The Dorm Room Fantasy

This spring I received a catalog in the mail called Pottery Barn Dorm. I’ve never received this catalog before, but I assume that Mark Zuckerberg told them that I have a child starting college this fall, so I wasn’t so surprised. What surprised me as I flipped through the glossy pages is that you don’t need to have a college education to work at Pottery Barn. Or at least it seems like no one who works there has ever been inside a college dorm room.

Their photo imaginings of this college environment include paneled walls flanking floor to ceiling windows. The velvet clad bed is at least a double, with a mattress that’s about 11 inches thick. There’s room on both sides for a bedside table and a special floating shelf. The shelf really pops out as necessary, because where else would you keep your vibrantly thriving fern?

A chandelier graces the ceiling. Now as I recall, we weren’t allowed to put a single nail in the wall in our dorm room. We were allowed to use two-sided tape as long as any remaining adhesive was washed clean from the walls at move out. I’m pretty sure if a hot plate was forbidden under the penalty of expulsion, they probably don’t want the kids installing their own chandeliers.

These images if college life are certainly aspirational for students, but they’re aspirational for parents as well. There’s a whisper in the back of our minds as we flip through the pages – maybe my kid will wake up drenched in sunlight. Maybe my kid will start making his bed. Maybe my kid will thrive so much in college that in addition to taking care of himself impeccably, he’ll also be able to tend to the needs of a fern.

In one image, an entire wall of the dorm is painted in chalkboard paint. The catalog designers have written E=MC2 on the wall. Maybe my kid’s going to learn something! I imagine the Pottery Barn meeting: “Write something sciency on that wall, the parents will love it. Anyone know any science stuff?” Which is how they got the only equation sciency people would never actually have to write down.

They really want me to pony up for furniture. Previously, I’d been relieved to know that furniture was the one thing that was included in the sticker price for college. The entire internet is pushing the upholstered headboard with an optional monogram. Well, they say it’s optional but sometimes kids get confused late at night, so it’s good to have the bed clearly labeled. Then there are a variety of small sofas to choose from. And round chairs for reading, one of which suspends from the ceiling like a swing. Add “stud finder and contractor” to your list of college essentials.

Imagine my disappointment when I took my son shopping at the ever-practical Bed Bath and Beyond. We picked out hangers, Command strips and sheets. He focused briefly when confronted with a variety of duvets with different weights. When we hit the assortment of duvet covers, the Pottery Barn mom in me got a little excited. Here was his chance to express himself and really make that room pop(!) The choice of floral, plaid, damask or solid would define his college experience. I asked him which one he liked best, and with no sarcasm in his voice, he asked me, “Why would it matter?” We chose grey.

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