Personal spaces are thought to reflect the lives of the individuals inhabiting them. Homes are divided between public spaces and private spaces, with the private space traditionally locked behind the bedroom door. The beginning of adulthood is a delicate time period, as people begin to acquire a strong sense of self. These spaces reflect this transition, and serve as a refuge amidst the trials and joys of personal development. More than simply a room, bedrooms represent growth and transition; they change as their owners change. The moments experienced within these rooms and the objects that reside within them reveal parts of their inhabitants.
In an exploration of personal space, we asked young adults living in Toronto to allow us behind their bedroom doors to document how they manipulate their space, and how these manipulations reflect events and transitions in their lives.
Article and photos by Emily Scherzinger.
Brian Lee, 21
“[This] is the first room that is wholly my own, with roommates across the hall instead of across the room [like res]. I don’t clean it because I don’t have to clean it. I’ve spent hundreds of nights in my room, played hundreds of hours of video games, watched hundreds of hours of TV. It’s the first place that’s… my own — the only place where I am alone. My cat sleeps every night with me in my bed. It’s just Marley [my cat] and me. Three years and still no bed — only a mattress. It’s the messiest room in a dirty house. The furniture is falling apart, just like my life. Just kidding… but not really.”
Emma Taylor, 27
“I moved into this room after landing my first real-life career job in the city. Before graduating, I had only worked part-time minimum wage gigs and could only afford to live in slum housing, which had mice. During this time, I would still hang out in my room, listen to a record on this really cheap player my parents got for me for my nineteenth birthday, and it was all incredibly romantic. With my first paycheck, I splurged and got myself a new player. I am incredibly grateful to have a job I love, live in a lovely house with some really stellar roommates, and now have a really sweet sound system. Life is good, and it shows that the hard work I put in early on, eventually paid off.”
Erik Masson, 21
“The worst thing that’s happened in this room is kind of hard to pinpoint [to] one event. I guess it’s sort of just a progression of me being an asshole. Someone I care about need[ed] to stay with me for a month, but being an only child, I’m reclusive and need alone time and other dumb nonsense. I don’t really know what to do about my frustration so rather than talk about it like a person I get moody and shitty. She eventually [left], which makes sense. I wanted to take her to the bus but I had to work. When I got home she was gone and she left a note with a picture of us with hearts and lots of lovely stuff. [It] made me sad, so I cried like a helpless [and] confused child, which might be a sign. I hope she doesn’t read this because she definitely left it to make me feel better.”
Haris Khan, 21
“I was just sitting [on my bed] on my laptop… on Reddit or some nonsense like that. The streetcar goes by, and [the bookshelf] was unbalanced at the time because the books are at the top. The whole thing just fell on me when the streetcar went by, because this is an old house and the whole thing shakes when the streetcar goes by. Everything fell off… Even my bobblehead’s guitar broke. I had to clean it up afterwards — it was the worst thing ever. I just put the books right up top again. I wake up at night sometimes, scared the bookshelf is going to fall on me again. It’s a major fear in my life.”
Elena Gritzan, 22
“I got what was probably the most exciting Facebook message I’ve ever received while sitting on my bed. I used to joke that the writers of a local electronic music blog were my musical soulmates – I devoured their posts, went to their shows, and generally felt like I wanted to be them. They were also the first people I’d ever met that understood my old Halloween costume: a light-up jacket fashioned after the musician Born Gold. I’m pretty sure I jumped a foot when I got a message asking if I’d like to write for the blog! Now I hang out in the metaphorical blog office and write about how great dark synthesizers are. Sometimes while wearing the jacket.”
Ayla Shiblaq, 18
“We found this place on Kijiji, and… the people who own it are these really cool neo-hippie[s]. The family’s going off to Costa Rica for a year and a bit, and we’re essentially subletting. This is the only way we could come close to living on Queen [Street West] in a loft. It’s nice living here, but because we’re subletting, it doesn’t really feel like home. I come here and it kind of feels like a hotel, which at first had a really cool novelty to it, but now it kind of… doesn’t feel like home until my roommates are here. Living in a loft bed is fun — that’s the one place where I feel like I’m truly on my own, and you don’t really have that when you live with three other people. It has its perks — I like being separate, [but] having to go to the washroom at 4:00 am is literally the worst thing because you just don’t want to wake up your roommate.”
Sarah Trottier, 24
“I moved into this room and bought this bed after a break-up. It’s a trundle bed, so you can pull the bottom out and make it a queen-sized bed with another mattress. Since I got it, the only reason I’ve had to pull out the trundle is for various friends to crash on…after their respective breakups. Thus, it is the breakup trundle. I didn’t intend for this bed to become a refuge for broken hearts. I was hoping that people would come stay just to hang out and have fun pajama parties or whatever. I guess when you live north of Eglinton, the only reason people want to visit you is to get as far away from their exes as possible. Maybe one day someone will stay here to watch movies or play board games, rather than to stain my sheets with the tears of lost love.”
Adam Bradley, 27
“When I went to university in Newfoundland, the most dreaded professor in my program was the Dean of Sociology. I even dropped a class of his once because I found out he was teaching it. Years later in Toronto, through a weird continuum of coincidences, we developed a good friendship and he became probably the biggest fan of my art and weirdo poetry performance stuff. He was writing an essay for an academic sociology textbook about strange homes and he came to interview me about everything in [my] place. He analyzed…every trinket and cobweb and asked me about my thoughts on things. I read the manuscript and it was the most violently trippy experience I’ve probably had, having your entire identity broken down, processed and fed back to you like that. Messed me up for a bit. I got a copy of the book years later and his article was the first in the book. Thankfully he left out the part where he assessed that my back room smelled like ‘cat urine.’ The cold eye of science.”
Anna Beausoleil Shapiro, 21
“My house has no living space, so my room has become the de facto living room. Everyone always ends up hanging out in my room. I like to think it’s an enjoyable room to be in — it certainly is for me. There’s lots of sitting space and lots of things to look at — things to get lost in. I have a Ralph Steadman poster of the tea party in Through the Looking Glass that always makes people zone out. Nothing bad has really happened to me in my bedroom because it is my palace. I’m untouchable here; this is my place of power. As familiar spaces go, this is as familiar as it gets. This is a space I have created from the bottom up. This is the place where I have the most control, more than anywhere else in the world.”
Matt Lacrette, 22
“I had gotten two breeding sized snakes for a crazy deal from a friend. They were great snakes, but the only problem was that I had not had the snakes from a young age. This kind of made me feel like the snakes weren’t mine… but the female was pregnant. I took great care of her until one night at 4:00 am, I found 15 baby boas surrounding the mother. There were many different patterns, sizes, and personalities within the litter, but two stuck out: Lela and Strags. Lela [has an] amazing ladder pattern on her tail, and [Strags is] the slow yet lovable… runt of the litter. Having a pet from birth is an experience not a lot of people get to have, and now at two years old, they are four and a half feet and the friendliest snakes I’ve ever come across.”
Editor’s Note (March 5th, 2016): One participant was removed from this feature, at their request.