Tess Bowler ’25 visits – and photographs – some of the quirkiest dorms on campus.
Flipping through an Architectural Digest article about America’s finest college dormitories, I’m not even a little surprised Dartmouth didn’t make it. Although my family and friends back home have often described our campus as idyllic, that’s probably because they’ve never had to use the gender-neutral bathroom in the Masses or choose whether or not to turn on the sterile overhead lights in the Choates while they’ make out with someone again. Despite the challenges our shabby dormitories pose to students, some have managed to make it work.
“The Cabin”, Allie Roehm ’25 – Butterfield Hall
“We call my room ‘The Cabin’ because it feels like it—an old log cabin,” commented Röhm. “It’s a meeting place for my friends.”
I interviewed Rohm while sitting on her couch, comfy and checked—something like furniture I could only find at my aunt’s bed and breakfast in northern Wisconsin. Her overhead lights were off, but the room was still perfectly lit by lamps and candles scattered throughout the room.
Röhm finds that these two attributes—the seating and the lighting—bring her space together. “And definitely the wood paneling,” she adds, which gives her dorm a homey vibe — at least more so than the typical white plaster walls.
“I’m leaning [the cabin style]to.” Roehm nailed this design. Not a single item in the room feels out of place — from the paddle hanging from her ceiling, to the Ledyard jacket hanging over her couch, to the vintage covers of the National Geographic magazine on her wall It feels like you just walked into someone’s house, not someone’s dorm at Butterfield Hall.
For Röhm, her goal was to find the balance between too much decoration and too little. “My room at home is so minimalistic, so I became too maximalist in my dorm the first year. I wanted to call it back this year.”
Needless to say, she’s done more than meet that goal – she’s created her own quaint cottage out of her little slice of Dartmouth.
“The Museum”, McKenna Kellner ’23 – West Wheelock Street (off campus)
Kellner lives in an off-campus apartment just down West Wheelock Street. I could see her room from the street before I even entered the house – a brightly lit room covered with jewelry and various posters.
“I like colorful things and I like weird things,” said Kellner, imagining her wild cocoon of a bedroom. “I like collections of objects.”
That statement rings true: She has more posters and newspaper clippings than I can count, bits of yarn stretched across her walls, and old baby dolls hung by her window. “I just get around [my decorations],” she said. “I collect a lot and move things around.”
On the origins of her style, Kellner noted that she only started decorating in such eclectic ways when she moved into her current home, where she was able to settle down after bouncing around college during the COVID years.
“I started decorating things like this while I was living at my friend Ryan’s house due to COVID. We had the whole room and we decorated it with lots of found objects – especially clips from Playboy. But I was able to really accumulate stuff when I moved into this room about a year ago,” she said.
Waiter, who studies studio art, considers her bedroom both a living space and a creative space. “I like to think about it [my room] as a studio space or even just curated objects,” she said. “I like to make a little museum out of it.” Every inch of Kellner’s room offers something new; Some treasures in her collection include a large knitted spider web, her own paintings, poems on dinner tickets, and a small shrine to Shane from The L Word. Playboy cutouts still adorn her walls, and her eyes followed me around the room like tiny naked Mona Lisas.
During her freshman year of college, the only decoration Waiter had was a single Fleetwood Mac poster, which she had to throw away when she moved out, pale in comparison to the decorations she’s amassed today. “I’m in my room a lot more now than I was before I set it up this way,” she commented.
Like almost everyone, Kellner hates the thought of moving. “I’m really scared of taking things out of this room,” she said. “I’m between wanting to avoid stress and waiting until the last second and enjoying it while I have it.”
“The Penthouse”, Chelsea Kuys ’25 – McLane
Kuys’ dorm room feels like you’re in a bedroom owned by the resident “cool girl” of a teenage sitcom. Everything is a fantastic pop of color – from the tiny blue butterflies on the wall to the neon “BAR” sign above her 1960s-style fridge and her pink carpet. When I was being interviewed for this article, two of Kuys’ friends reached out to me and said I just had to talk to her – and I can see why. Her dorm is every girl’s dream – outfitted with cool lights, mini disco balls and a velvet couch: perfect for getting ready for a night out or just spending time with friends.
“I would describe my aesthetic as fun, even funky,” Kuys commented. “I really like the look of cool New York loft apartments with a ‘pop art’ design, that’s where I got my inspiration from.”
Posters depicting everything from the shores of Nice, France to vintage advertisements for Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival line their walls from top to bottom. Despite the variety and number of their decorations, the space remains coherent; everything just works.
While decorating her dormitories in freshman and sophomore, Kuys used the leap from high school to Hanover to reinvent her style. “I feel like my room in high school was just a collection of things from my childhood, but college was nice because it was like a complete rerun. I was able to try out new design options.”
Right now, most of us are a long way from the place we’ve called “home” our entire lives. Finding a way to reproduce that comfort in a new place can be difficult, but Kuys feels like she did just that.
“It’s hard to really feel at home in college, everything is so different. But I feel like since I’ve covered every wall and surface, it feels more like my own space, like my own home.”