Parker Murray ‘15 is an industrial design special major, recognizable as the junior in crisp, incredibly white shirts and bright, tasteful colors. He moves with a deliberate, powerful stride across campus and then off campus, to his room in an apartment on the first floor of the Barn. Murray’s fashion sense, spatial style and academic design focus on a deliberate, focused aesthetic based on interplay between structure and detail.
Dressing for Murray is a matter of keeping lines clean and simple. “I try to make sure I’m not overcomplicating things.” This means referencing minimalist brands like Apple, but it also means a lot of thought directed towards streamlining and eliminating. He reads blogs and mainstream style magazines like GQ (“embarrassingly”).
The deliberation and control with which Murray dresses seems to reflect a certain facet of his personality: “If I stay in pajamas I don’t feel like I’m going to be productive, or feel good about the day … I always try to stay ready … even my slippers look like shoes.” He likes to be prepared, and to leave nothing to chance.
For Murray, deliberate control of a streamlined, prepared whole does not mean deception or repression. It is complemented by the other facets of personality reflected in the details of Murray’s clothing, namely his bright palate.
There is a kind of honesty in these colors, and Murray appreciates them because he has not always felt comfortable enough to display them. “When I came to Swat, I was pretty closeted … [my style] reflected my insides, it just looked like I had put the damper on my whole aesthetic. But when I came out, towards the end of my freshman year, I started to wear color, after my close friend told me to wear the things I like. I felt better, it made me feel a lot more positive to reflect the inside on the outside realistically.”
Murray described his aesthetic in the following terms: “I’m very drawn to a clean, minimalist aesthetic without being sterile.” The personal and the emotional are reflected in detail, and it is through detail that Murray avoids sterility.
The interplay between personalized detail and accessible, controlled, minimalism is evident in different degrees in different areas of Murray’s aesthetic. It varies with how public the domain is. His public design work is the most public, and clothing falls in the middle. Murray’s apartment, which he renovated and decorated himself, is the most private. Murray explains that it is in the privacy of his room, after his intense alteration on the space, “that you will see the most quirkiness.”
Murray sees his apartment as closer aesthetically to his personal style than to his design work. “While my apartment is a little stripped down, it’s not all the way stripped down. When I’m doing design work, like product design, I tend to strip down everything, until there’s just the most pure aspects of what’s necessary, and in my room, I leave some things that are a little superfluous.”
It is telling that, despite the essential minimalism of his aesthetic, when he first began renovating his room, Murray began with a detail. “There was this lamp left over [from the previous tenant], and I feel like the room built itself off that lamp. That’s where I got the idea to go with all white, not only because it would make the space feel bigger, but also because the space was so in need of light.”
He strips down, but he starts with detail in mind. It is detail that illuminates a space’s need for light, detail that shows personality and authenticates bare minimalism as something that can be individualized and avoid sterility. And Murray starts there, with the detail, with the personal. The minimalism of the palate in which he places the detail is perhaps a means of communicating those details clearly and poignantly, without distraction and without clutter.
Murray’s obsessive desire for perfection in the tiniest details is astounding. He searched endlessly for the right hangers — they ended up being MacBook-like aluminum hangers. The hangers rest on a black metal clothing rack that he built by hand. He also renovated a broken chair and painted it turquoise; he never sits on it, but has carefully stacked boxes on its seat.
“There is a little bit of a craziness to doing the things that I do, because it’s a little obsessive,” says Murray. But fluidity is equally present in this dynamic of structure and detail, in the way he seeks to create from nothing, from a “blank canvas,” something that effectively communicates, in a universally comprehendible, uncluttered framework, the quirk that belongs, honestly and artistically, to him.