Throughout my college years, I’ve been fortunate to have only visited four different dorm rooms and none of those visits were particularly pleasant. Granted, four dorms is a petty sample size to draw any sort of legitimate conclusion, but it’s one more than enough to determine a trend–dorms suck. They’re small, cold, and often times messy. What a dorm room needs is pretty simple and manageable on any meager college budget.
You don’t have to be a trust fund baby to have a nice college room, you just have to know how to cut through the clutter and keep things functional. This is what an electric fireplace can provide for any campus dorm or college apartment. A good electric fireplace not only provides adequate heating for a compact space, it can offer a decent amount of storage space and home decor (depending on the model) without sacrificing a lot of money or space in your dorm. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at how the dorms I visited could have benefited from an electric fireplace.
Dorm One: A Hopeless Dump
The first dorm room I’ve ever been in best resembles a setting out of some H.P. Lovecraft story or the sketchiest looking opium den in the West. The room was cold and devoid of any actual furniture. There was something quite frightening yet entrancing about the entire experience; it was nothing short of chaotic, but it was the sort of chaos that captivates your imagination. Shirts, sweaters, and pants were tossed all over as if they were bodies flung about and laying in various positions around the room. Boxes of take out and left overs were seen throughout the dorm. If I didn’t know better, I could have sworn that a mad man had lived there, driven insane by the rats in the walls, and lost beneath the mess of his own lifestyle.
“Why is it so cold in here?” I shivered inquisitively, hoping my comment would instigate a change in temperature. My friend shrugged and somehow managed to explain that the building hasn’t had adequate heating for several semesters in a very brief sentence comprising mostly of obscenities.
Now, looking around the cramped dorm room with my other friend and a mutual acquaintance we asked in separate intervals, “Is there a place to sit?” Our friend pointed indiscriminately towards the floor, where one would assume had been carpeted by Hollister and Pac Sun.
An electric fireplace can do wonders for any room, but it can’t make up for an unfortunate wardrobe. Nevertheless, there are two ways my friend’s dorm room could have been helped if he had an electric fireplace: 1) Warmth and 2) Having a centerpiece in the room to distract from the rest of the room.
There are a few electric fireplaces that provide great heating for a 150 square foot room that’s under $200. Some of the most inexpensive electric fireplace models are made by Crane; the EE-8075 costs about $90, comes in a variety of colors, and has two heat settings. The Crane EE-8075 is a very compact design using a maximum of 1,500 watts to effectively heat up 150 square feet while digitally reproducing a realistic flame.
This flame, because it’s not real, is safe for keeping inside of a dorm room, requires no venting, and is a welcome distraction from the general mess seen around the rest of the room. Its 17 inch height also makes it into a nice, small end table.
Dorm Two: The Shelves Strike Back
One year later, I visited the college habitat of my other friend. (Yes. I’m surprised I have that many friends, too). This second dorm room was actually quite pleasant to be in relative to my previous experience in a dorm. For one thing, there was a bed and not just a cheap mattress—a good start. There were somewhat comfortable chairs to sit in—even better. The walls were also insulated and my friend owned a space heater, which meant neither of us felt like slabs of meat in a locker. There were no traces of dirty dishes or bags of half-eaten food left around and the only box found in the room was an Xbox 360, which is forgivable; it was connected to a brand LCD television set I’ve never heard of and sat on top of a four foot plank of wood.
“This thing is pretty low,” I commented. “Why didn’t you get a TV stand?”
“Well, how about you get me a TV stand?” my friend suggested with a hint of laughter to mask her half-serious tone. Naturally, I relented. A flat piece of wood as a make-shift stand does seem like a brilliant idea when you’ve spent a chunk of change on a television set, gaming system, and a space heater.
This dorm, however, had a lot going for it, but it lacked one major flaw: it had no room for storage. Sure, there was a decent sized closet, but that was already jammed full of clothes, shoes, bags, and plastic storage containers full of lord knows what. I’m still amazed at how well my friend was able to keep everything from spilling out; any time my friend needed something from that closet, it was like watching a person play a high stakes game of Jenga, but with their own stuff instead of giant wooden blocks.
