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Hit the time machine for a hip dorm room

Off to college? Paisley is popping back up along with other decor from the '60s and '70s. But some ideas for dorm dwellers are timeless.

By JUDY STARK

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


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[Photo: Target]
Wacky, tacky or both? Get lost in the ’70s in a dorm room decked out in fake fur, a swag lamp and the eye-popping colors of yesteryear. But don’t forget the cordless phone and the CD player.
Parents delivering their children to college often look around at the dorms and say, "This place hasn't changed since I was a student here."

Those who head to campus this fall may get a major jolt of that been-here-done-this feeling. One of the most popular styles this season is a flash from the past: paisley prints, tie-dyes and flower power right out of the 1960s and '70s.

Take a look. The Alloy catalog, aimed at teenagers, offers a shag paisley bedding set. One side of a hot-pink blanket is printed with a hibiscus and paisley design. The other side is pink shag. (Parents, where did you go wrong?)

Or look at the dorm room furnishings from Target, promoted in a press kit covered in a combination of red-and-gold paisley and fake leopard skin: A butterfly chair covered in hot pink stripes. An accent lamp covered in feathers. A fake fur bedrest.

Kmart weighs in with a leopard-print inflatable chair, night light, straight-from-the-60s lamp, message board, string lights and accessory bag. Why are wired kids glued to their cell phones so obsessed with the patterns of the past? Oh, who knows? In the '60s we wore granny dresses. Go figure.

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[Photo: Kmart]
An animal-print inflatable chair and lots of fake-fur accessories are dorm decor du jour.

At the other end of the design spectrum this fall is the modern, minimal, industrial look. Wall clocks encased in protective metal grillwork, like those found in a gym. Mirrors with metal frames embellished with rivets. Spare gooseneck lamps. Metal CD storage towers that would look at home in an operating room. The same butterfly chair, this time covered in black canvas. Metal mesh wastebaskets and nylon mesh pop-up laundry hampers.

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[Photo: Target]
Mosaic-look lamp recalls the ’60s and ’70s.
You can read whatever you wish into the fact that Target targets the "wacky and tacky" look at females and the "clean and cool" look at males. Then you can go buy what you like. Why should the guys be the only ones with electrified signs that say "LOUNGE" (Target, $24.99)?

For either sex, the coziest item in the bedding department this fall is a blanket made of sweat-shirt fabric, offered for $39.99 twin size at Bed Bath and Beyond.

And the most fun idea is tube lighting, tiny white holiday-style lights encased in nine-foot lengths of blue, purple or lime plastic tubing, good for outlining a doorway, draping along the ceiling, or surrounding a window ($14.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond).

Whether your idea of dorm decor is yesterday once more or high-tech tomorrow, here are highlights of what's available and suggestions of what you'll need as you head to campus.

The basics: sheets, towels, bedding. Some dorms have extra long twin-size beds (80 inches long rather than the standard 75) on which regular size twin sheets won't fit. You'll want a longer blanket, too (96 inches). Check with the college and buy accordingly; longer linens are available from retailers and catalog companies. You may want a mattress pad (again, in a longer size) or one of those egg-crate foam pads. You'll need a comforter, and, if you're heading far North, you may want an electric blanket.

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[Photo: Coming Hom]
Wicker storage baskets in wrought-iron frames are a step up from plastic milk crates in a dorm room.
Storage: Boxes that can slide under your bed, trunks or wicker pieces that can do double duty as coffee or end tables. Coming Home, the home-furnishing arm of Lands' End, has a wicker storage stool in a black wrought-iron frame for $69 that provides a place to sit and a place to store. Over-the-door hooks, closet organizers, stacking plastic or wicker drawers, with or without wheels, and shoe racks can stretch the space available.

Electronics. You may want an outlet strip bar into which you can plug multiple items. Extension cords may make life easier. (These, by the way, now come in those translucent colors that are so popular for everything from bathroom scales to computers.) Be safety conscious and don't overload your outlets or run cords under rugs. Bring a flashlight or some "tap lights," battery operated lights that lie flat on a tabletop or can be attached to a wall and turned on or off with the tap of a hand. A set of six is $14.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond. You can also find them singly for about $5 at home centers and hardware stores.

Odds and ends: Fans, laundry hampers or bags, wall clocks, area rugs. Additional lighting at desk or bedside. Additional seating. Inflatable furniture seems to be popular again (another '70s throwback), maybe because it's easier to haul up flights of stairs than real furniture, and it's cheap. On the other hand, ask yourself how comfortable it's going to be and how long it's going to stay inflated.

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[Photo: Peformax]
Antimicrobial latex mattress topper and pillows are said to provide healthier, deeper sleep. These are made for Performax by Premier Bedding Group of Tampa.
Creature comforts: A vase for flowers, throw pillows, floor cushions, pictures, small plastic frames for cards, stuffed animals, posters and other items to hang on the walls, a bulletin board. Look around your room now: What are the things that make it feel familiar? Take some of them along.

Cooking equipment: Besides the usual can openers, pots and pans, remember such items as plastic storage ware, sponges and scrubbers, dish towels, dishwashing liquid, trash bags.

Tool kit: Hammer, an assortment of nails and screws, screwdrivers, pliers. If you're not allowed to make holes in the walls, remember re-usable plastic hooks that attach with removable adhesive strips, or reusable adhesive.

Cleaning equipment: dust cloths and dust spray, dustpan and brush, broom, hand vacuum, all-purpose spray cleaner, cleaning cloths or sponges, paper towels.

Practical thoughts: Coming Home offers these tips: Buy bedding and towels in similar colors so they can be laundered together. (Red towels and white sheets equal pink everything.) Select a machine-washable bedspread or comforter; you know there'll be snack spills. Talk to your roommate about who will bring what to avoid duplication. Consider a slipcover to give new life to a sofa or armchair that has seen better days.

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