Off to College: Favorite Finds

By Kate Riley August 16, 2012

My stepdaughter is home right now after her few weeks of traveling, but back to college next week and we’ve been busily working on a design plan for her room.  After dorm life, she’s settled in a house with friends near campus and has her first single girl room all to herself, so we’re shopping for fun yet sophisticated bedding, a great computer desk, and other accents.

All this research has led me to some favorite bedding and desk finds, thought I’d share!

medallions/dip dye surf/ramona/ikat scroll

atlas duvet/striped blanket/navy striped bedding/baha beach


Desks & Chairs !

blue parsons/fur chair/aluminum chair/wood desk

gloss desk/apple chair/pink chair/white desk/black desk/red chair

I finally settled on a desk (we bought this one) and now it’s time to find all the other necessities in the next few days.  There will be trips to IKEA, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Craigslist is getting some traffic too.

Any of you have young’uns off to college this fall?  Where do you shop for all their campus needs?  How are you feeling?  Scared, tearful, jumping for joy?




  1. My daughter is starting her final year away at school. She’s living in the same townhouse that she moved into last August, so no shopping for me this year. But last year it was Criagslist, Goodwill, BB&B, Stien Mart, Marshall’s, T J Maxx and Home Goods. I spent all day one Saturday pulling together new bedding for her. She’s particular about the feel, and of course the look. I was lucky enough to get one euro sham at Marshall’s, another at Home Goods, and the comforter at T J Maxx – all from the same Calvin Klein line. Stein Mart had the best prices on throw pillows, I thought. A lamp from Goodwill, painted, and updated with a shade from Ikea. And my favorite part – I painted a solid wood nightstand that my neighbor threw in the dumpster and I dug it out. It looked great in gray with new crystal knobs from Walmart. She’s still loving her room this year.
    Oh, another tip – cheapest place for pillow forms for euro shams is definitely Ikea.

    • Wow Kim, you’re so resourceful finding all that CK bedding! We’re shopping everywhere too, since she’s off at school in Southern Cali, it makes it tougher to DIY for me, but we’re on the hunt!

  2. My daughter shopped her sorority sisters who were seniors and leaving town the year she moved off campus. Lots of bargins to be had, no one wanted to bother moving all that furniture home. Love your choices!

  3. College was only a few years ago for me, and I’m feeling reminiscent! I recommend encouraging your stepdaughter to get what she LOVES, not what she thinks is OK. This is the true beginning of her collection of “stuff” – the stuff she’ll somehow never get rid of! I still have my dorm comforter (that I’ve used as a blanket on my full size bed and now use as spare bedding for the blow-up mattress), many of my towels and throw pillows, and countless little things I bought for college. I’m sure someday I’ll donate the rest of my college “stuff” away, but I appreciate its years of use. Also, the comforter is STILL beautiful in my eyes.

    • Audrey, we were just discussing that! We splurged on a beautiful new mirror for above her desk so that it’s a combination study center and vanity. Also I’m surprising her with her favorite headboard, the Moroccan from West Elm – we both love it! She will have a few nice things that will remain hers for years to come.

  4. I looked at that West Elm ikat bedding as well! It’s very trendy, and kind of reminds me of your bedspread…

  5. Dd is leaving next week for her second year. This year she is in the brand new dorms so she will have her own room. Problem is they are so new we haven’t been able to see them or get measurements. So we are guessing or will buy there. Living room looks like a storage locker with bins and bags stacked and ready to go. This year should be easier when she leaves. Last yeah DH had a real hard time!

  6. Our daughter is a senior in college and also moved into a darling house two blocks from campus.
    We did the same finding things thru craigslist, target, IKEA etc….her room is soooo cute & she loves it!
    She and her roomies were able to paint to freshen up the rooms. Love the first comforter – where is it from? Hope she has a wonderful college yr.

  7. No young ones off to college in this house except mom (myself), but I do love the bedding finds and the cute colorful desk chairs!

    Good luck to your step daughter and yippee on her own “space”!

  8. My oldest is heading to college for the first time. I have shopped the house for many items, and Ikea for bedding/baskets and organizational items. Also Costco has great prices for towels that are thick and luxurious!.
    A friend who owns Urbanwall Decals {} has made us a custom sized chalkboard decals for her walls since we can’t nail or tape anything to the wall!

