Peering Through the Glass: A Review of Window Decor

Three hundred seventy-five. That’s how many windows Parrish Hall has (or at least that’s how many I counted by circling the building several times). Mertz has 214, Palmer has 66, and many other dorms have a three-digit number of windows that would take far too long to count. While their total number is certainly finite, windows on this campus are ubiquitous. Nearly all the windows in residential buildings look the same, with plain white blinds or shades that appear no different from the other windows in the same row and column. Most windows look identical to the next, lacking any kind of decor. 

Whether it be curtain lights, decorative drapes, wreaths, a small plant along the window sill, or really anything that adds an artistic element to a window, window decor can come in many forms. It may not just be decorative but also symbolic or meaningful. For example, many religious and cultural traditions seek to display candles in windows, often representing a beacon of light. Flags hanging from windows can also represent many things — pride flags, national flags, sports pennants — for the outside world to view. As students living in residential halls, dorm room windows are the perfect places to display decor for both ourselves and the world around us to see.

I’ve always wanted to have a cool dorm room window. The coolest dorm room window I’ve ever seen, albeit not at Swarthmore, was several years ago while visiting my cousin’s college campus in western Pennsylvania. One of the dorms had a cutout of Home Alone antagonists, Harry and Marv, taped to the window. While my attempt at creating a cool dorm room window may not be as comedic, I certainly consider my solution cool. This past fall, I wanted to start the tradition of candles in my dorm room windows, though not for any particular reasons. I simply wanted my window to be beautiful, especially when I have to pass an array of undecorated windows while trekking back to my dorm late at night. My room is one of the few Mertz singles with two windows: one is the standard Mertz-sized window, the other is awkwardly miniature and square-shaped. Having two windows afforded the perfect opportunity to add twice the decor for the outside world to view. 

As a kid, I’ve always admired houses with candles in the windows. On bus rides to school in the dark early mornings, I would count the number of candles and wreaths I would see in the windows to pass the time. (Interestingly, many houses in my neighborhood displayed wreaths and candles for all seasons, not just in the winter.) My family also displays battery-operated candles in our windows, which started as a winter tradition, but we would eventually leave the candles up for months until the batteries died. 

At college, I wanted to do the same thing. I thought I could add a bit of brightness to not only my nighttime commute but to those of everyone else who walks past Mertz, perhaps a bit similar to the tradition of symbolizing a beacon of light. While candles and other fire hazards are prohibited in Swarthmore dorm rooms, plastic, battery-operated fake candles are not. So, every night from precisely 5:34 p.m. to 11:34 p.m., the two candles in my windows light up. In November, I even added three sets of copper string lights I purchased at the Swarthmore Campus and Community Store around the windows to add some sparkle in time for the holiday season.

My windows are not the only display of lights or decor around campus. It’s enlightening to see many other dorm windows displaying flags and curtain lights, though there are still few examples amongst all student dorms. While it can be expensive to purchase decorations, monetary value, fortunately, does not have to be a barrier to adding decor to your window. There are a number of campus events to create window decorations at no monetary cost. Last semester, the Scott Arboretum hosted leaf wreath and snow globe-making workshops for students. String was provided to attach to the paper leaf wreaths, which could be used to easily tether to a window frame. The snow globes were just the right size to fit along any window sill.

This past Sunday, SGO hosted a DIY Flower Bouquet event where glass jars and flowers were provided to students for free and were the perfect size to place alongside a window sill. I too currently have my bouquet displayed in my window. Flowers and plants also make great additions to window decor for little to no cost, especially if you still have your plant from the Arboretum from orientation week. 

Whether you have a large bay window in Dana or Hallowell that’s great for draping lights, flags, or large plants, or a thin window sill in Alice Paul but the perfect size for a battery-operated candle, or even if you simply use your window sill as a shoe rack, dorm windows are the perfect location to display creativity through decor. 

Let your window be beautiful, and let it stand out amongst the many thousands of windows at Swarthmore. 

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