A new startup called DesignYourDorm might just hold the answer. The site has built 3D virtual models of common dorm room layouts, allowing new students to figure out what they’ll have room for long before they ever set foot in their dorms. To help figure out the exact room configuration, DesignYourDorm currently has a few hundred 3D models of various common dorm room items, including electronics like TV sets, furniture like beds and desks, and storage containers that you can freely drag and drop into the room. There’s also a selection of bedding, posters, and plenty of things that you might find at Bed Bath & Beyond. And because most people wind up rooming with someone, the site has a collaboration feature that lets two roommates edit their room at the same time.
Of course, virtual decorating is one thing, but that still leaves students with the task of actually going out and buying each item they place. But DesignYourDorm has that figured out too: each of the items you can place in your room is a real product taken from Amazon.com, and the site builds a virtual shopping cart as you go. When you’re done, you can have everything shipped to your university so it’s there the day you arrive. DesignYourDorm generates revenue through Amazon’s affiliate program, but it eventually hopes to work with big-box stores instead.
But the system comes with a few snags. While the site does a good job with its generic floor plans, they only get you so far — you still won’t know how large each cabinet and desk will be, the height of the beds, placement of any windows, and so on.
Fortunately, the startup is hoping to team up with universities across the country to get detailed floor plans for every single room at a given school. It’s currently running a pilot test with the University of Pennsylvania, where it has taken measurements for all room layouts in one of the school’s housing buildings. As part of the partnership, Penn will be promoting the site to incoming students as they get their room assignments, and will in turn get a small cut of the revenue generated by any sales. Interesting sidenote: the startup has a mirrored domain at CollegeRoomCreator.com for its university partnerships, because schools apparently don’t like referring to their housing facilities as “dorms”. Seriously.
All in all, the site seems to have a solid idea and a large market. That said, it still needs to work on its execution. The site’s UI is clunky at times, and sometimes the 3D objects don’t behave as you’d expect (I’m allowed to place a small storage container on top of a bed but not beneath it, even though it explicitly says that it’s meant to fit underneath beds). Likewise, many of the site’s products don’t yet have 3D models, which means you can buy them but can’t place them into the room at all. Co-founder Taylor Robinson says that the company is working on fixing all of these issues (it recently hired a new developer), and that we can expect improvements soon.