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Design Your Dorm lets students virtually decorate their rooms

September 4, 2009 |  6:00 am

Dyd By now, most college freshmen are getting to know their new roommates; their moms' tears have dried; and the best years of their lives have just begun.

Great! Now what can be done about this dorm room, which looks the inside of a cinder-block factory?

Design Your Dorm aims to alleviate those "fresh out of Mom-and-Dad's house" woes with software that helps first-time interior decorators figure out a good look for their maiden interiors. Every college kid knows it's not easy to figure out whether a futon will fit in that tiny room or how much wall space will be left for that last Band of Horses poster.

Students can fire up the Design Your Dorm website, enter in a school name, dormitory building and room number, and the software will pull up a virtual room if it's in the system. (If you attend an unsupported school, you can enter the room's dimensions.) Then, drop in a couch, some storage containers and pick out a few posters, and you've got a pretty snazzy virtual room.

Jenny Jonsson, 18, from Bellevue, Wash., who just started at USC, was impressed with ...

... one feature in particular. "Not only can you drag and drop into it, but you can put stuff under things," she said, referring to the ability to purchase organizers and place them under beds.

The website makes its money by selling real versions of the virtual merchandise. The furniture is delivered to the dorm, and students can then arrange it with their virtual room as a blueprint. Nice work, dude!

The direct delivery service was especially appealing to Amanda Brooks, 18, who flew across the country to attend Marymount Manhattan College. "My mom really wants me to buy stuff from it," she said. "Shopping in New York, lugging around comforters and everything, would be such a hassle."

A key feature, says Design Your Dorm co-founders Bryce Widelitz and Taylor Robinson, is the ability to collaborate with a roommate. Roomies routinely chat on an external instant messenger (yes, sometimes even while in the same room) to drop items into their virtual room and veto ugly rugs. "Eew, ya rite!"

One potential pitfall with Widelitz and Robinson's start-up company is that after the fall semester move-in spike, business really slows down. They're hoping parents latch onto their side business -- custom gift baskets to be delivered to their kids.

-- Mark Milian

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