“We just picked up where we left off. It was as if I just left her room.” – Anita Myers
When we were kids and get in trouble, typically, one of our parents, usually the disciplinarian, would raise his chin, point his finger and with the authority of a Marine sergeant, punish us by exclaiming, “Go to your room!” This would be followed by, “And don’t come out ’till you…” This second statement was meant to instill in us the full capacity of whatever wrong-doing we may have committed. The idea of it all being that by being by ourselves in our room, we’d be removed from food, family and fun.
This notion, that the tiny corner of our planet was some sort of Gulag and would magically transform all our bad behavior into good, resonated with some kids. But rarely with me.
I loved my room. Loved it.
In my room, I had all my favorite things: my journals, my pictures, my clothes, my books, my record player, my records and even my posters. One year it was of Jennifer Beals, in a tuxedo, as Alex in Flashdance. The next? Rob Lowe. I had so many posters and magazine pictures of him that they eventually covered my ceiling. (Even made a button with him on it!) And my parents were cool with it.
Sometime around jr high or early high school, Mom and Dad had the budget to remodel my room and out went the orange paint and immigrant furniture and in went the shiny red wire bed, large white desk with red metal legs, white book shelves and two white adhered shelves, with white and red l-shaped brackets. We then went to Arcadia, in Old Orchard, (where I would eventually work for five years) and picked up red-framed posters and matching accessories. Even the bedspread was white with red, blue and black geometric pattern. It was like Piet Mondrian came alive in my space!
My room was my favorite place, not just in our Skokie condo, but on the whole planet. My room was my playground, where I could write, make music mix tapes, flip through infinite issues of my sister’s Seventeen, Warhol’s Interview and England’s The Face. I could create worlds with this material. And, I did.
As I got older, friends would come over and we’d try on clothes, take pictures and stage fashion shows. Eventually, a few boys made it to my room, but never while my parents were home and activity remained innocent. All I really wanted to do was show off my latest Wham record or an article about some new British artist.
My very first year of college I moved to DeKalb, where I briefly attended NIU. A good school, but I was not ready for college campus life. Nothing could have ever prepared me for what the American College Experience all meant. While there, I shared a tiny space with my college roommate Debbie. The bunker-like symmetrical dorm room, with a narrow closet and accordion door, a single bed and old wooden desk on each side, felt crammed, even before each of us brought all our college crap.
Debbie’s boyfriend was a DJ, so her side was neatly covered with album covers, adhered with double-sticky tape, in a diamond pattern. Mine? Collages, a Medusa’s poster I stole, matted and hung and a ceiling full of Chanel ads, old and new. The new ones came from my recent magazine subscriptions. The old ones, from old magazines at the NIU library. Of course, Debbie and I both had lots of pictures of friends and family members, yet as soon as anyone would set foot into that room, they’d immediately know the personalities of the two people who lived there, probably better than any psychiatrist would after six months of therapy analysis.
The year I returned from NIU and transferred to DePaul, my parents built a townhouse in Des Plaines. I moved back in with them, treated the space like a grown up and, as the years progressed and life took me to a new home with the average of every 12 – 18 months, something began to change. This idea of having a room to escape to, instead, shifted to an apartment that would be suitable for visitors. I began to pay attention to creature comforts and what I considered mature decoration.
Therefore, the new place to express my interest became at work.
Whether a cubicle with padded walls or an office, with metal ones, the semi-private space was like this giant canvas of possibilities. Barbie posters, Miss Spider calenders and Madonna postcards decorated my Rand McNally professional space and my bosses were totally cool with it. Just like my parents were with the 27 Rob Lowe posters.
At AG, my first gig was in a pod. Basically a rounded desk with no privacy, it lacked any room for expression and the second I moved to a new job within the company, one that came with a large cubicle, the Vogue magazine ads immediately surfaced.
Back in 2000 and 2001, before I had left for grad school, I lived in a Lakeview midrise studio. Suddenly, I was back to one room and all my possessions fit perfectly inside. Cleaning was a breeze, overhead low and my psyche enjoyed the simplicity of it all.
