Pimp my dorm room

by Amy Kingsley

Consider, for a moment, the humble lava lamp.

You know, those hypnotizing experiments in molecular physics that lurk in dorm rooms everywhere. That languid union of colored water and translucent wax that burbles glowingly at night, until its eventual chemical breakdown or storage closet consignment.

Yeah. That lava lamp. Turns out they’re not as easy to find as one might think.

Take a spin through Glitters, Greensboro’s premiere head shop. The only lava lamp I could find sat on the checkout counter, out of commission. It wore a sign warning customers unhappy with their purchases that returns were good for store credit only.

The lava lamp turned 40 in 2003, which makes it old enough to have ushered several generations of the dorm room-bound through their soft drug experimentation. Its shape hasn’t changed much since the first model – the Century – was introduced. Lava lamps still sport the same top-heavy hourglass contour they’ve had since the height of their 1970s popularity.

These days, if you can find a lava lamp, you can get it in a number of different sizes. The largest top out at 27 inches; the smallest, 10 ½ inches.

It could be that incoming college students raided Glitters’ supply of lava lamps. I wouldn’t know, since the proprietor declined to comment for this story. At any rate, the downtown emporium of incense and, uh, tobacco accessories has plenty of other stuff to help make your dorm room feel like home.

Dorm rooms can be tricky spaces to personalize. They usually come pre-furnished, and with a prohibition against painting. Also, they’re small. Dorm rooms at Guilford College – the only institution that provides room dimensions on its website – top out at about 200 feet square.

Which pretty much limits you, the college student, to throw pillows, rugs and posters. Let’s start with the last category.

Glitters has a collection of wall posters agreeable to music fans of any almost stripe (except maybe Brian Clarey – sorry boss, I didn’t see any featuring Billy Joel). Old standbys like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Thelonius Monk and John Lennon shared bin space with upstarts like Snoop Dogg, Bjork and Fall Out Boy.

In addition, the venerable shop had plenty of beaded lamps that would probably look pretty good on the institutional desk built into your dorm room wall. They have candles, too, and plenty of incense. But don’t think about lighting either, both are banned at all of the Triad-area institutions of higher learning.

For a chicer look, try Target. They stock extra-long twin sheets made out of jersey material, and an assortment of affordable throw pillows. Their wall accessories have a bland, sophisticated feel: think natural grain wood and nature silhouettes.

If you don’t mind driving, Ikea has a store in Charlotte, and lately they’ve been pushing their offerings for the college set. On their website, they feature dream dorm rooms larger than any in the real world. But they also have coordinated sheet sets and Flokati rugs, if that’s your thing.

Back at Glitters, as I leave, I spot a basket of Ugly Dolls near the front door. The literature says these hand-sewn critters with odd-numbered limbs are the hot new thing. They’re cute, I think, and might look nice in a dorm room. Maybe they’ll even be the new lava lamp.

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