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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Island Paradise by Laura N. '09

That's where I live. No, seriously.

So, remember how back when I blogged about all of the many varied things I might want to be when I grow up? Well, I think “interior decorator” is going to have to be added to the list, because I am seriously good at it.

No, really!

Okay, so unlike some people in the dorm who live in the same room forever, I have lived in a different room (and a different suite) every year so far. Not only have I painted all of these rooms, but to date, no one has painted over any of my paint jobs, so I have officially left my mark on 4 different rooms on Conner 2.

Freshman year, April (my roommate) and I painted our room a very pretty blue. A few months later we bought a futon off Craigslist, squeezed it into her boyfriend’s miniCooper, and installed it in our room. (I am unfortunately not kidding about the miniCooper.) The result was a pretty awesome setup, if I may say so myself. But that was easy, doubles in BC are pretty large, and there are a lot of things you can do with them in terms of design.

Sophomore year I had a pretty big single, and while I didn’t do anything special to it, I painted, bought a floor lamp, and threw up a good number of posters. I did really like the color I picked, but it turned out to be a little too dark, especially in sun-deprived New England. The name of that color, I believe, was “Bali Turquoise,” which led to a little inspiration: maybe I could get some posters of beaches and line the bottom part of the walls with them, and it would look sort of like a beach- yellow sand on the bottom and blue-green water on top. As a born and bred Jersey girl, I love the beach, so I figured this would make me happy. But the secret of room decorating is that if you don’t do it all within the first week, you’ll never do it, so the sandy posters never materialized.

Junior year I picked a new room, which was actually smaller than the room I had sophomore year. Everyone thought I was crazy, because they had poked their heads into that room a few times over the past 2 years and were pretty convinced that it was a tiny, cramped, awful room. This time my beach plan was a little more defined, so I spent a good amount of time comparing colors and eventually painted the walls yellow and blue. I also learned a very important lesson of interior design, namely, furniture placement is everything. All I did in that cozy room was swap the bed and the desk, and lower the bed down to a more normal height off the floor. Everyone who walked into my room did a double take and had to recheck the number on the door. “Wait…this is the room that Rob and David lived in?! But…it’s such a nice room!” I was quite proud of myself and a few weeks later decided the next step in the beach theme would be to paint a palm tree on the wall. But, as noted above, since this didn’t happen within the first week, it never got done.

Senior year I picked an even worse room than the year before. At this point everyone thought I was completely insane. As a senior, I pretty much had my pick of all the rooms on the floor, and I picked this awful, dark and awkward room. The room itself is actually pretty large, but it’s very long and narrow, which really limits the great equalizer of design which I had discovered the year before (furniture rearrangement). Also, there is one very lousy window at the end of this tunnel of a room which does not allow very much light into the room at all.

So this year I was determined to get the beach theme right. Before I started to paint I had to spatcle over all of the holes in the wall, which were quite numerous and actually took a couple of days. Just to give you an idea, here are some before pictures of the room:

I started painting, and unfortunately wasn’t able to finish before REX. Which meant that I spent the busiest week of my year living in a half-painted room with all of the furniture pushed into the middle, no access to the closet, and the 2 suitcases I had brought back with me from Spain shoved under the bed. It was awful. Once REX was finally over, I finished painting, and was quite proud of myself. I did sort of cop out and use the exact same colors as last year, but they were perfect! Also, credit to Adelaide ’09 for the diagonal idea. I decided that painting the bottom half of the walls one color would be pretty silly, because it would almost entirely be covered by furniture, and defeat the purpose of the half-and-half idea.

As you can see, light really is a problem in this room…but now it was time to start on that palm tree that I swore up and down to paint eventually. I did a trial run on a large sheet of paper, and came up with this sad excuse for a palm tree:

Well, I wasn’t convinced that I could do much better than that, so I just dove right in and started penciling it on the wall, making adjustments as I went. I was really and truly skeptical of my ability to paint anything that remotely resembled a palm tree, but my second attempt was pretty respectable.

