The Apartment Therapist Is In

Maxwell Ryan ’89, founder of Apartment Therapy, returns to campus to transform his old dorm room.

August 13, 2019

Hillary Hempstead

Man standing in dorm room doorway
Maxwell Ryan ’89, founder of Apartment Therapy
Photo credit: Mathias Reed

Maxwell Ryan stands in the middle of room 127 in Barrows Hall, a dormitory built in 1956 that boasts the boxy charm that’s so common in mid-century brick buildings, surveying the nearly empty 10-by-15 foot space. Its rough cinder block walls are painted a glossy white, the vinyl-tiled floor is an oversized checkerboard of tan and brown, and dark oak built-in closets and desks present what some might kindly describe as an aesthetic challenge.

“Part of what you want to do in a dorm room is cover up the dorm as much as possible,” explains Ryan, a former designer who founded Apartment Therapy , a blog that exploded into a go-to home decor site and media company that today has millions of video views and a social media following exceeding four million.

In his quest to deliver on this counsel and transform the 62-year-old space, Ryan will construct, revise, and re-construct the headboard of the dorm room bed numerous times, first attempting to assemble a canopy using dowels and twine from Watson’s hardware store, and fabric procured from the Ben Franklin store in town. He plays with a number of other configurations, straightening and arranging fabric, re-hanging the structure in a cascade of textiles reminiscent of a shower curtain, until he is satisfied.

Read more about Ryan’s Oberlin dorm room makeover in the fall 2018 issue of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine.

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