For the next decade, after multiple cities and numerous dwellings, including a house that was too big to manage, I’m in an apartment that, at two bedrooms, still feels too big. And while anyone who walks in realizes that a grown up lives there, all I want to do, all I REALLY want to do, is get the thumbtacks, magnets and tape out, tear through my magazines and surround myself in those images and inspirations that give me comfort and fuel my senses.
The organic, messy and unsophisticated methodology makes my Sister’s left eye twitch. You should have seen her expression when she saw that I hung some working images for a big project – in my working office – with Scotch tape. I don’t think she slept that night. She has an interior design degree, has a knack for putting things together in a very elegant and beautiful style and her and her boyfriend’s swanky Evanston highrise condo feels straight out of a magazine. She got that nesting gene. I didn’t. (I also don’t have the shoe-shopping gene, either, but that’s whole other Oprah topic.)
I just want to keep reinventing my room.
And, this deep need to return to my room penetrated the subconscious as, five or six years ago, I dreamed of giant steel sheets that I could adhere to my walls. So I went to Home Depot and no one seemed to know what I was talking about. Until, a random stranger, maybe an employee, maybe not, asked me if I needed something. “Yes, I need large steel sheets that I can hang on my walls and that magnets can adhere to.” He then proceeded to pull them out of a hidden place, right in from of me.
In full glee, I asked HD to drill holes in the corners, bought additional boards and, with Daniel’s electric screwdriver and Evan’s eye for balance, hung the first boards in the Statler living room. Then hung three more in the my office. Then three more in the dining room. And I bought tons and tons of magnets. And then I started throwing anything and everything I wanted on these giant steel boards: my photos, screenplays flashcards, movie posters and whatever else I wanted to see. More importantly, the stuff on these boards made me feel more at home.
It was like a giant Pinterest, but better. It was real.
I don’t give a shit about Pottery Barn’s new vase or Crate & Barrel’s new dishes. I’ve rarely been inspired by what people buy or own or how big their kitchens are or what kind of car they drive. What I do want and what supplies me with energy, is the constantly evolving signals of creativity – originated by others and by me – that serve as a constant reminder that more creative projects must be approached, nurtured and completed.
Show me what’s in your inventive toolbox – your inner funhouse – and what you can do with it and then we can make something happen.
Through the years, I have purged more household items and furniture than most. Fifteen moves within twenty-one years will do that to you. The only large piece of furniture that’s made it with me is the wood, Mission-style armoire first purchased in 1994 from Marshall Field’s and the only accessory is a wooden bench that I carried home from the Broadway Ace Hardware in Lakeview to my apartment, back in 2000. However, my books, CDs and photo albums have been my constant companion. That is where all the magic happens. Not with an overpriced vase. And, even the photos, books and CDs have been partially purged – either sold or donated. The new thing is DVDs. Most of Scorsese’s masterpieces nest nicely on that armoire.
As we grow up, or think we do, we tend to surround ourselves with the things that grow up with us. Whether it’s furniture or art, good silverware or crystal, all in an effort to make us feel at home or in order to impress others of what we own, how much of it is truly an expression of us? It’s no wonder that the past decade, there’s been an explosion of man caves. Where else can a guy go, even in his own house, where no one is telling him where things go or how to be? We all need a carved-out space that’s a reflection of our spirits and our inner selves. Because when the inner 13-year old wants to play – by making a music mix, dancing to Billy Idol and dressing up for a private fashion show – where does she get to do all that?
My inner teenager has never left. She is with me, always, and she is very adaptable with the many spaces she occupies. In fact, she wants to take over, hang the Rob Lowe posters back up and shut the world out with headphones and a Madonna mix. This world is lovely. This world is fun.
These days, I take full advantage of the boards in my home office, my fridge and two apartment doors I discovered to be metal. Attaching and replacing two-dimensional images and quotes, invitations and thank you notes, gives me peace and reminds me of what’s possible.
Most think of me as this gregarious, social butterfly that feels the need to be connected with others in a deep-seeded urgency. That may be true. Mostly, though, I am happiest when I am in my room.