I haven't lived in a dorm room since 1974, but the finds at Deck My Dorm (deckmydorm.com) are (almost) enough to make me willing to risk flunking Biology 101 again -- never did master memorizing all 208 bones of the human body, though I passed by a whisker the second time, when I took it Pass/Fail. The site has bedding, accessories, and trunks with stylish flair from vintage to shabby chic to classic. Here's a rhino sticker trunk, which the student can decorate with mementos and use for packing and as furniture. It comes in various sizes and colors from traditional to neon, starting at $134.95.
Rhino Sticker Trunk from Deck My Dorm
Here's a vintage-look bedding set for $159.95.
Shabby Chic Satin Quilt Set from Deck My Dorm, $159.95
To see some cool but accessible and reasonably priced art that would work well for dorm rooms, go to a fun design blog, prettypinktulips.com (http://www.prettypinktulips.com/search?q=jen+ramos). Here's a teaser:
Jen Ramos "Love" print, $25
available at madebygirl.com
I'm also very impressed with the website The Daily Grommet, which has some great back to college or school products, along with tons of other practical, good-looking stuff for babies (which made my doting grandma's heart go pittypat). Using the slogan "Fresh Finds, True Stories," it's a curated electronic marketplace that offers items from retailers that aren't yet widely known -- a bit like etsy, only for inventors. Its mission is to support companies and people who are making products that are pleasingly designed, green, handcrafted, unique, innovative or some combination thereof (http://www.dailygrommet.com/). You can sign up for daily emails about new products.
Each item comes with the back story of the product and its makers via lively videos and written narratives. Ila Security, for example, makes personal security alarms (http://www.dailygrommet.com/products/503-ila-security-personal-alarms). The company is run by three men who wanted to provide their wives and daughters with devices that are designed to shock and disorient attackers, but are smaller and more stylish looking than whistles or mace, plus harder to use against the victim. Important to women is that these safety items look not dorky but cute, as if they could be a tech or beauty item. For example, the Dusk alarm -- named after the Hindu goddess of speech -- can be worn on a keychain or purse. It emits a bloodcurdling, high-pitched female scream and is easy to set off by pulling a small chain, but unlikely to go off accidentally in your purse in the middle of a lecture. The reasoning behind the scream is that women often go silent when they are frightened. It looks like an uncommonly pretty cell phone.
The company also sells a wedge that can be slipped under a hotel or dorm room door and that sends off a high-decibel alarm when the door is opened.
Another cool back to school or college item available at The Daily Grommet is a Livescribe smart pen, starting at $99.95, that marries a ballpoint pen and voice recorder, so you can save digital copies of handwrittten notes and audio recordings for times when you don't want to lug a laptop around. http://www.dailygrommet.com/products/livescribe-echo-smartpen
I also liked the stylish look of the Tucker Collection Lamp, a minimalist acrylic table lamp that plays on positive and negative space. It's one of scads of cool things from the Working Class Studio of the acclaimed Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
Tucker Lamp, $110
(Sorry, the hipster's scarlet fedora is not for sale).