Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Decor Inspiration: Turn-of-the-Century Collegiate Dormitories

The "hallowed halls" of an Oxford Gothic - styled university can be breathtaking, and are meant to impress a sense of glorified history upon their viewer.  In these majestic, impersonal spaces, transient students come and go, year after year.  No one lives here, but instead, squirreled away in little garrets for a semester or two, they flock to the common areas daily.  It reminds one a bit of a medieval town, in which the common folk lived in one-room straw huts, meant only for cooking and sleeping, and left daily to pay homage in castles and cathedrals far grander, on a scale that still impresses us today.

Lately, have been admiring the aesthetics of campus dormitories at the turn-of-the-century.  How did the Gilded Age translate into the heavily-personalized, petite spaces of young, worldly scholars?  The varied markings of campus extracurriculars embellishing the walls: lacrosse sticks, oars, tennis rackets.  A rainbow of felt pennants on a backdrop of floral wallpaper, in a tiny jewelbox of a room.  The sparse furnishings of a semester: the brass bedsteads, folding cane chairs, and "Turkish Corners" made from piles of hand-embroidered pillows.  A heavy desk and set of drawers, the occasional piano.  Paint pots and jars of brushes, an amateur oil preciously framed, a daguerreotype of a long-distance sweetheart.  The trappings of a Grand Tour: Japanese handpainted fans, postcards, a set of carved ivory animals, a single large seashell.

Lately, perhaps because of the lingering dust and my unwillingness to put up artwork and curtains in such conditions, I have been craving a personalized space, filled with little treasures and curiousities. A slightly-rumpled bed with piles of pillows and a solid set of drawers in a sparsely-furnished room.  White walls, brown tweed, a Persian rug in faded scarlet, the glow of old wood.

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