TCU students turn their cramped dorm room into a cozy sanctuary

Posted Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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It’s always a challenge to jam two college coeds and all their gear into a dorm room, but two young women from Houston who moved into TCU’s venerated Milton Daniel Hall a couple of weeks ago had no intention of shoehorning all their stuff into the 11-by-15-foot space with no regard to the ambiance of the place.

These two, who are part of the “Honors College,” had a sophisticated vision of how they wanted to live — even when sharing a small room — and got it with help from a pro at home.

High school friends Madeline Wadsworth and Blair Tyson, both 18, always imagined this little home-away-from-home would be a peaceful haven even as campus life burbled around them.

“We wanted it clean and calm,” says Wadsworth, a journalism major.

“That’s right, from fabrics to colors, everything had to be calming,” says Tyson, who is an engineering student and, like her friend, a self-proclaimed neat-nick of the first order.

But they knew creating harmony in such cramped quarters would be tough, and so the young women took this vision to Wadsworth’s mom, Mimi Wadsworth, an interior designer and owner of Boxwood Interiors in Houston, who treated them as she would any well-loved, VIP clients.

“They came to my shop and I asked them what they pictured in their room,” says Mimi Wadsworth. “‘Tranquil,’ ‘calm’ and ‘clean looking’ were words they used. We looked at fabrics and picked colors. …They wanted lots of white.

“I pulled in some gray and suggested a darker color. …They wanted some deep purple and they liked a paler lavender color. I understood their vision and I ran with it,” she says.

They settled into a white, lavender, gray and smoke palette. All the bed linens are from Pine Cone Hill, says Mimi Wadsworth, but the custom pillows fashioned from the young women’s own fabric selections were made in house by Mimi’s aunt, who has long made the pillows for Boxwood Interiors.

The bamboo desk chairs came from Belgium.

“They’re very old,” says the mother-designer.

She had the chairs painted, but before upholstering them in a soft gray indoor-outdoor linen fabric, she sent them to Monogram Market in Houston, along with two large pillows for the bed, to be personalized.

“The monograms on the chairs were a surprise for the girls,” she explains.

But the biggest surprise was the pair of dark purple button-tufted ottomans. The ottoman frames were custom made to her specifications and painted to match the chair frames, then covered in Schumacher velvet in the richest shade of purple.

“The girls love them. They use them for extra seating … and to get into those beds!” she says.

Storage and study in this residence hall are often relegated to that under-the-bed space. But these coeds didn’t want the two desks that came with the room to be jammed under those tall beds.

“It’s too dark … like a little cave,” says Tyson. So the desks were placed side by side against one wall and outfitted with large mirrors from Z Gallerie. The mirrors add sparkle and expand the visual feel of the room, and they turn those study desks into all-important makeup stations, too. Chrome desk lamps on chunky Lucite bases add a bit of panache, as well.

“My daughter always loved Lucite, and she asked for something with Lucite. This was about the only way I could work it in,” says Mimi.

But there was still the matter of storage. The dark brown chests of drawers that came with the room were pushed under the tall beds, along with newly purchased white locking file cabinets and a stack of translucent plastic drawers from the Container Store for more storage.

“We use the top drawer of the filing cabinet for files and the bottom drawer to lock up valuables: jewelry, cash, whatever,” says Madeline.

A six-hook over-the-door hanger at the foot of one bed holds the monogrammed towels purchased online from Rue La La. And there are more bins and boxes neatly arranged on the floor around the sink. The women share a bath at the end of the hall with everyone else on that wing.

Walls are dressed with a collection of watercolor prints by Clare S. Wilson: handbags, perfume bottles, sunglasses all in matching frames. The dormitory-issue window blinds were left in place but softened with custom-made drapes in a dove gray linen, which adds another layer of softness and sophistication.

Wood floors are crowned with lavender and white rugs from Dash & Albert Rug Company, and all of it was finished before school began.

With sorority rush behind them and classes in full swing, Blair and Madeline are hitting the books, living on pretzels and hummus, Luna Bars and Greek yogurt, delighted that their little room really is the sanctuary they had envisioned.

Designer mom Mimi is just as pleased. “Oh my gosh, we had so much fun,” says Mimi. She is careful to sidestep all questions about the costs of such a project, and it’s clear that for her, working with these two clients has been a priceless experience.

Mary Rogers is a freelance writer. mary@maryrussellrogers.com

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