The Room

Paul Ford, in an essay for the Message in 2014:

The curtains are drawn. Some light comes through, casting a small glow on the top left of the air conditioner. It’s daytime. The wall is an undecorated slab of beige. That is the American room.


It’s a standardized room. Like Diet Coke or iPhones, American rooms are a kind of product, built as quickly and cheaply as possible to a standardized specification. Here are Benjamin Moore’s best-selling shades of white. Look familiar?

I live in a 1970s apartment building; my walls are a predictable off-white with eight foot ceilings. It is not ideal. Working from home has required me to make the most of this limited canvas. I have framed and hung many pictures, including stored artworks and some photos I have taken.

Amanda Hess, writing earlier this year in the New York Times:

Imagine that you are a member of the expert class — the kind of person invited to pontificate on television news programs. Under normal circumstances, your expertise might be signaled to the public by a gaudy photograph of skyscrapers superimposed behind your head. But now the formalities of the broadcast studio are a distant memory, and the only tools to convey that you truly belong on television are the objects within your own home. There’s only one move: You talk in front of a bookcase.

The Times separately reported on the conspicuous placement of Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” on bookshelves of what it calls the “political class”.

I also recommend Andrew Ishak’s tutorial on making a room look more “professorial” for remote instruction.