Moving into my first apartment, I find myself entertaining serious thoughts about decor for the first time in my life. Living in dorm rooms or new bedrooms never before provoked this type of introspection, this soul searching that asks, “What do my furnishings say about me?”
It’s a thought straight from Edward Norton’s unnamed narrator in Fight Club as he struggles to prove his self-worth through his Ikea purchases, a struggle I’ve fallen prey to while debating the merits of the Grevbäck TV bench as opposed to the Leksvik. But more than the appearance of my sofas and sitting chairs, I’ve become concerned about the meaning behind the posters and prints I choose to hang from my walls.
Growing up, my childhood bedroom was decorated by Drew Struzan-illustrated posters from the Star Wars: Special Editions trilogy. As each prequel hit theaters, I dutifully contributed to the Lucas Empire, further populating my wall space with the floating heads of Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen. In college I upgraded to more refined fare, i.e. posters for OK Computer, Eternal Sunshine and various Coen Brothers flicks.
But now that I have a place to call my own, I feel compelled to move beyond movie posters as decor ― they don’t seem very adult. My parents’ house is decorated with posters from the National Zoo and authentic, handmade Amish quilts. Maybe they fall outside the norm, but I can’t think of many households bedecked with posters from 8½ or The Godfather, either.
There’s a disconnect at play here: the adolescent in a bedroom plastered with concert posters eventually grows into the adult with Christina’s World hanging in the living room. While that’s a generalization and there’s no question that tastes change, it seems as though there’s a deeper transformation at hand. As adults, we become less interested in selling ourselves.
Maybe this seems obvious. As people grow older, the tendency to categorize oneself subsides and the need to fit in with regard to pop culture preferences wanes after high school graduation. Without the impulse to sell oneself as cool or hip, the idea of taking up wall space to advertise a band or movie sours.
But this ignores aesthetics. (It also ignores the fact that many teens would chaff at the idea that their decorative choices are anything less than pure, my younger self included.) There’s beauty, intrigue, or ingenuity to many movie posters that turns them into more than just advertising, that turns them into art just as much as any vintage travel poster. So why don’t movie posters get any respect? Why do I feel dirty for wanting to continue to hang film posters in my room? Why do I all of a sudden feel the need to buy certified, unimpeachable art?
In many ways, this is just the same unending debate of high art versus low art. But if I’m comfortable consuming low art as recreation, why am I uncomfortable displaying it in my home?
I see now that I’m still working to sell an idealized version of myself, just as I did in college, just as I did with my Empire Strikes Back poster in elementary school. Instead of cool, I’m now striving for refined; instead of looking hip, I’d rather appear sophisticated. The answer should be to decorate in whatever manner pleases me most, but the distinction between what I like and what I think I should like is more fine than I care to admit ― they’re two sides of the same coin.
So I’ve decided to avoid the debate altogether. I’m going to fill my apartment with houseplants instead.