May 1, 2011

The Art of Decorating Your (Collegetown) Home

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At the beginning of my junior year at Cornell, I dreamed of decorating my new Collegetown apartment. I envisioned colorful posters, framed pictures, maybe some beanbag chairs. Maybe the beanbag chairs were a tad ambitious, but I thought that at the very least, my roommates and I would spend some time making our new apartment look less like a frat annex and more like a place in which girls lived. We were particularly excited about hanging up one of those picture puzzles with a picture of all of us.

We never got the puzzle. In fact, my grand decorating plans weren’t fulfilled at all. My housemates and I assured each other that it wasn’t worth decorating because most of us were going abroad for the second semester of the year. Next year would be different. We’d be living in a house for a whole year, so it would actually be worth it to put in some effort.

We started off with a bang last fall, going shopping for throw pillows and rugs. I hung up picture frames in the living room. We even considered the pros and cons of curtains and place mats (though the cons came out on top). All and all, we had a promising start.

We had a party in September, for which we decided to stow our nice throw pillows in a closet. Subsequently, we forgot about them (it was only a week or so ago that we remembered they existed and put them back out again). But still, I wasn’t disillusioned come December. During the break, I continued to be on the look out for fun things that would spruce up our house, even getting one of the picture puzzles we had wanted for so long.

But I didn’t realize you had to complete those puzzles yourself. Though two of my roommates happen to be puzzle extraordinaires, the puzzle remains in pieces. One of them swears it’s impossible to complete — some of the pieces just don’t fit together. Other things have gone downhill as well. Our pink bath rug has permanently turned brown. The living room pictures have fallen down, and during one of our parties, a friend decided to write the word “LOKO” in marker all over our picture frames and refrigerator. To put it simply, our house doesn’t look good. It is not decorated, and it’s dirty.

Along with these failed decorating attempts, we have also had some accidental decorating successes. Some items have become permanent fixtures in our communal areas, not because they go lengths towards establishing a cozy ambiance, but because we either forgot about them or don’t know what else to do with them. In the beginning of the year, one of my roommates e-mailed me her little brother’s 6th grade project (to write five sentences about himself) to make me laugh. Thinking I’d print it and hang it on our refrigerator for a few days to make my other roommates laugh, the project ended up remaining on our fridge (amidst those magnets you can buy with words featuring a different theme — our magnets are words about sex) until about a few weeks ago when our landlord replaced our fridge with a new one. It was just too fun to change “I like to play basketball” to sentences like “I desire to play luscious bodies.”

Then there are the obligatory animal figures from Level B’s fishbowls atop our television. I know that everyone has these, but does everyone have them posed in sexual positions? Before you think that my roommates might be the most disturbed group of girls you’ve ever met, just know that this wasn’t originally our idea. I’d like to extend a shout-out to the perverted soul who left our animals in just about the most disgusting positions imaginable during one of our parties for us to see the morning after.

In the years after Cornell, I won’t remember that our house wasn’t particularly homey, or girly, or whatever it is I imagined it would be. Our failed decorating attempts as well as the unintended permanency of some bizarre decorations will be, to say the least, significantly more memorable than any decorating successes might have been. I’ll remember the unfinished puzzle. I’ll remember the graffiti-ridden picture frames and refrigerator, and an e-mail from our landlord: “We also found the refrigerator we put into the house three weeks ago, you have written on … We will check next week to make sure it is gone. Remember it is a corrugated material and you need to be careful not to scratch it.”

Besides dedicating my last column to my friends (I’ve hardly done it subtly so I might as well just come out and say it), I hope I have demonstrated how sprucing up your daily college life does not always have to be a well thought-out, pre-mediated process. Sometimes your creative failures and accidental creations can be the most memorable ways of expressing yourself, even if to the outside world you just come off as a bizarre, domestically challenged group of girls.

Original Author: Suzanne Baumgarten