media and increasingly sophisticated marketing to college students.”

“Boys don’t really care what their rooms look like – they just want the TV and other electronics,” according to the publication. “Girls, on the other hand, create mood boards with pictures of their perfect space and trade ideas on Facebook and Pinterest.”

If that weren’t enough, it seems some aging women are living vicariously through their daughters.

“… more mothers and daughters are doing this together, often with professional help, to create the first dorm room – one way of easing the separation anxiety,” the Post noted. “The same baby boomers who slapped a Bob Marley poster on the dorm wall and called it a day are now willing to pay big bucks for coordinating duvets, pillows curtains, rugs and other symbols of a well-appointed dorm for their children.”

Here’s a word of warning to mothers intent on indulging their daughters: You’re fueling hugely unrealistic expectations. Your children will be in for a rude awakening when they find out the hard way the world largely doesn’t give a rat’s arse about what they want.

You’re also setting them up for difficulty down the line when it comes to relationships, because girls raised to think the world revolves around them tend to have a difficult time on the matrimonial front when tough times happen, as they do in all marriages. Because they’ve relatively unfamiliar with the concept of compromise, you’d better make sure you have the name of a good divorce attorney, so you can bail them out of that jam, too.

College is supposed to be a time of development and growth, not a materialistic cocoon.

If you want to ensure your child has a tough row to hoe throughout life, keep on coddling them with such extravagant excess as designer dorm rooms.

(Top: Example of a designer dorm room. Spoiled college student not shown.)

17 thoughts on “Designer dorm rooms: Another trend we can do without

  1. Gah! I feel sick. I had a perfectly basic room in university hall of residence. Bed, sink, desk, chair, wardrobe, balcony 🙂 a toilet and shower on the same floor shared by five of us. What, more, might I ask is needed? My dad to and fro’d me at the beginning and end of the year, for in-year terms I used the train.

    I did stay in other universities later for various reasons, archaeology, masters degree, trade union, and with the exception of Ruskin College at Oxford university, they were all the same basic standard as mine. No wonder the world is full of greedy useless wimps.

    • Yes, it’s a real heart-warming story, isn’t it: Over-indulged materialistic brat and parents spend more to decorate dorm room which will be occupied for just 8-1/2 months than 90 percent of the world’s population brings home in a year. And the first two apartments I lived in after I got married weren’t as big as the room in the photo, never mind as well decorated. As I tell my girls, some people have more money than common sense.

      • I think we are getting into the paper bag on t’ side o’ t’ road sketch, but our first married flat had a bed, table and wardrobe, just one main room. Decent shower to be fair and tiny kitchen. Cockroaches an added bonus.

        To be honest, I was so excited and pleased to go to university, it didn’t matter what it was. I loved my room in hall. Stayed there a second year before I moved out to a rented flat. Like you I had a couple of posters, one historical, one arty. I had a radio. Some of my friends blew half their grant to buy a stereo in their first week. I was there to get a degree, sure the social side and the growing up should be fun, but the education was a priority.

        And what’s wrong with white walls? All mine are white. It’s a good if sad post. Have to say we had a weekly laundry service though for bed linen. Everything else we had to wash ourselves.

      • I think you’re line “I was there to get a degree” is what stands you apart from this crowd (among other things). My dorm was white-washed cinder blocks; it didn’t bother me in the least because I was at college and on my own.

        Of course, I probably would have enjoyed living in a cave – as long as there was somewhere close to bathe – given my proclivity for a spartan lifestyle.

  2. Makes you puke!
    What the blazes is a ‘mood board’ anyway?
    I too was in halls of residence for my first year at university…basic but adequate…then moved to a shared flat for the second and third years…The Flattleship Potemkin, boasting a room apiece, a shared bathroom and shared kitchen…where we learned the economics of rental property the hard way.
    Do these bods intend to spend their lives in their ponced up rooms or do they intend to study…use the library….even, heaven forfend, mix with people from outside their social group?
    When I see kids going to school in Nicaragua – where the education is not free – coming out of shacks as if from a bandbox, with everyone passing sure to give them a lift to school as they know the value of education this sort of nonsense makes me want to lay hands on the braindeads responsible and wring them firmly to extract money to help those who think that school, college, university is for learning, not for flaunting your bad taste.

    • Amen. The redeeming feature is the knowledge that life will take these spoiled little brats and apply several swift and painful kicks to their backsides. And that each time they call home to whine and cry, their parents will be just as upset and mystified.

      The bad thing is I won’t be able to see it happen. But I suppose Schadenfreude isn’t the noblest of character traits.

  3. Unfortunately some parent can only show their affection by buying their children’s love, If it’s not the dorm for girl, it will be “stingray cars” for boys. Those helicopters children here in Vancouver are most Asian. I don’t know their lifestyle. I suppose these is more for the so called “elite” that are clueless with the real world.

    What a wonderful experience you have growing up in university days. I did not have that experience but one of my siblings. It was very expensive for Mother and the rest of the siblings just have to do without a comfort of a dorm.

    • Yes, I’ve seen it many times: Parents try to make up for a lack of actual parenting by throwing around money. Money is a poor substitute for time and love, however.

      I was fortunate to have been able to fully enjoy the college experience, within reason. If I’d asked my parents for money to “design my dorm room” they’d have told me to go out and earn some more cash, and rightfully so.

  4. Hi there, Roughseas pointed me in your direction – she thought I’d appreciate this post and of course, she was right!
    What a load of … I don’t know, words defy me (an unusual phenomenon). Designer rooms? In college? Oh puleez, get a LIFE! How did these air-heads get to college in the first place? Easy to obtain, taught-to-the-test exams, that’s what. I seem to have rediscovered my words … don’t get me started …

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jenny. You hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately for these types, you can’t get by in life through having been “taught to the exam.” And myopic parents who enable this sort of inanity will ultimately have to watch their fledgling struggle or fail completely because of their own unwillingness to … be parents.

      • No, you can’t get by, as my husband is finding out trying to recruit new blood with brains and some common sense and the ability to problem solve without being spoon fed. Someone somewhere, sometime soon will have to wake up to the fact that our education systems are failing big time, whatever the results are like that seem to magically improve year on year. Smacks of creative accounting to me!

      • I can only imagine your husband’s frustration. A few years back I worked with a woman a couple years out of college who didn’t understand how a decimal point worked or how to add items with decimal points. She just shrugged and laughed about it. I don’t know what was more astounding: That someone could graduate from a four-year school and not understand how a decimal worked, or that they thought their ignorance was funny. It was rather staggering to think that someone could be so cavalier about how they came across.

  5. Interesting… my nephew drove to college last weekend…. it was across town and so far none of us have been to his room. A girlfriend took her son and they organized it but it doesn’t seem quite to rise to the standard of a designer room. I do think there are vast differences and I bet some schools have more of this kind of thing than others. Glad my nephew has been encouraged to be independent.

    • It will be much better for your nephew in the long run, I would think. A little organization is good; a scaled down version of a Park Avenue apartment is inviting trouble.

      Thanks for stopping by, Janice.

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