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Major retailers offer up new gear to go to college

What are some top picks for students looking to set up their first dorm rooms? A sample from major retailers:

START A PATTERN

'Students want functional stuff, but they're very into design,' says Mona Williams, The Container Store's vice president of buying. Graphic patterns are playing well, she says.

'Function doesn't have to be boring,' Williams said. Her picks:

' Fabric tote boxes. 'This item gives you great function as storage, while it also gives you a great design element.'

Rococo and Flora patterned fabric tote boxes ($12.99 to $19.99), with lids, zippered closures plus Velcro flaps. Boxes are made of heavy fabric over a metal frame; have sturdy handles and label holder and fold flat when not in use.

' Bulletin boards. 'We have a new geometric message board, using recycled materials, with bright graphic design. It makes a bold splash of color, it's functional art on your wall.'

Geometric message board ($19.99) is constructed from recycled rubber, and a wall-mounting hanger is included.

' An extra: Geometric pushpins ($6.99 for a package of 6).

TECHNOLOGY

' Bed Bath & Beyond spokeswoman Catherine Gentile suggests the SoundMaster White 360 Sphere Speaker System ($49.99).

You can connect your MP3 player, CD player or PC to this circular speaker system: The docking port will keep your MP3 player fully charged and in sync with your computer. Also includes a blue LED ring that glows in the dark and will illuminate your entire docking system.

' At New York's Gracious Home, spokeswoman Carroll Kappenhagen likes the Victorinox Burren Backpack ($69.99), a dual-compartment nylon pack with padded laptop storage, a pocket for an MP3/CD player with earbud port, mesh water-bottle holders, a front pocket for pens, cell phone and keys. $69.99.

MAKE IT ALL FIT

Gentile also offered two ways to maximize space that a freshman probably wouldn't know: There's an over-the-door organizer for everything; don't leave a door unused. Also, the higher the bed is off the floor, the more storage you will have. Use bed lifts to gain extra inches.