And once I started mixing paint colors, things really started to come together.

The final product actually kind of ROCKS.

I’m super proud. =)

The next task was to build a loft. This idea came to me in a flash of brilliance, as we were discussing with the new freshmen if they wanted to loft their beds for more space in their doubles. I suddenly had the realization that I had seem this awfully shaped room of mine in both possible furniture configurations, and they both sucked- so why not loft the bed? I had nothing to lose, and it just might be the touch I needed. Of course, if I was going to loft the bed I needed something to put under it. Craigslist came through for me again- so I rented a UHaul, made an adventurous trip to Home Depot to buy lumber for no fewer than 4 lofts, an picked up a futon all in one day.

At this point I was getting pretty discouraged. If you’re keeping track at home, remember I spent a full week with the room half painted and all of the furniture shoved into the middle, another 2 or 3 days to finish painting, another day running around buying materials, and was still living out of one suitcase and had basically unpacked nothing despite having been back on campus for over 2 weeks. Adelaide’s room was so nice and prettily painted, and she had arranged all of her books on her shelves, and every time I peeked in her room I felt so jealous. And I still had to build a loft.

Rick ’09 graciously offered to lend me a hand. Halfway through the construction of this loft, the dorm’s saw mysteriously disappeared, so I was stuck with a box on stitls and no way to actually stabilize it, and was going to have to spend another night sleeping on the floor. I thought I was going to cry. But luckily, we found someone in the dorm who had their own saw and was willing to lend it to me.

Throughout this whole process, I had basically tried the furniture in every possible configuration I could think of, including the really stupid ones. So by the time the loft was done being built, I had figured out the configuration of the room, and the end was in sight!

Thankfully, now all that was left was unpacking…and picking up a few more minor touches to fill out the beach theme, like a bamboo bead curtain for my door, a sunset poster for one wall, and a comfy chair for my reading corner…and finally, I was done!





A few days later I ran into the room’s previous occupant, Javi ’08, on campus. Javi graduated last year but stuck around and got a job in the Boston area, so we still see him from time to time. I was bouncing around in excitement about the success of my room, so I dragged him back to the dorm to show him my take on the space that he lived in for 3 years.

He walked in and said, “No. No. This isn’t my room. My room isn’t this nice. Where did all this space come from?! I want it back!”

And just to refresh your memory as to how far I came…

I win. =) In case that international development thing doesn’t work out, I can always fall back on interior design. Or at least Trading Spaces.

10 responses to “Island Paradise”

  1. Claire says:

    Your room is gorgeous! Maybe you could help me grin, I’ve already switched rooms with my brother (and am contemplating a move into my college-student sister’s), and his room always ends up looking amazing, while mine just looks plain and boring. I can’t figure it out

  2. Anonymous says:

    SOMEWHERE… there’s a photo of a Burton-Conner room also with an amazing beach theme (jaw-dropping in its home makeover-like looks). Do you know anything about it? (JKim didn’t.)

  3. Sean says:

    So..can anyone paint any dorm room any style? How far can the “decoration” go?-Custom fish tank/mini fridge/plasma screen a possibility?

  4. Snively says:

    The beads are so confusing!!!

  5. June says:

    Wow…so much liberty at MIT. smile

    the room looks so amazing!

  6. Ahmed says:

    Sean, as far as I know, if you try to improve on a Next House room in such an epic way as this, you will be rewarded with a $3,000 fine.

  7. Ilyanep says:

    That looks amazing. Very much kudos.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry but I just have to tell the truth. Your room doesn’t look like a ‘I could be an interior designer’ person’s room. It’s boring and looks like very typical college dorm. What makes you so proud?

  9. anon says:

    @ Anonymous
    You clearly haven’t been around very many dorm rooms. I’ve seen few dorm rooms here at the ‘tute that look this themed and neat.