  9. It warms my heart when I hear of wonderful step moms, because I had a horrible stepmom that ruined my childhood. So I have great respect for you that you are going out of your way for your step-daughter, to show her that she matters and that you care. I wish you nothing but a successful happy life, you deserve it!

  10. Hi Kate, my daughter just graduated from college and now my son leaves next week to begin ;). It is funny how different the girl/boy experience is!! She had/has SOOO much stuff! My son is less picky, but it is kind of endearing how he and his roommate actually do care about some of the details. They picked out a shag rug at Home Depot that was only $24.99!

  11. My youngest will be off to college in a little less than 2 years. She’s excited and already looking at things for her dorm room. I enjoy decorating and I have to admit, I’m looking forward to shopping.

  12. Love that Ikat bedspread, would like it for myself! I have three sons and all are going to college in the fall, two (my twins) are starting their third year and my youngest his first year. Two will be living at home and one is in Minnesota. All he brought was a suitcase of cloths and will be getting what he needs there. I’ve been sending boxes of necessities and can’t wait to see how he “decorates”!

  13. If the student is staying in a dorm room, they’re usually very tiny. The bed is the largest piece of furniture, and is where *everyone* will sit. Plan on a bedspread that’s cute, but not too delicate, and can be washed. They really take a beating!

    Curtains, wall art, additional lighting, and a large durable carpet make the biggest impact. Anything else that isn’t for organization just takes up valuable space. Desks and dressers are usually provided by the school.

    None of this applies if you’re staying off-campus, of course!

  14. I loved back to school shopping… sigh. I miss college days. Luckly the school I went to (Illinois State), the apartments came furnised with large furniture so we never to worry about buying a sofa, bed, desks, end tables.

  15. Thank you CM, we have a really great relationship, I’ve raised her since she was 3!

  16. I clicked on the Medallions spread and it says, hand wash. Really? I supposed I could take a chance but hand wash a duvet? Pretty to look at but I guess not a great choice for me to live with. I was surprised.

    • Hi Sue, that’s disappointing! I might risk a “delicates cycle” and then air dry and press or a delicate dryer setting, hand washing would be a pain!

  17. We have been shopping the discount stores for month and found some great items. Our daughter was working at Pier 1 and got some gorgeous pillows and accessories. She wanted to invest in some nice things that she could use in the future. Not sure how I feel about her leaving :( Let’s just say that I think I’ll be doing a lot more blogging and DIY to keep myself busy!

  18. Girls are so different from boys! My oldest slept on the floor for 6 months because he was too lazy to go shopping for a bed. With both my boys, we watched female students and their parents haul box after box after box into the dorms (I didn’t even know where they were going to store anything in those small rooms) while my youngest had three bags (of course, we went shopping while we were there but still it amounted only to a couple of boxes). They really don’t want a lot of “stuff” – just the necessities, so for the most part we get whatever is cheap so that they can just give it to a friend when they graduate. The one thing I insisted on though was a good size desk and a good chair and nice bedding. Those we got at The Company Store, Staples, Office Depot (free delivery), and Ikea.

  19. Hi Kate,

    I loved your post…So timely! We just finished my son’s first room in his own house (house with friends anyway). He moved out of the dorms from last year and now it’s a whole new ball game. With 5 kids, we’re on a tight budget. So we did a lot of garage sale finds and turned them into cool pieces. But just like you, splurged on West Elm bedding and a shag rug. I was going to post some before and afters to show you… like our $5 nightstand and $3 chair… and the favorite headboard from a door. But I’ve only been doing the blog thing for a couple of months and not sure of the etiquette. If you want to see what we did… I’d love to share. My post is called “Design on a Dime… or Two” at… lol… or

    I absolutely love all the people in this DIY world. I went from sleeping in my car (three years ago) after a messy divorce to starting my own business and having a house again (albeit a rental). But your posts always offer great tips… and you have a way of making people who are broke, or coming back from being broke, feel like you get it! I really appreciate that! Thanks for the hard work and the way you include everyone. Ally

  20. Well I don’t have any children yet but I certainly remember how important it was for my college room to look PERFECT. The bedding you picked out for girls is so cute! Personally, I would swipe that gorgeous muted chevron patterned duvet your have for the boys. I think it could definitely be unisex. West Elm would be a great place to pick up pillows and accessories to help finish everything off. Good Luck!

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