Welcome to the Era of the $10,000 Designer Dorm Room
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Welcome to the Era of the $10,000 Designer Dorm Room

College students hungry for comfort and TikTok acclaim are pouring extra creativity into decorating their living spaces

Thu, Sep 8, 2022 1:35pmGrey Clock 3 min

Dorm rooms are designed to be utilitarian: 12-by-19 feet of standard-issue furniture and cinder-block walls.

Don’t tell that to today’s college freshmen.

At schools across the country, students are locked in unofficial competitions for who can make their dorms the least dorm like. Some wealthier families are spending hundreds of dollars or more on dormitory décor, even hiring designers. Other students are doing time-intensive DIY projects on the cheap. Some of those efforts culminate in dorm-room-transformation videos that rack up millions of views on TikTok.

The over-the-top rooms are often a collaboration between kids and their parents and stand as a contrast to last year, when many students weren’t allowed to have anyone help them move in at all due to Covid-19 concerns.

University of Mississippi freshmen Ansley Spinks and Taylor Robinson live in one of the most viral examples. The barren “before” and tricked-out “after” TikTok video of their violet-accented room has 3.8 million views and thousands of comments to the tune of, “OMG that looks like a room in a normal house.”

The two women and their moms, who didn’t meet until move-in day, had been sending each other messages since late May. They ordered light-up signs spelling out their names off Etsy, picked out matching bedding and built a virtual 3-D model of the room to workshop layouts, landing on one with a dedicated lounge space for watching TV.

Amber Park, Ansley’s mother, says the eight-hour assembly and roughly $2,000 they spent (that the girls largely funded themselves) is nothing compared with what she’s heard some other moms say they pay.

“It’s a crazy thing, especially in the South,” says Ms. Park, a 48-year-old human-resources consultant who lives in Marietta, Ga.

Dozens of families pay Dawn Thomas of After Five Designs as much as $10,000 to give their kids magazine-worthy rooms. Ms. Thomas has been decorating dorms at schools like the University of Alabama, Ole Miss and UCLA for 19 years. She says this year is different in how much pressure students are putting on themselves to have perfectly Instagrammable rooms. The $1,050 cabinet she designed to camouflage a mini-fridge sold out in a matter of weeks.

“Some days I go, ‘Do people do all this for a picture? Are they doing it for Instagram?’” says Ms. Thomas, who is based in Jackson, Miss. She says she gets effusive thank-you texts from moms when they’re back home for giving their kids a cozy place to live.

For Sydney Hargrove, having a swoon-worthy room is a matter of identity. The 18-year-old sophomore at New York City’s Hunter College says she made a lot of her friends during her freshman year by leaving her door open. This year’s room features a wall-to-wall green shag rug and black-and-white polka dotted peel-and-stick wallpaper.

Some of the two million people who viewed the TikTok of her room have criticised her for investing so much time and money in a space she’s spending less than a year in. She says the effort is worth it—and that she spent a lot less than people think. (About $100 this year and $300 last, she says, which she earned at her summer job working at a New Jersey beach.)

“With all the things going on in the world, there’s so much uncertainty, and New York is a tumultuous place to live, so coming back to this dorm is a form of therapy,” she says.

Allyson Schall, a senior at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio, has done up her dorm every year. She believes this year’s edition takes the cake. As a residential adviser, she wanted to create a space where freshmen on her floor would feel comfortable hanging out.

“It looked like a jail cell in the beginning,” Ms. Schall, 21, says.

She leveraged her summer job at Target to snatch up a $300 midcentury-modern-inspired armchair on sale for $80. She rigged an outdoor lantern to the ceiling using zip ties and command strips for mood lighting.

Her parents were supportive of her passion for interior design—until they had to help unload three cars’ worth of belongings, including a headboard her father built.

Bayla Felton-Jones, a freshman at Elizabeth City State University, in Elizabeth City, N.C., spent days this past summer planning every inch of his “light and airy modern” room. That includes the spacing of the honours certificates above his bed and the fluffy grey welcome mat outside his door.

“I want my college experience to be one I can remember, since I got robbed of high school with Covid, and my room is a part of that,” says Mr. Felton-Jones, 18.

His roommate, Quinn Miller, missed the memo.

Unable to find Mr. Miller on Instagram or Facebook before move-in on Aug. 16, Mr. Felton-Jones hoped for the best. He got pure practicality: blank walls, one pillow and a towel thrown over the end of the bed.

Mr. Miller won’t argue that he’s a minimalist. “I just sleep here pretty much,” says Mr. Miller, 20. “I don’t see a point in spending money on things that I don’t need.”

Mr. Felton-Jones’s friends and parents find the contrast between the two halves of the room hilarious. They tell him that when they walk in, “You first look at heaven, and then you look over and you’re like, ‘Oh, well, never mind.’ ”

His saving grace? The unmade bed is at least in his colour scheme.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).


People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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