We spent the afternoon talking with Joanna Birkner ’16, whose Radnor room won this year’s Project Dorm Room competition, about how she brought a little bit of Gettysburg and a lot of Turkish charm to her dorm room.
So I actually lived on the fourth floor of Radnor last year as well, when I came back from studying abroad, and I liked it because all my friends live in Radnor. It’s a really social dorm, but the fourth floor is nice since it’s more secluded and quiet. So it’s a good balance of social and time to yourself. I also knew this room was in the turret, which I liked. And it's part of a hall group, so it worked out that I could live next to friends.
There's a lot of stuff in here. My aesthetic is very over-the-top, which I get from my dad. Many of the things in here are inspired by the art and what I saw while studying abroad. I was abroad in Paris last year, and I studied around Istanbul in high school, as well as two summers during college, so that’s where most of this stuff comes from.
Q: This seems like a pretty big space for a single room. Besides being in the turret, what drew you to this room?
One of the cool things about Bryn Mawr is that every room is so different and I’ve lived in four really different rooms. I lived in Pem East my first two years and had cool rooms there, with window seats and the fireplace. But I love that this one has kind of a nook. That chair, I think, was stolen from the garbage by my dad. Or some Gettysburg College professor was getting rid of it and put it by the side of the street.
Of course! They closed down a wax museum in Gettysburg and there was an auction. I love auctions, and what’s better than a wax museum auction?! I was thrilled since they were selling several hundred wax figures and I actually got too excited and bought a wax figure. I put up my paddle and nobody bid after me. But at the end, people who didn’t get something were scrambling to buy hands since they had all these extra body parts, and I ended up with a hand as well. So that’s the story behind my wax hand.
I would say a lot of them are from France, from an art history class I took. I really love Egon Schiele. He’s an Austrian painter. And then I also really love this painting called The Talisman by Sérusier.
This summer, I was in Istanbul studying and I went to Bulgaria for a weekend because it’s so easy to travel. And I found this cool little store that had all these old maps and magazines. So I have a Women’s World magazine from Bulgaria in the ’60s that I love.
Oh, I love the bed nook! It was also like that in my previous room in Radnor. So I wake up every morning, I can look out my windows, and can see my lantern and my lamps from my bed.
There’s too many things to choose! I like this picture of my parents that’s over my desk. They look like such nerds. And this whole drawer is filled with letters from my dad, who sends me letters twice a week. I hung one of his typewriter notes below the photo. It just says, “Jo, I hope all is well with you on all fronts. Just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you. Be healthy and smart. Work hard. XO Dad.” So if I had to pick, the photo of my parents and maybe this Xena poster, because you can’t recreate that. I also really like this little Pennsylvania Dutch cutout, which was a wedding gift to my parents.