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Build Your Own Dorm Room Studio

A DIY guide to making sure your dorm vibes are on-point.

by Karl Ortegon
August 27, 2021

Picture this: it’s August, you’re arriving in New York City and you’re full of excitement. Why wouldn’t you be –– it’s time to move into the NYU dorms! (Don’t mind us — we’re just here cheering you on in the background.) You’re probably going through all the normal checklists — bedsheets, pillows, cute rugs and wall decor — and that’s a lot of work. You want your dorm room to be perfect. 

But what if you want to keep (or start) making art when you get to college? Wouldn’t it be ultra-convenient if you could build your own studio in your room? News flash: it would. Second news flash: you definitely can. 

A college dorm may be small, but unless you’re a sculptor trying to make life-size replicas of the Statue of Liberty (if you’re trying to do that, though, let us know), you don’t need a ton of space to get crafty. In this guide, we’ll walk you through all of the steps you need to take, things you need to buy and people you need to talk to in order to make your in-dorm studio dreams come to life! So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Dorm room with mirror and rainbow string-lights.
How will you make your dorm vibes on-point?
Why A Dorm Studio Might Be Right For You

Whether you’re a seasoned artist already (good for you!) or just tiptoeing your way into making art (that’s exciting!), there are plenty of reasons you might benefit from crafting a studio right in your dorm room. First and foremost, if you can build your own setup, you’ll be saving a lot of money, time and energy. Instead of looking for studios on-campus or in a nearby town, which may have limited openings (or none at all), you’ll have everything you need right at home. 

Further, a dorm studio offers the privacy to let your creative juices flow. That means no awkward onlookers when you’re trying to stitch together the perfect TikTok, record your next hit single or mock-up your next design.

Additionally, the DIY-approach to making art is a viable route to tangible success, especially with the pandemic forcing us inside for so long. Look no further than the music genres like bedroom pop, which has been booming, with artists like Clairo, mxmtoon and Beabadoobee catapulting themselves into the mainstream. Then there’s TikTok, where your content can explode in a matter of hours. You never know what kind of art might take the TikTok algorithm’s fancy — for example, one creator recently made a prestigious duck art contest go viral. Anything is possible!

Making the Space for Your Music & Art

Okay, so now you’re committed to making your new college home into a studio. Let’s make it happen!

Before you even move in, there are a few things you can do to ensure that the actual setup goes smoothly. 

First off — how much space will you actually have in your dorm room? Exact measurements may or may not be online (although someone has probably posted them somewhere on Reddit, depending on your school), but you can scour the web for photos or find a current/former student to ask. You definitely do not want to get to your room and realize you don’t have space for your materials!

You may only be able to set-up your studio around your desk, but that’s probably most of the space you need, which is the beauty of an at-home studio. 

Meanwhile, will you have a single or will you have a roommate? Or multiple roommates? If you’re sharing a living space with other people, respect is key, and you’ll need to ensure that your art (and the space/time your art will take up) is not going to be a problem for your roommates. We’ll get into more of that later, though.

Nailing the Setup with the Right Equipment

You did your research, you asked around, you got the information you needed — and it looks like you have the space for a creative studio. Nice! Now you need your studio essentials. 

If you’re looking to build a studio to record music in, there are a few basics you’ll need: 

  • Computer (you may already have this!)
  • Digital audio workstation (DAW)
  • Audio interface or mic
  • MIDI keyboard
  • Studio monitors
  • Headphones
Laptop and other home music recording equipment.
What will your dorm recording studio setup look like?

Depending on what type of music you want to make, you may not need all of these tools, or you may need more. You know best!

Meanwhile, let’s say you want to make a visual art-focused studio. Here are some things you’ll need (and other considerations):

  • Desk (which many dorms already have)
  • Art supplies
  • Storage for art supplies
  • Access to a sink/water
  • Lighting

It all depends on what kind of art you want to make. If you’re painting, for example, you might need more space and tools than if you’re doing graphic design or illustration. 

Finally, unless you’re strictly working on the computer with minimal additional equipment, you probably need to store your tools and supplies when you’re not in studio mode. Get a shelving unit or set of boxes/bags that you can designate for studio storage so you can wrap everything up and tuck it out of the way until it’s time to create again! And if you want to showcase your art (gallery wall, anyone?), that’s something to consider, too. 

You can find all of the necessary equipment online or at a nearby art store. Or, if you’re lucky, you might own many (or all!) of these tools. 

Finessing the Roommate Agreement

One of the most important parts of making your dream dorm studio come to life doesn’t even have to do with any purchases or space-making. It’s the roommate agreement. Like anything having to do with communal space, you will need to talk to your roommate(s) about your plans to have a studio in the room.

We’d strongly urge you to have this conversation as early as possible. Depending on your roommate(s) willingness/tolerance for you taking up space, making noise, needing the room to be quiet, and so on and so forth, your studio might need some adjustments. Of course, it would be pretty tragic if they weren’t OK with the studio idea at all, but it’d be better to know that up front before you spend any money or start to fantasize about the art you’ll make in-between classes and on the weekends. 

Your roommate(s) will appreciate you being forward. Be honest about what times you plan on making music or art, how much space you’ll need, what tools they can (and cannot) touch or use, and what other needs you’ll have when creating. 

Do you want the room to be bright with the curtains drawn? Pitch-black? Do you need absolute silence in the room? Will it bother you if your roommate is sitting on their bed four feet away while you’re trying to film or record? 

These are all things to consider as early as possible — once you make your studio, it’ll be harder to make major adjustments or change your expectations. And, above all, it’s about respect! If you’re direct and honest about the communal space, you’ll be all good to go.

Visual art studio set-up in college dorm room.
Create art in your DIY dorm studio!
Putting Your DIY Studio to Use

You did it — you staked out the space, checked with your roommate(s) to make sure it was cool, bought (or brought) the necessary equipment and set it all up! Congrats! Now, it’s time to have fun with it.

First and foremost, this is a gift to yourself. You now have a creative studio right in your new college home, ready to rock whenever inspiration strikes. You can create on your own time, and nobody else’s (except for your roommate(s), whose time you do need to consider)!

Meanwhile, this new setup is definitely a perfect excuse to make friends and future collaborators. Have people over to check out your studio, launch a new club on campus by sharing your resources, or even DJ your own party! Sharing is caring, and there may be someone who, for whatever reason, cannot access studio space on their own — be that person who helps out and offers up their space. 

Once you make a studio this fall — or whenever you have the time — be sure to tag us on Instagram and Twitter for a chance to be featured on our pages!