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Arts Vanity: My Life as an Amateur Interior Dorm Designer

Incoming Campus Exec Charles W. McCormick '24
Incoming Campus Exec Charles W. McCormick '24 By Courtesy of Kalos K. Chu
By Charles W. McCormick, Crimson Staff Writer

You’re leaving your River house hallway single for the day. It’s boring. Drab. You convince yourself that you’re satisfied with your living situation as images of your uninspired room and its neutral, decoration-less walls flash across your mind.

You’re on your way to the Quad to see some friends. “Why do all the cool people live so far away?” you ask yourself. You’re standing outside Cabot House, when suddenly you look up and spot a dazzling light show through a window on the fourth floor of E-entry, accompanied by the distant pulse of Doja Cat’s new album “Planet Her.” Enchanted, you make your way up the stairs and spot a door with the same aura as red wine, puppies, and the shampoo aisle at CVS.

You knock. I open. You enter, immediately teleporting far away from the suffocating beige of unadorned dorm rooms to a new realm with twinkling Christmas lights, a movie poster for “The Truman Show,” two thriving succulents, and a gel air freshener — domestic bliss.

I wish I could say you’re the first person to realize how much more homey your home could be, but unfortunately, this is a daily — nay, hourly — experience for me. Many underestimate the power of a few household garnishes here and there, but interior dorm design isn’t something one can pick up willy-nilly. Indeed, decorating without forethought or planning can yield catastrophic results. Everyone knows someone who taped up a single Frank Ocean “Blonde” poster without doing anything else. If you don’t, it’s probably you.

Interior dorm design is a game of complements — what do you pair with those “Kill Bill'' prints to let people know you’re not a male manipulator? What color LED lights match the vibe of the Adele album masking your midterm crying sessions? It’s an interdisciplinary study and thus requires expertise in, among other things, geometry, sociology, archeology, paleoanthropology, astrology, biology, psychobiology, catachronobiology, selenomorphology, otorhinolaryngology, and physics. Dean Gay hasn’t yet responded to my 18 emails about making interior dorm design a concentration available to undergraduates, but its academic rigor certainly merits attention from the College.

All jokes aside, I think surrounding yourself with art is one of the most important measures you can take to separate yourself from the monotony of everyday collegiate life. A “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” poster next to my bed reminds me not to take school too seriously. Framed prints from an artist who sits outside the T station every Sunday tell me how unique the city I’m living in is. Posters of Georgia O'Keeffe’s swirling, radiant flowers offer a vibrant reminder of childhood in Albuquerque. The right pieces of the visual art puzzle coming together can make the difference between chaos without respite and peace in a bastion of comfort, even if purchased cheaply off eBay and pretty low-res.

Each dorm is a blank canvas upon which we project our interests to be recognized by others. As such, there are only a handful of acceptable ornaments in addition to the ones mentioned above that you can choose to fill the negative space. Here’s a pretty exhaustive list:

  1. A life-size Harry Styles cutout

  2. Stoner door beads

  3. A “Live, Laugh, Love” poster

  4. Anything and everything tiger print

  5. A second, more imposing Harry Styles cutout

  6. A tower of empty beer cans (You must have shotgunned them all yourself, at least 15)

A life-size Harry Styles cutout

Stoner door beads

A “Live, Laugh, Love” poster

Anything and everything tiger print

A second, more imposing Harry Styles cutout

A tower of empty beer cans (You must have shotgunned them all yourself, at least 15)

Let your imagination run wild. This Arts vanity is only tangentially related to any art reviewed by the Board this year, but establishing a home base for yourself on campus in a deliberate and thoughtful manner is supremely important. I wish you the best as you embark on your interior dorm design journey, and don’t forget the golden rule: If nothing else works out, just buy a “Saturdays Are For The Boys” flag.

—For interior dorm design inquiries, please contact staff writer Charles W. McCormick at charles.mccormick@thecrimson.com.

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