My freshman year I was one of the lucky ones. I mean, Cornell must have really loved me. They gave me their best room. And when I say best, I mean worst. If you never thought that a 9 by 12 room could possibly be smaller than two big “mother may I” steps by 3 big steps and a baby step, all you have to do is add slanted ceilings; works like a charm. But I knew I had to make the best of the closet I was going to have to call home. So I went to The Commons. There, I was stunned to realize that Ithacans were still living in 1991, but eventually I snapped out of it and made my way to the poster store (Beyond the Wall). I grabbed posters right and left, stocking up on Monet, Degas, and a bitchin’ poster of New York City.
Mid semester I realized that when 15 people on your floor have the same poster, its bitchin-ness goes down a good 70 percent. I decided that from then on I would no longer be a slave to the poster store. I decided that I would wield my god given craftiness towards a good cause and make my subsequent rooms filled with originality.
There are plenty of ways to spruce up a down and out room; you just need to know where to start. For instance, RAs are this campus’s greatest untapped resource. Think about all the decorating they do. Markers, paints, scissors, tape, construction paper etc. If your RA is a slacker or you are trying to redecorate your off campus digs, the campus store often has sales, Joanne’s Fabric is usually pretty cheap, and Michael’s is always around if you want to splurge.
The best thing to do is to work from the bottom up. There’s an excellent chance that there is some sort of cinderblock in your room, whether it’s holding something up or collecting dust in the back of your closet, you’ve most likely got one. If you don’t have one, they are $1.50 at Wegmans, or free from a construction site. These blocks are fantastic. If the blocks are under your bed, either take them out yourself or grab the cute boy/girl to help you move them. Figure out which side is going to be showing and paint away. Make each one different to show all sides of your personality. If they aren’t holding up your bed, get rid of your ugly plastic nightstand and put four blocks together. Paint different shades and shapes on each block and you’ve got not only a perfect size nightstand, but a killer conversation piece.
Moving on to the walls. One of the things I’ve always wanted to buy but never felt like paying for is magnetic poetry. The truth is, there’s no need to buy it. First of all, you probably don’t have anything magnetic to stick it to. Second of all, why buy it when you can make it yourself? All you need to do is type up a sheet of random words like shady, I, beautiful, saunter, and daze. Change up the font and the color if you are feeling especially creative. Then print it out and take the sheet to a Kinko’s-esque establishment and have it laminated for a minimal price. Then all you have to do it cut them out and stick some sticky tack on the back of each word. Then go to work sticking them on your walls and changing the sentences based on whether you aced a test, did the walk of shame, or vomited on the bus-ride home from Collegetown.
Now the posters you have aren’t good for nothing. All you have to do is turn them over. If you’re anything like me, you get three magazines a month and never throw them out. If not, someone who lives near you most likely is. All you need are magazines, scissors, and either scotch tape or glue stick. Go perusing through the magazines, cutting things out that apply to you — a fish, a bowling ball, a toaster — whatever floats your boat. Cut as close to the shape as you can; cutting out in squares just proves you are one. You can also go through your picture doubles, cutting out your friends playing Frisbee on the arts quad, traying down Libe slope in the snow, or funneling their first beers. You can also attack catalogues and old textbooks. Then arrange all the pictures and words and tape or glue stick them all down. Now you’ve got a great poster that says more about you than a water lily.
If you don’t want to include the old textbook in a collage, stop by Target or basically anywhere and buy the cheapest frame and mat you can find. Then, leaf through and old textbook looking for a bright vivid picture to hang on your wall. You can also frame old greeting cards or your favorite page of your favorite book that contains your favorite quote. Cut up your favorite movie’s box and frame that. Or take a cue from the Fab Five and frame wrapping paper. Hell, frame your transcript if you’re feeling good.
Great sources of inspiration can come from anywhere, including museums. After visiting the Whitney in New York over fall break, I found my latest project. All you need is a bunch of old sheet music (found at any music store or salvation army for really cheap), scissors, and your old pal the glue stick. The first thing you need to do is pick a word that inspires you, or that you like for some reason, that shows up a reasonable amount of time in music. Take, for example, the word love, sun, or imagine. Then go to work slicing the music into strips. What you want to do is slice the sheet music so that the only word visible is the word that you have chosen. Then, on a larger piece of paper (perhaps your recycled poster), line up the strips so that the word is repeated in a straight line. After you’ve finished, just trim the edges of the background paper so that it is hi//ww under the music strips. If you are feeling extra creative you can try to “write out” a line from Pride and Prejudice or even create your own.
Now moving to the top of your room, the ceiling. Instead of going back to the 8th grade with glow in the dark constellations, take a hint from Mondrian. Using black electrical tape, partition your ceiling into random sized rectangles. You probably won’t be able to paint your ceiling but you can take red, yellow, and blue construction paper and fill in a few of your rectangles.
But you don’t have to confine yourself to your room. Let your creativity run rampant through an entire apartment. Stop by the poster store and pick up a bunch of cheap mini posters. Stick them to your kitchen cabinets, and vo