. - WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) - Now that she doesn't have to share, University of Maryland student Brianna Kovacs has plans for her own room
in an on-campus apartment this fall with a travel theme.
"I already had so much travel stuff, and since I really love traveling and have all these pictures, I really wanted to make it cohesive in my room," Kovacs said.
Retailers have caught on to students' desires to feel at home away from home, and dorm decor and furnishings will account for more than $6 billion in spending this back-to-school season.
But for students and families already squeezed by tuition -- piling on more costs can be a stretch.
Brianna's idea of starting with her own photos -- is right in line with the advice of Washington-based designer Kerra Michele Huerta.
"Grab a $3 frame with a mat, pop it in, it's on the wall and it looks much more expensive than it actually was. and it personalizes your space that was otherwise a cookie-cutter dorm room or rental apartment," Huerta said.
Huerta's blog, Apartment Envy, is full of inexpensive ideas for temporary spaces. like baskets to maximize space from floor to ceiling.
Removable wallpaper to brighten a backsplash or even a drab appliance. And for students like Brianna with plenty of textbooks, putting them to work.
"I keep my books and my magazines in stacks of like items near seating and I use them as side tables and extra surface storage for when guests come over they have a place to set their drinks down," Huerta said.
Outside of her travel-themed room, Brianna will share common areas with other classmates
"We got one of those giant wall tapestries. but, other than that, it's going to be pretty plain and simple and we're basically thinking we'll figure it out when we get there and buy whatever else we need to," Kovacs said.
Should they run into decorating disagreements, Huerta advises finding common ground.
My tip for roommates is if you can agree on a color scheme or an overall color that everyone agrees upon or really likes, it doesn't really matter what the style of the pieces are, they'll all just sort of go together or blend together. To make a small space feel bigger and brighter, ditch the old blinds, and cover windows with an inexpensive fabric for privacy instead.
"The windows and natural light available is a really great way to keep a space feeling larger and more airy", Huerta said.
Little things to make dorm sweet dorm feel more like home sweet home.