Early in my freshman year, my roommate, John, and I pooled together what little funds we had, trekked off to the local home improvement store and picked up some lumber, a handful of bolts and some wood stain. We had a plan.
The rooms in this particular residence hall were long and rectangular, with built-in closets at one end, built-in desks at the other and a couple of beds sandwiched in between. The room was cramped, sterile and barely left enough room to walk down the middle. What we were after with our collection of building materials was a little space. The way I saw it, the architect who drew up the blueprints for the residence hall was only interested in the economics of the building—squeezing in as many rooms and people as possible so the University could make as much money as possible. He had absolutely no interest designing for comfort or quality of life. And why not? After all, he didn’t have to live there.
We did, though. So we hauled our building materials back to our room and put our plan in motion. Our plan wasn’t original. It was one of those hand-me-down ideas from some previous generation of students that you hear about when you first move in and wonder how in the world you are ever going to live in such tiny, cramped quarters. Others in the hall built bunk beds to alleviate the limitations, which was fine. That freed up space in half the room. But our plan was more ambitious. Our plan was to build an A-frame-shaped loft that would raise both beds off the ground and free up all the space underneath.
So we found an old handsaw and an auger to drill the holes (power tools were out of our price range) and began construction. We moved our beds out into the hallway, laid out the wood and started building. Blueprints or any type of printed plans were, of course, nowhere to be found. We just winged it based on someone else’s description, making adjustments and alterations as we went along.
It took the better part of a day, but in the end it worked. We found a piece of carpeting, plugged in a mini-refrigerator, plopped down a couple of beanbag chairs and were living large.
That structure served us well. A lot of people commented on it. Some people copied it. Some really didn’t care, shaking their heads in disbelief and preferring to just live with what they got. For us, though, the loft made life in the dorms much more tolerable. Why suffer through the confines of what you’re given when a little ingenuity and effort can dramatically improve matters? Your home is your home, after all, no matter if it’s in a college dorm or a mansion on a hill.
And that’s one of the thoughts that led us to create the “Extreme Makeover: Dorm Edition” story in the summer issue of Xavier magazine. Xavier’s dorms are typically much nicer and accommodating to student life than they were back in the day—and they almost have to be since students today are used to a certain standard of living and will use the quality of their rooms as a factor in deciding where to go to school.
We had heard some stories about how students at other universities go to great lengths and expense to fix up their rooms. Some international students fixed theirs with a flair from their homeland. Others just brought in expensive accessories. We wondered if that was the case at Xavier, too, so we put out a call for dorm photos.
We also wondered what it would take to move a room from normal to nice, so we called a couple of Xavier grads who work in the home decorating business. We gave them $300—a reasonable expense account—and a list of regulations on what can and can’t be done with dorm rooms. “See what you can do,” we told them. They went to town and made over two dorm rooms, one for a pair of guys and one for a pair of girls. The end result? You’ll have to see for yourself. With photos from photographer Greg Rust and audio commentary from associate editor Caroline Purtell, we put together a slide show documenting the transformations. How did the rooms turn out? You be the judge. Click here to watch.
The students liked them, though. And why not? After all, your home is still your home, even if it’s in a college dorm.