Meanwhile, half of the room was overtaken with textbooks, novels, magazines, notebooks, binders, and movies. From outside the door, it looked like a mega bookstore was closing, which apparently was all the rage back then (whether you liked it or not). Once you were inside, though, you had to watch your step because everything was stacked up on top of each other in well organized collections. Textbooks for Monday classes were in one pile and DVD box sets of The OC were in another pile. Navigating this well organized mess forced you to fight back the temptation to recreate scenes from a Godzilla film or classic battle scenes from episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Today, the solution seems all too simple. If you need a good space heater, a TV stand, and storage space for books and movies, investing in an electric fireplace with shelf space and media storage will solve those problems. By getting three things combined into one electric fireplace, my friend would have also saved some money to spend on food or more Xbox games.
There are a variety of electric fireplace models that come in different sizes and finishes. They provide a strong, level mantel space for books, photos, or even a flat panel television set. These electric fireplace models typically include the vent-free firebox, which is great for a dorm or apartment because it doesn’t require vent installation or setting up a long duct pipe across the room to vent out the window. Most fireboxes will produce radiant or fan-forced heat comparable to any space heater.
Some of the pricier models can run up north of $500 because of its length, design and construction materials, and the quality of its firebox. Some fireboxes use newer LED technology to recreate more vivid, realistic flames, which can drive up the price of the unit. There are, however, a few good models that can be had for under $500.
Southern Enterprises offers the Savannah Media Electric Fireplace (37-218-084-6-38) with two side cabinets. It’s mantel size is the same as the four foot wooden plank my friend was using except this mantel is 32 inches high and has additional storage space for books, movies, and video games. There’s also a shelf just for DVD players and video game consoles. The firebox on the Savannah Media Electric Fireplace is rated at 1,500 watts and puts out 5,000 BTUs, which is more than enough to heat up a regular sized room.
Stonegate has an even cheaper model that’s under $300 with its Stonegate 912-42 Media Console Electric Fireplace. The 912-42 model is as basic as it gets, but it gets the job done nicely. There’s plenty of space for an LCD or a newer model LED television set on the top mantel, a shelf above the firebox for set top boxes and media players, and two side cabinets for storage of books and movies. The 1,250 watt firebox is safe to use, has a nice flame effect, and can quickly warm up a 400 square foot room.
It might not be enough shelf or cabinet space to fit all of my friend’s stuff, but the media storage would at least be great for the DVDs, which are more fragile and can easily be damaged if left on the floor. Packing away the DVDs into an electric fireplace media console would have also freed up more space to move around.
Dorm Three: Reduction of the Room Size
This next dorm room was in a recently constructed building just off campus. It had all of the neat amenities of a proper apartment like heating and doors. We were all pretty impressed with my coworker’s new place, but there was one catch: it was cramped.
The room was tiny and my coworker had the audacity to replace the twin bed for a queen. Between the queen sized bed, the small desk, shelves, and dresser drawer, the easiest way to walk around the room was by walking sideways along the edge of the bed. Of course, everybody just cut across by jumping over the bed.
Decorating a room this cramped is like decorating a prison cell or a bunker. Sure, a few posters, photo frames, and other small personal items might add some color or flair, but it’s not exactly stylish. For real style that can strike a mood when guests are over, you need an electric fireplace. In the case of a small room, you need an electric wall-mount fireplace.
Electric wall-mount fireplaces offer the same heat and realistic flame displays, but they don’t take up space on the ground. Instead, light and compact enough to be fixed to a wall. The design on many of these wall-mountable models are beautiful and instantly adds dynamic color and style to the room.
Like the electric fireplace media consoles, these wall-mounts can be a bit expensive for a student, but there are some decent priced ones they can buy for themselves, or a parent can purchase as a gift.
One model would be the Touchstone 80001 Oynx Black 50″ Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace. It’s regularly priced at around $300 and provides 1,500 watts of heating and five realistic flame settings.
The Dimplex DWF-13293A Reflections Wall Mounted Fireplace, on the other hand, is just under $300, has 1,240 watts of heating power, and a mirrored surface. The mirror surface with stainless steel accents make this wall mounted electric fireplace into its own piece of contemporary art hanging securely in your dorm room and will surely impress all of your friends.
Dorm Four: The Phantom Roommate
We all vowed to never speak about the events from dorm four ever again.