- Video Tour
- View from Couch
- View from Bed
- Under the Loft
- Overhead Storage
I had the good fortune of living in Wa506, which corresponded to the southeast corner of the dorm. It was the highest undergrad room at East Campus that looked over the Charles River and the Boston skyline, tied with the room across the hall. As a corner room, it also had two windows rather than the typical one window. I almost never closed the blinds.
East Campus is currently going under a two-year renovation that started in June 2023. The construction team will be gutting most everything and putting in elevators. If the schedule holds, it should reopen in Fall 2025.2 When it reopens, the space corresponding to my room will likely be part of an apartment for a member of the House Team, whether a GRA, an Area Director, or a Head of House.
Here, I give a tour of my room as it was two days before my graduation. I didn’t paint the walls, but I did bring everything else into the room, including all the furniture.3
Also, since so many of the items are from Amazon, I figured I may as well use the opportunity to use affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
The entrance was a little tight given the layout of the room. The real bottleneck was the space between the bookcase on the left (here it has a receipt taped to it) and the corner of my queen-sized loft. You’ll notice that I have foam padding on the loft corner. For people about 5’4” to 5’8”, there was some risk of bumping your head onto the wood. Lucky me and most of my friends fell within that height range, so I put up some padding to protect against concussions and such.
My loft ladder was held in by my two favorite fasteners: friction and gravity. I used a system of two L-brackets that fit between the loft frame and the mattress so I could move the ladder all around the loft. Sometimes I had it in this position next to the door, and sometimes I moved it next to the window. There’s more privacy from the street with the ladder next to the door, but it requires entering from the foot of the bed.
I never used the overhead light (terrible lighting), so I used a series of three Institute4 lamps with Philips Hue bulbs. They were pretty expensive as far as light bulbs go, but I liked the color flexibility and the potential for automation. Then I found out after buying them that I needed access to the Wi-Fi network to actually use the advanced features from the Hue app, which didn’t play nicely with MIT’s enterprise network. The alternatives were using basic features from the Bluetooth version of the app or to write a program and use a Zigbee sniffer to send commands to the lamps from a computer. I bought the part for the latter but I ended up just using the Bluetooth app.
I brought the bulbs with me when I left and I’ll probably bring them wherever I move to next, since they were a rather big investment for light bulbs.
Here’s my little office underneath my lofted bed. I built the loft early in my senior year after a full year of living in the room without one. I guess I could’ve gone without it, but I liked the idea of having more floor space.
I fiddled with the design to fit my room, but I mostly borrowed from a friend’s inherited loft. Building lofts was common practice at East Campus, and it helped that we had ready access to wood from EC Build and the accompanying saws, impact drivers, screws, and, most importantly, precedent.
Stay tuned for a more detailed post on the building process sometime in the future.
One of the big questions when laying out my room was where to put all my stuff. I had clothing, food, dishes, and other things that I needed to put somewhere.
One of the stars of the show is the couch-bookcase system. There’s only so much wall space available in the room, and it only occurred to me after seeing a similar system in my friend Kate’s room that you could put a couch in front of bookcases and only miss out on the bottom shelves.5
I used these shelves to store almost everything except my dishes. My clothes occupied two shelves, and my coffee/Ovaltine station occupied one. Granted, I retained more junk than I should have.
My room was the furthest room from the kitchen, and our kitchen was also pretty icky. While the hall had a kitchen with its own fridges and cookware, there really wasn’t enough fridge space for everyone, so it was typical for people to have one or two mini-fridges in their room. I inherited both of mine from people who had left when MIT vacated campus for the pandemic.
I usually meal prepped, so I found it more comfortable to only use the kitchen when I needed the stovetops. I would do my food preparation (cutting onions, seasoning meat) and my post-processing (transferring food from my pots to glass containers) in my room. And everything (ingredients, meals) would live in my fridges.
Most of my reheating needs were fulfilled by my air fryer (I used it like an oven to reheat my prepped meals) and steamer (for frozen dumplings and fresh broccoli). When I needed a microwave, my hall maintained one in the lounge halfway between my room and the kitchen. In the winter, I would also turn up the radiator and use it to warm up foil-wrapped tortillas, pre-steamed from Chipotle.
The air conditioner was important for comfort in the summer months, since in those days we didn’t have centralized air conditioning (which I’m told East Campus will have post-renovation). I’m also glad I had two windows because I could occupy one with the air conditioner and still have the other for looking at the river.
In my closet I decided to knock out the clothing rod and replace it with a set of shelves. I figured the space in my closet would be better for things than for clothes, which I could just put on one or two bookcase shelves. I usually thought of my closet as a pantry, since it’s where I kept my dried and canned foods.
It’s also where I put most of my dishes, some of which you see here. I maintained a collection of about 20 small glass containers and 5 large glass containers that I would use for everything. Each batch of meals would take up 6-10 small containers.
View from Couch
Neither the TV stand nor the mattress were typically here in this room. I was taking care of a dear friend’s monitor and I figured I may as well use it as a TV. I had also recently hosted that same friend’s brother when he came to visit Boston using the twin XL bed, but I left the bed there since the building was about to shut down and I was about to graduate. I had taken the mattress in the first place from some already-vacated room earlier that May.
Notice I have a curtain rod and blackout curtain in the doorway. Like many in the dorm, I liked to keep my door open. But I wanted to keep my door open without being blinded by the super bright LED panels that light the hallway. Most other halls have more reasonable lighting in their hallways, but I think ours were especially bright because all the hallway light fixtures were replaced in Summer 2019 in the de-smoking mini-renovation.
