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Build Your Desk Out of Cardboard for Free

These kind of things can be surprisingly sturdy, and if you do most of your heavy construction in the studio—more fun and inspiring than working alone in your room—you won't need much structure anyway. Just a place to put your electric sandwich press on. Loser.

(If you can't improvise and want something fancier, you can try foldschool.)

Make Dinner from Practically Nothing

Pizza and macaroni-and-cheese may get you through sophomore year, but at some point you have to grow up a bit and look after that body you've been dragging around the campus. There are lots of 10-minute recipe sites around, but our fave is a quick page on how to make dinner from practically nothing. Sound enticing? It oughta. The presumption here is that you have 4 things stocked in your kitchen, which we're betting you do: Onions, Pasta, Cheese, Canned foods (tomatoes, beans, tuna, etc.), and Frozen vegetables (spinach, broccoli, peas, etc.).

Wait, this actually kinda sounds a lot  like pizza and macaroni-and cheese! Well, you're sure to love it then!

Small Spaces Guide

Shoulder-to-shoulder living is a given if you're in college, but you mustn't succumb to interior design fouls like using the floor as a closet or your pillow as a place mat. And please take those Natty Ice posters down. You can keep the X-mas lights as long as they're tastefully strung (a.k.a. not in a tangled pile on the floor).

When it comes to cramped quarters, Apartment Therapy really knows what's up. Naturally, they've got some great tips for maximizing a modest abode, and if you're feeling cabin feverish, you should remind yourself of the reasons why small spaces are better than big ones. Also check out their Smallest Coolest Apartments 2007 winners. Oh, and if you jerry-rigged some cable, watch Small Space, Big Style on HGTV to get inspired. (Great excuse to veg out!)

Witness the awesomeness that is IKEA Hacker

We know you're getting most of your furniture from IKEA anyway, but out-of-the-box is for buffers. Designers need to get their hands dirty with even the cleanest Swedish goods, and luckily, there's just the place for you on the web: ikeahacker. This site is chock full of amazing mods to existing IKEAware, including handy tips on painting difficult surfaces and other construction tricks. Favorites for hack2school are the super-swanky little umbrellas, big light, and the full-on didier's living structure, but you can find just about anything here. So as smart as IKEA stuff already is, now you can make it even smarter.

Bubble Scrubber

For the love of hygiene, keep your end of the dishwashing bargain and have a little fun to boot. Before your next turn to scour rolls around, invest in a Bubble Scrubber. Let's just hope your annoying roommate's as into it as you are.

Dorm Drop-Off: Making a Nightmare into a Dream
By Steven Heller

The annual running of the bulls in Pamplona is a cakewalk compared to moving into any urban campus college dorm. Despite the best intentioned systems configured for effortless access, the fact that scores of new freshman—jumpy about their entirely new surround—and their anxious parents—agitated about their empty nests—converge at the same time and place with a few elevators and limited parking is a blueprint for meltdown or worse.

Although in real time this annual ritual quickly comes and goes, when one is in its throes it feels like forever. Hence, the potential for intense and intestinal distress exponentially increases, particularly as parental memories of the first step, first bite of solid food, first day of school, and first college tuition payment come flooding in. Oh, the humanity!

Students who follow this method will doubtless feel superior to other students who do not have a system. Parents who encourage this method will doubtless feel less stressed and far superior to other parents who are scrambling for wheeled bins after their assigned parking times have expired.

In anticipation of this dreaded day when, in my case, my only male heir leaves his only family for his new home, I have drawn on my decades of acquired design know-how—lessons learned at the feet of some great modernists whose utopian mission was to make the world a better place—to offer a solution to the proverbial problem. Indeed what is good design if it can't help ease the stress and strain of daily life?

So to reduce the pain of this rite of passage, I designed the following strategic steps for getting through this nightmare without the usual angst or remorse.

Continue reading Dorm Drop-Off: Making a Nightmare into a Dream by Steven Heller.

Cool Points on the Cheap with Readymech

Everyone loves a sweet tchotchke here and there to add some personal flair to a living space, as microscopic as yours may be. If you can't afford those crazy popular vinyl toys and such, print and fold your own for free! (Well, besides the menial cost of paper and printer ink, but that's in your budget right?) Readymechs, designed by graphic design group FWIS, are flat pack toys that can be printed out on 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper to be cut out and assembled by you. There are 22 in all so if your room's looking pizzaz-less, this is a no-fail way to jazz it up. (Also a nice little warm-up before the real model-making mayhem begins!)

DIY Dixie Cup Spherical Dodecahedron Lamp Shade

Here we have a true example of "design within reach." No, not the store that has all sorts of stuff that costs as much as your education. We're talking about the Dixie Cup Spherical Dodecahedron Lamp Shade, an affordable lighting hack that looks as snazzy as it is easy to make. If you long for a designer dorm room, whip up one, two, or five of these for some instant chic! If you're feeling extra granola, comb the campus for used cups strewn about...but it might take you a while to find enough cups—maybe after you graduate?

T-Shirt Folder

If your folks are coming for a "surprise visit" (your sister tipped you off), you might want to straighten up a little. Wanna really impress them? Have all your t-shirts folded perfectly in your closet with this DIY shirt folder. Too much construction? Try this old favorite.

Do Your Laundry in the Shower

We're not endorsing this or recommending it, but one of the most infamous hacks we've ever heard of is students laundering their sheets on the floor of the stall while taking a shower—just moving their feet around to agitate, soap, and rinse. Now, this seems more sad than ingenious (although pretty darn ingenious), but if you want the recipe, look here. And if you want a video on a variation—this one wearing your dirty clothes—click above. Yikes.

Get Cork Out of Bottle

As hacks go, this one is all show, but for those rare occasions when you accidentally finish a bottle of wine and then accidentally push the cork back into the bottle while it's empty and accidentally have YouTube open in your browser, well then, knock yourself out. Cool though.

Wake the ***k Up!

9 A.M. studio class? No? Oh, Art History!?! Hope you like coffee.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is wake up early so that you have enough time to at least grab a bite, spray air freshener on your pants, get your stuff together, and shake off the morning grogginess—all without  being late. This means no snoozing!

If getting up in the morning feels like medieval torture to you, then you might want to consider some serious clock choices that will irritate you awake, but still look cool on the night stand. If you wait too long, Clocky jumps from any surface as high as 2 feet and then hides somewhere while making really annoying beeping noises. If you're more the adventurous type, the Danger Bomb clock will scare you the "f" awake with explosion sounds and can only be turned off by "disarming" it with the right code.

...and there's always training yourself to wake up without an alarm clock. Good luck with that.

Designer Dorm Prank

Just one prank to show here, but one is all we need. The lesson is that if you're going to do it, you gotta go all the way.