The Way We Live Ep. 1
This series focuses on individuals and their living spaces. Though it's a slight tangent from fashion, the exploration of personal space is still one that I think is valuable for understanding ourselves and how different externalities figure in our identities. Just like fashion, the way we build the place we live, sleep, and eat in is a very intimate form of expression.
For the first of this series, Sophie and Vincent, a couple living in Pyne Hall, opened their room up to me and Elaine. As Elaine snapped photos, figuring her way around shadowy dorm lighting, Sophie and Vincent recounted short anecdotes and began to make a batch of sourdough in the cozy kitchen they had built by stacking two beds. A little later, they made us two lattes and Sophie, Vincent, and I settled down on their futon to have a conversation about food, coffee, and ballpoint pens.
(P.S. Click on the photos for a closer look!)
Names: Sophie Wheeler and Vincent Tang
Majors: East Asian Studies and Neuroscience (respectively)
Building: Pyne Hall
How did this idea of converting your bedroom into a kitchen and decorating it like this come about?
S: I had the idea to stack the bunks and get rid of the mattress and then Vincent liked the idea too. I remember at first he rejected it.
V: Yeah, Sophie had this idea to sleep on a Japanese futon instead of a bed, so we knew that we could use the two bunk beds to do something else. And I'm also on this vintage La Pavoni coffee Facebook group and one of the members had set up his espresso machine on a bunk bed.
S: Oh really? I didn't know that.
V: Yeah that's where I was coming from.
S: I guess our ideas just ended up overlapping. I actually had no idea about that. But we made a lot of coffee sophomore year and started buying espresso machines and we knew we definitely wanted to keep on doing this and be able to have people over so that the room would be functional for serving people.
J: You guys haven't roomed together before right?
S: I was in a single last year, so Vincent would just live with me. That was like a trial period.
V: I actually like full on lived with her. I didn't spend a single night in my own room.
You two have been together for quite some time and are rooming together now, or I suppose since last year. I guess you could say that this room is one sort of physical culmination of your guys' relationship. What parts of you two as individuals and as a couple are reflected in these two rooms?
V: I guess the room is an amalgamation of all the things that we're interested in. There’s not a lot of decoration just for decoration's sake, it's just crammed full of all the hobby stuff that we're into. Like the coffee and the cooking stuff, and then Sophie has her music things and we have our backpacks and then I work at the Rocky Cyclab so there’s the bike and the bike trainer.
S: And then I have my dolls and stuff.
V: We're going to be two years and one month tomorrow.
S: Really? I didn’t know that.
V: Also, I think because we're on the same wavelength for a lot of things, it was much easier to decorate this room versus having a roommate with different interests.
S: Yeah, I think a lot of things we bought or decided to have in this room, Vincent wasn’t just like ‘Oh I want this and I would say ‘Okay they’re your things.’ It would be more like if one of us buys something, we both end up liking it. So if we're buying cups, we would both be like ‘Oh we really like this kind of cup! Let's get it.’ A lot of things here are shared.
J: Do you guys split the price for just about everything then?
V: For a lot of things yeah. It's not really explicit though.
J: You guys just end up balancing out somehow.
S: Some things I had are from back home, but we bought most of the kitchen stuff together.
V: Yeah, or there's just things like
S: Pens. Oh yeah, we have a fountain pen collection and a ton of ink. Vincent bought most of the pens because he was really into it and then I was super interested in it when he showed his pens to me. And I bought a lot of the ink.
V: Yeah we have more ink than a person could use in a lifetime...
S: We take some to certain classes, but we also keep some here if they're too nice.
V: ...Seems so bougie...
Both of you have a very interesting and lovely sense of sharing through forms of expression and through your hobbies as well. What I've heard is that you two also tend to wear each other's clothes a lot too. Do you think that there's a relationship between the way that you created this space and the way you dress?
V: There definitely is.
S: Yeah I don’t think its anything intentional, but what comes naturally to both of us is sharing things. So when it came to clothes, it was really easy to share because we're similar sizes and neither of us really minded. And now that we live together, it just made sense to share.
V: Yeah, we started sharing clothes before we started sharing everything else.
S: So I guess it started with the clothes and then you started sharing your pens with me.
You both have an interest in food and coffee. Can you talk more about that and how you use the space to share that interest?
S: I think that one of the main reasons we chose this room was that we knew it was really big and we wanted to be able to have people over. We started setting up the space in here and made the kitchen to cook for ourselves and have friends over for coffee. Over the summer, Vincent cooked a lot because he stayed on campus and I cooked a good bit while I was in Japan and we both also cooked during sophomore year. It was just nice to have people over especially since this semester has been pretty stressful in terms of social stuff. I felt like I’d been a wreck, just studying so much but it's been nice to be able to open the room up and have people over and realize that there's more to life than just slaving away at stupid chemistry problems.
V: Yeah I stayed on campus over the summer but I lived on Nassau and split an apartment with a couple friends. Just living in an actual apartment and being able to cook food felt really homey even though I was only there for two months. A big part of getting so into cooking and setting up this whole space was definitely to reproduce that and make our dorm room feel more like home.
S: Another motivation to make this space and share it with others is that I want to open up my own coffee shop sometime. I definitely want to do it at some point. I think you do too right?
V: Yeah, I would definitely want to work at a coffee bar.
S: We were just interested in food and coffee and maybe would want to do it down the line too so it was kind of stepping into that and having fun.
What are your favorite things about this room?
S: The futon’s on top of the couch now, but one of my favorite things was how we used to have it put away. I liked how the bed was put away and I didn’t see it until I went to sleep because one of the biggest problems I had last year was that my single was pretty small, so there was just my desk and my bed and I would sit on my bed and fall asleep and feel really lazy. But the fact that the bed is away makes me a lot more productive and not like 'Let me just fall on my bed and roll around’…so I should move the futon back down. Also the fact that there's a bathroom—it makes me really happy.
V: Definitely just having the space to work with.
J: You mean how flexible the room is?
S: I agree with that. I think it’s really easy to just push things to different sides of the room or push things out or change the room for whatever fits the situation best.
V: Definitely. We have a lot of flexibility in terms of where we move our furniture around. It can be like a fully legitimate bedroom but also an office and also a dining room. I think it suits all of those functions really well.
Last question, if you had to describe this room in three words…?
V: Oh... Vincent and Sophie.
S: That's pretty good! I guess. Hmm... Cozy coffee burrow. Or I guess this isn’t really three words, but it's also my safe space. I can just come here and forget about work or whatever. There's a nice separation.
V: I think the special thing about it is that it feels like home
S: Not just like my dorm. I have the things I need and not just what I want.
V: Because we're only in our dorms for a year, it's easy to have the whole thing feel very transitory but I think it feels like we’ve really able to take ownership of the space.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Photos by Elaine Romano