Four Walls And A Door

Understanding each other through space

Written by Kim Koelmeyer

Images by Ezekiel Kigbo

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
— Virginia Woolf

I am a firm believer that if you want to know a person, you should go into their bedroom, and really take a look. And I don’t mean the version of their bedroom that’s visitor ready, preened to the point that it shows no signs that anyone lives there. I mean the bedroom that’s been lived in. With every draped sock and scuffed table and ruffled sheet. This space, within 4 walls, is the closest we can get to looking into the very base of a human without communicating. It’s a testament to how a person lives uninhibited, without the gaze of external eyes tainting and molding behavior.

It is pure, unadulterated personhood.

It’s a mirror, cocoon and a refuge all in one.

In fact, this phenomenon isn’t just some poetic philosophy of mine (even though it’s been something of an obsession for a while). It’s earned itself an area of academia called “bedroom culture,” which mainly takes a look at teens, and how they use the space within their bedroom to carve an identity, often in a world where they exercise very little control.

The bedroom is constantly evolving alongside its occupant, being a space where we can experiment and perform our identities; who we are, and who we want to be. Hand-me-downs take on a second life, teddy bears become a relic of childhoods past and celebrity posters reflect our sexual appetites or aspirations.

I am fascinated by how the smallest things in a room can all come together and tell a person’s story. Maybe not the big stories, but the thousands of little ones. Sure, you can just look at someone and tell if they’re shy, or whether they like wearing dark clothes, but taking a step in their room reveals a plethora of little details. You learn whether they read in bed, or snack at midnight, or how often they vacuum (if at all).


I live for painstakingly detailed descriptions of a character’s room in novels. It’s one thing to know how someone looks and acts in public, it’s a whole other ballgame to see how they live. For this reason, I don’t feel attached to keeping my things in pristine condition. If something I own gets scuffed, torn or worn in, I keep it so long as it’s still functional. It tells a story of my recklessness, my clumsiness, or my specific domestic rhythms. Permanent stains become anecdotes, and grooves in furniture become comfort points. It becomes quintessentially mine, instead of any old mass-produced item I exchanged for money. It’s now by my design. And each thing accumulates, to accommodate the shape of my existence, and become a small space in the world that’s mine and mine alone.

In a world that constantly tries to restrict us to different realms of existence, the bedroom is the one place we can be truly ourselves, in all our contradictions.

From being one of the few rooms we’re comfortable being naked in, to the primary place we have sex in, to being home to all the guilty pleasure stashes that aren’t meant to exist. It is by nature a private, personal room where we explore ourselves, and our place in the world.

So the next time a friend invites you over, or you go home with someone, take a second to soak in their room.