In the first house I grew up in, my teenage brother had to move out of his bedroom so that I could move in to it. He left behind a postcard of a pair of boobs blue-tacked to the side of a chest of drawers. The garage got converted, and this became his new room. I remember his room being all white. In fact, every room he had would have white walls and white furniture. He had a white slanted desk by the window that I really liked, and a tall white wardrobe. He once showed me a Pound Puppy he had hidden in his wardrobe for his girlfriend Chloe’s birthday.
In this particular garage-bedroom, he famously spewed up the wall by his bed (my sister will tell you it hit the ceiling and “vanished. He must have swallowed it” but that may be an exaggeration) after eating a load Cadbury’s Creme Eggs for a Comic Relief challenge at school. He also dropped a dart which pierced my foot through my red buckle shoe when I was small, and once filled what little floor space he had with the neighbour’s drumkit.
At our next house, his room was once again white, and I remember him going through a stack of magazines cutting out any black and white images to stick to his walls. In one house I remember peering through the keyhole to his room to see his feet intertwined with his girlfriend’s. The Pound Puppy must have been a success.
I used to sneak into my sister’s bedroom when she was out, since she always left the door open. If I was feeling brave I would sit at her dressing table and touch all of her make-up brushes. She had two matching plastic sets, one in black and one in white. One time I caught her reflection in the dressing table mirror watching me suck in my cheeks and pretend to apply blusher. If she had her way, she would try to do my hair and make-up like either Paula Abdul or Kylie Minogue. I liked that she had a full length mirror on one wall, which was perfect for me to try to recreate INXS music videos and kneel in front of whilst trying to apply her fat blunt eye pencil in a shimmery blue which scratched my eyelid.
My own bedrooms as a kid were a complete mess. I was never told to tidy my room, and I even had a friend come over to play once and suggest to me that we ‘tidy up first’. Bald amputee Sindy dolls would be strewn across the floor with cassette tapes, dirty laundry, grubby My Little Pony’s and about 400 Trolls. By the time I was 9 or 10, I had my first serious boyband obsession and covered my walls with Take That posters. For a couple of weeks we had a French exchange student called Melanie and her teacher staying with us, and using the French-English dictionary between us, she was able to ask me who they were, and I was able to tell her who was my favourite (Robbie). The front of my bedroom door was covered in stickers from Big and Smash Hits magazines.
In film, if there is a teenage character, you can bet their bedroom will look amazing. They have the BEST bedrooms, or at least they do in American film. I think American teenage-boy-bedrooms are often the best in film. Floor-to-ceiling plaid, aeroplanes dangling from the ceiling, miniature solar systems and failed science projects. Rube Goldberg machines and booby traps. If I ever had the chance to work in props or style a film, I would love get the chance to dress the son’s bedroom, just as an excuse to buy a load of cool props.
I’ve scoured the internet to try and find examples of some of my favourite bedrooms.
Danny Gopnik, the teenage son in A Serious Man (one of my favourite films) which the Coen brothers said was reminiscent of their own childhoods. His bedroom is a seventies dream (although perhaps a little too neat for my liking…)
The two bedrooms of William Miller in Almost Famous. Thick carpet, dim lamp light, records, maps and scratchy woollen seventies bedding in oranges and browns…
Later in the film, William’s bedroom is head-to-toe plaid and full of dated gadgets…
I love this style of bedroom from The Goonies. It is perfectly styled as it looks lived-in with its messy sheets, abandoned clothing, gadgets and stacks of books…
For the late teen years there’s a shift. The rooms are often just as cluttered but now there are secrets, whether it’s love letters, a stash of weed or a packet of cigarettes. Or, in the case of Lane Meyer in Better Off Dead, their rooms become shrines to whoever it is they have a crush on…
When I was about 14 a friend and I made pretend spells about the boys we fancied. We sat on her bedroom floor and wrote their names on a piece of paper and dribbled colourful candle wax all over them and stashed them under our pillows. We vowed not to tell anyone that we had done this. I was mortfied when I came home one day to find my mum had cleaned my room and removed the piece of paper from under my pillow and placed it on the table next to my bed. The spell was broken.
The main perk of teenager bedrooms in film is that we don’t have smellovision.
But it’s not just bedrooms for boys (although I must be a tom-boy at heart as those are my favourites), it’s also rooms like Thora Birch’s in Ghost World. The amount of junk reminds me of my own bedrooms, but she had much cooler stuff:
Kitsch ornaments, a film of dust over the top of the television set, secret diaries with tiny padlocks, cans of body spray, broken lipsticks and crushed eye shadow palettes, and unsent love letters… I think the only time I was productive in my teen years was when I would get the sudden urge to rearrange my bedroom at 9 o’clock at night.
Some bedrooms are so clearly the parents choice of wallpaper, curtains, lamps…where they just can’t relinquish control, but then there’s the layer of the teenager’s stuff over the top.