View from Bed
Here’s where I spent over a third of my time during the second half of my MIT undergraduate education.
I had space above the loft to sit up and even kneel on the bed. I designed my loft to be just high enough for me to stand underneath (with no shoes on) as long as that was compatible with having enough space above the bed. Ceiling height varied by floor so it was important for me to check measurements when I was planning my design. My freshman year, I had a friend who slept on a loft much closer to the ceiling, and he would bang his head on the ceiling whenever he tried to sit up.
Lofted beds aren’t for everyone, but I think they’re a great way to make the most of a room with limited space, especially if you have the ceiling height for it. Getting up and down from the bed can be unpleasant, so that’s where a good ladder or even staircase can come in. You want to make it easy to get out of bed.
I liked the white sheets because I thought they seemed classy, like something you might find in a hotel. But they were among the cheapest sheets available online. Maybe when I start making more money, I’ll get some real linens. But pillows, I never skimp on.
In the left window you can see the corner of the MIT Media Lab and on the right window you can see both the edge of Senior Haus and the Gray House courtyard. I was told by friends that talking in my room was audible from Memorial Drive (right up against the river) at night, especially when my window was open.
Under the Loft
I normally used a slightly larger monitor as my second monitor, but I had packed it up for move-out, so here’s my portable monitor that I was using in the meantime. It’s true what they say about having multiple (or at least large) monitors. It’s difficult to be fully productive in anything when you need to tab between your editor and your reference materials.
I generally tried to keep a clean desk because it helped my focus. The chair is (I believe) an old Steelcase. Old office furniture pops up now and again as offices and labs renew their furniture. It ticked my three boxes for found chairs: comfort, rollability, and spinnability, so I brought it back to my room freshman year and brought it back when we returned to campus my junior year.
I made the desk frame from 2x4’s and 1x4’s screwed together with 2-inch Simpson Strong-Tie framing screws (leftover sponsored screws from EC Build). The surface was made up of aluminum composite boards that were used in the Fall 2019 cohort of the MArch program. After their presentations were over, the boards were thrown away and found themselves at the Stata Loading Dock, where I picked them up.
I made the desk rather quickly because it was a prerequisite to building my loft, but it served me well for the 9 months that I used it. I never fully tested how much weight I could put on it, but screws are much stronger than you might expect if you’ve never worked with screws before.
I forgot to take a picture of it elsewhere, but I placed hooks in a bunch of places to hang items. You can see on the large diagonal support next to the ladder that there are a few hooks. I typically hung jackets and things there.
On the mirror wall near the trim, you can also see the top of my backpack strap hanging from a hook. It’s nice screwing things into the trim because you know you won’t hit wires or anything, and it’s a good spot to hang my backpack for coming and going.
I built this platform as long-term storage (thinking of memory hierarchy) for things I needed rarely. In the summer, I would box up my winter clothing and bedding. In the winter, I would have my AC up there. Whenever I wasn’t moving, I would have two suitcases up there. Sometimes I would also box up things that I rarely needed but didn’t want to throw away.
In placing a platform like this, there weren’t many places in the room where it could go without negative impact. Two of the walls had windows, and I didn’t want to obscure the view with storage. This nook was particularly nice because I didn’t need to build support for it; I only needed to build a platform and rest it upon existing elements of the room.
Like my loft ladder, the wooden platform isn’t screwed into anything. But you’ll notice it slots very cleanly into the space. Notice how the platform is more or less flush with all but the long side of the
L. Above the door, I have a 2x3 that reaches from the corner of the room up until a few inches from my fire alarm. The plywood part of the platform is on top of the frame, and the frame is fully supported by the molding.
It makes a huge difference being able to tuck away large items. It’s like building an attic into the room.
My room used four power strips. I had a lot of things to plug into the wall. I don’t know if our building’s power system was especially robust, but I remember hearing from a member of Unit-12 (the on-call team in MIT Housing Operations that patches up problems when the house managers are off-duty) that some other dorms (e.g., Maseeh) would blow a breaker if so much as two mini-fridges were plugged in next to each other.
I have no idea what specifications they built the building’s systems to, but they definitely met my electricity needs. I just needed to supply the outlets. Hopefully the builders aren’t skimping on the electrical system when they rewire East Campus for a few years from now.
Maybe I’ll write a post about working at EC Desk, since I spent 21 months working part-time there. ↩
I was also involved as a member of the East Campus Transition Team for both years it was active while the dorm was still open, so I also plan on writing a post or two on the renovation planning process with the gift of retrospect. The closure didn’t directly impact my living plans since I was graduating regardless, but many of the people below my year have moved off campus. ↩
Some of the furniture I built from leftover wood from the REX construction. I plan to write a post on the construction process for my furniture. I would discuss designing and building my loft, my overhead storage, my desk, the bookcase risers, and the (deprecated) corner overhead storage.
I also plan to write a post on the REX construction itself. I helped a bit in 2021 but I was most involved in 2022. I also returned to lend a hand up a couple weeks ago this year 2023. I was always a builder, never an engineer. But the brains need bodies to get it done. ↩
I think it’s kind of a misnomer, but EC residents generally called furniture “Institute” if they were provided by the dorm. In reality, the furniture wasn’t standardized across the Institute, but were rather selected (I think?) by the house manager, which in our case was JoeG for the past two decades. In the case of the lamps, they were actually new as of Fall 2021. Many people didn’t want theirs, so it was easy for me to get duplicates. That’s also how I came by two and a half bookcases. ↩