It’s the end of summer and that means back to school.

Most young people of all ages are thinking about advancing to the next grade, new clothes, re-connecting with classmates and maybe even new schools.

Meanwhile, parents are looking at the home-study environment, seeking functional decorating tips.

Whether the space is for elementary, middle, high school students or college dorms… the main problem is how to effectively and aesthetically utilize a small mixed use or a dual-purpose area for studying, sleeping and some entertaining.

Charron Capri, www.CharronCapriDesigns.net

Los Angeles based interior designer, Charron Capri of Charron Capri Designs, offers some ideas.

“Nothing in a small space gets to have just one job,” said Capri. “For example, storage cubes can act as seating or as a coffee table. A flat screen TV can double as a computer monitor (Phillips has a great inexpensive model). Bulletin boards, painted or wrapped in fabric, can be wall art. Beds can serve as sofas. Ikea has some of the best space efficient dual functioning furniture options.”

What should be kept in mind as far as decorating for male students vs. female students?

“The inspiration piece!” Capri emphatically states. “I believe that you have to start with an inspiration piece that helps to drive the direction and theme of the space for either gender. An inspiration piece can be a favorite book, movie, soda, color, art or location. It can be anything that truly resonates with the student so that they love being in the space even when it’s time to study!”

“The fun factor comes with the color and textures that items add to the space and by using usual items for an alternative purpose. For example, in a young budding artist’s room, I attached easels of varying sizes in a random pattern on the wall which became anchors for art, pictures, hats and accessories,” said Capri.

What about storage ideas for small areas?

“The key is to use every nook and cranny as an opportunity to create a storage hub. No wasted space! I’ve gone as far as adding pockets onto curtain panels in order to store jewelry and other small items in a dorm room. An inexpensive storage solution is to use old shoe boxes and spray them all the same color or wrap milk crates in a coordinating fabric as the pillowcases and then line them under the bed to create a bed skirt of sorts.”

How important is lighting?

“Lighting creates the overall mood of the room. I will admit, even for designers, it’s often approached as an after-thought instead of a focal piece. When considering lighting whether its task, track or ambient, it’s important to create a balanced lighting plan with light fixtures at varying heights and in at least three different locations or zones. Make sure that the light fixtures’ illumination abilities support the activity in that particular zone.”

Storage cube, footlocker, and multi-direction light provide multiple functions for dorm rooms

Where do you begin?

“Before you step foot in a store or start surfing the web, establish a theme so you’re not running around without direction. Remember that a dorm room will be their first space outside of the home so it’s truly an opportunity for their individual style and tastes to develop and drive the theme.”

How about some budget-friendly decorating ideas?

“A few yards of fabric can go a long way. You can wrap shelves in it, attach it to a tension rod, and suspend across a wall to add lots of visual interest. Add drama and color to a space by using fabric to create a desk chair cover, accent pillows or wall art. I’m also a fan of removable wallpaper for dorm rooms or temporary spaces. To cut cost on floor treatments buy two smaller rugs and attach them together on the backside with electrical tape instead of spending the money on the larger expensive rug,” said Capri.

Here are some cool ideas that we found while surfing the Internet.

Footlockers made of durable plastic come in an assortment of designer colors. Look for the ones that can accommodate a pad lock – affordable and perfect for that sense of privacy when you share a room. For more durable storage seats, look for ottomans with removable lids that can accommodate human weight.

Online shopping makes study room or dorm decorating a breeze. Purchased items can be delivered straight to the student’s residence. Almost all retail stores (Target, Walmart, Sears, etc.) advertise special “online only” deals that can include free or reduced shipping charges.

The new Slouch Couch, at www.dormco.com

DormCo.com offers 1,400 affordable items for student living spaces and shipping is guaranteed at a flat rate of $2.95 for the entire order. Some of their unique items include Peel N Stick wall frames, Slouchback (turns dorm bed into a sofa), storage cubes, and removable glue dots (to hang posters and pics).

Elaine Griffin, author of “Design Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator,” recommends that simple lines are best when purchasing cheap furniture. She warns that inexpensive pieces can look tacky when they’re over embellished. But, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and it’s hard to harness youthful creativity and expressions of….well…whatever!

So, have fun. Decorating for young people is neither permanent nor expensive. Either the items wear out quickly or they get tired of them. If the price is right, why not change it up and keep the look fresh and exciting?