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The Well-Dressed Dorm Room

There's no room for extras when you decorate student housing. But linens enable youths to create home away from home.


Like most college students heading off to the dorms, Chris Eggleton wanted something that would put a personal stamp on his allotted living space. So he went shopping for bedding and came home with blue satin sheets and a yellow tone-on-tone comforter.

Sheet shopping sounds like an odd pursuit for a 20-year-old male soccer player, but Eggleton knew what most dorm dwellers know--or soon find out: There's no room for extras in an institutionally furnished dorm, so short of a few posters (but no holes in the wall, please) and some accent lighting, bedding is just about the only way to express yourself.

Eggleton of San Diego bought king-size sheets--to fit the two twin beds he's pushed together in his 224-square-foot room at Chapman University's spacious new Pralle-Sodaro Residence Hall. As one of two resident advisors in charge of a floor, the residence hall veteran has earned a private room.

But for most dorm dwellers doomed to single beds, 'tis the season of the extra long twin sheet. The once-hard-to-find linen is everywhere these days, from Target stores to L.L. Bean Home catalogs to surf wear shops.

It's a good thing, too, because variety makes it easy to use the 36-by-80-inch beds as the decorative focus in rooms outfitted with sturdy wooden furniture and industrial grade carpeting.

"Their personality and their interests can be displayed on the walls but even there, they have to be careful," said Janine Harris, an interior designer with Dorian Hunter Interiors in Fullerton. "Their real freedom of expression is the bed." Harris should know--she's prowled bed and bath stores to help three children outfit dorm rooms.

So what's out there?

Big bed and bath stores offer extra long twin sheets and twin comforters in patterns that feature animal prints, leaping sheep, fluffy clouds, daisies and moons and stars. There's a bohemian denim look and rugby stripes. And for the laundry averse, there's a strictly utilitarian fitted slumber bag that negates the need for sheets.

For a look you won't see everywhere, there's Dean Miller Hawaiian Print Bedding, which offers limited edition, extra long twin duvet covers and pillow cases in 10 surfer patterns.

Furnishing a dorm room usually starts with bedding, but it doesn't stop there. Like most universities, UC Irvine sends students a list of things they should bring (sheets, towels, blankets, pillow, alarm clock) and a list of items they might not be able to live without such as a computer, television, stereo and hair dryer.

Bari Fagin, a representative for Bed Bath and Beyond, said the list of must-haves should be much longer.

"You've got to have under-bed storage, lighting, a shower tote, a lap desk, a bedrest, a phone, stackable storage blocks, extension cords, an iron. A Dustbuster wouldn't hurt," Fagin said.

The toll on a parent's pocketbook can easily add up to several hundred dollars, said Susan Dolbee of Coto de Caza, whose daughter Melissa lived in the dorm at Cal State Chico last year. She personalized her room with pictures in frames that coordinated with a powder blue gingham check comforter and matching sheets, blankets and pillows.

When it comes to housewares, from shower totes to gooseneck lamps, the look this year is translucent, Fagin said. And if you go wild with animal print bedding, you can accessorize with animal prints on bulletin boards, ironing boards, trash cans, telephones and hair dryers, said Susan Weiner of Linens 'N Things.

And there's always a need for storage space.

"Vertical space is expensive real estate in dorm rooms," said Rico Schwarz of the Container Store, which offers an array of space-saving products from tiered hangers to a tower of adjustable shelves along with handy removable adhesive hooks--ideal for decorative strings of lights.

"I've seen smiley face lights, chile lights and Christmas lights," said Letrice Curl, director of residential life at UCI's Middle Earth residence hall.

Students are creative, she said, and with the addition of throw rugs, pillows, mobiles and stuffed animals, "it's amazing how personal each room can be."

* Container Stores,

* Linens 'N Things,

* Bed Bath and Beyond,

* Dean Miller Hawaiian Print Bedding,

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