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Crafting a Campus Sanctuary with Emily Shaw ’20

Emily Shaw ’20
TikTok design star Emily Shaw ’20 has budget tips and tricks for turning a campus residence into a home.
By: Sarah Sweeney

Interior designer Emily Shaw ’20 knows a thing or two about how to make the most of a small space—and do it affordably. After graduating from Endicott’s interior design program, she quickly went viral for her social media posts documenting the renovation of her parents’ home (while they were away for the month!) with just a $1,000 budget.

These days, she’s busy renovating a home of her own and chronicling more of her fun, funky, DIY, and budget design hacks for her 5.4 million TikTok followers. Lauded for her personable approach and for transforming everyday items into something innovative and useful, Shaw chatted with us about how Endicott students can transform a campus residence into a sanctuary.

Where did you live while you were a student at Endicott?

When I was at Endicott, I lived in Hamilton Hall, Stoneridge Hall, Marblehead Hall, and Tower. I also stayed in Standish Hall over the summer once for an internship!

How would you say your decorating style changed over your four years here?

My style changed drastically while I was at Endicott because I was learning about so much history and I was exposed to so many aesthetics in my program. I would say that commercial design influenced me tremendously and the loud colors and shapes of my current style can be attributed to that.

With your intimate knowledge of Endicott’s residence halls, how can students both thrive in and make the best use of small living spaces?

My goal when I was at Endicott was always to make my dorm feel like a home. Adding elements like a DIY headboard, an area rug, or large framed art can make a space look a lot more luxurious. When it comes to functionality, one of my favorite ideas is to utilize peg boards. You can buy small pegboards (that are light enough to be mounted with a Command™ strip) and put them next to each other to create an aesthetic wall that also acts as storage to keep your desk decluttered. I did this in my dorm for two years and I loved it!

Emily Shaw ’20

Let’s talk about walls. How can students bring a bit of personality to walls that don’t involve posters?

If I could go back in time, I would experiment with peel and stick vinyl and wallpapers in my dorm room. You can cut so many fun shapes out of them like an arch to act as a headboard or to go behind your desk to add emphasis. I made a video about how I would decorate my dorm room if I could go back in time and I highlighted so many different design possibilities with peel and stick wallpaper.

@emilyrayna I know it’s extra but why not #dormtour #arttok #interiordesign #dorminspo ♬ Calm LoFi song(882353) - S_R
 You’re a big thrifter and you’re also great at taking materials and objects and using them for purposes they weren’t designed for. What are some common objects that can be used uncommonly?

Some of my favorite ideas involve baskets because there is so much you can do with them! You can put shallow baskets on the wall to act as boho-inspired decor. You could also punch a hole in the bottom of a basket and pair it with an inexpensive plug-in pendant for a cute light fixture! You could also use an old tote bag with pockets over the side of your bed to act as a caddy where you can put hard-to-reach items. You can also thrift large picture frames or placemats and turn them into headboards for your bed!

What budget-friendly stores do you recommend for students to source decorations and other goods?

You can find the most unique pieces on a budget from Amazon without a doubt, but I always recommend thrifting first! If your goal is unique pieces, you will find that at the thrift store and develop a curated style. Other stores I like to go to when I am focusing on a budget are Marshalls, Walmart, and even Dollar Tree.

@emilyrayna This ones for my bohemian followers! #DormDIY #InteriorDesign #showandtell #todayilearned ♬ original sound - jack stauber audios

Any other advice for students?

I know it can be a pain to loft your bed and have to climb into it, but I promise that the space is worth it to make your living space functional! Placing your desk next to your dresser (if it is a short dresser) gives you double the surface space for studying and leaves room for additional furniture items that make it feel like home.

Follow Shaw @emilyrayna on TikTok and @emilyrayna on Instagram for more design tips and tricks.