A couple of weekends ago, Toronto artists Sarah Keenlyside and Joe Clement, at considerable cost and with painstaking realism, turned a hotel room into Ferris Bueller’s bedroom in the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
You may have some questions about this.
Why? Because the Gladstone Hotel, a Toronto boutique hotel, has rooms decorated by artists. Keenlyside and Clement were invited to participate in a weekend-long exhibition called Come Up to My Room. And if you had been an arty young John Hughes fan in the ’80s, what bedroom would spring to mind first?
How? Artistic skill, eBay, and thrift stores. All but one of the posters had to be recreated. The electronics, detailed in this Wired piece, were a huge challenge because they were extremely high-end for their day. The Carver DTL-100 CD player, for example, cost $650 in 1986 (the equivalent of $1,400 today); the Carver 2000 receiver cost $1,595; the AudioSource EQ-One, $430. Ferris’s keyboard, the E-mu Emulator II, cost $8000-$10,000, depending on the model, and like a lot of high-end vintage audio equipment, it’s still valuable.
Can I see it? Yes! It’ll be at Ferris Fest, a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the film’s release, May 20-22 in Lake Forest and Chicago. (If you’re not a local, it’ll be at Comic Con in Niagara Falls in June.)
I spoke with Keenlyside about her inspiration for the project, what the movie means to her (and us), and how she actually did it.
Why Ferris Bueller’s bedroom?
[The space we were designing] was a bedroom, and I thought, Well, I like to do things that refer to the event itself. Which bedroom would I like to visit? And I was like, “Ferris’s room!” And that was it. You know when a good idea comes along? I just knew it was going to work.
What about his bedroom do you like?
The film was a really powerful film for me. I love John Hughes movies, and identified with all the Molly Ringwald characters, which was much more the kind of girl I was. I was so entranced by the room. Considering that nobody’s in the room a lot of time that it’s featured in the film, that room is a character of its own. It has this whole life that happens throughout the film. I see it as kind of his cameo in the movie. I think it adds a humongous dimension to the Ferris character; without that room, we’d lose a lot of layers of that guy. You’d say that he’s not a very deep person, but the room suggests a depth that’s quite fascinating.
There’s a lot of sophistication, like the Knoll Bertoia chair.
There are lots of things in the room that are probably the choices of set directors. But the fun of the project is those things. Trying to figure out “what is this character?” We had to extrapolate, based on the elements that existed in the room, saying “what other books would he have?” That was the real artistic license we got to have. If he had Town and the City by Jack Kerouac on the bedside table, what other books would he have?
It’s almost like fan fiction through design.
I call it the ultimate form of cosplay.
There seems to be an eclecticism that’s forward-looking.
It feels like kind of a hipster bedroom. Maybe that was the first hipster moment. It’s just so curated. John Hughes, all his characters had fascinating taste, a depth, that as a kid I really aspired to.
How did you find all the pieces?
Mostly eBay. I probably went to at least 30 thrift stores. Some things were nice surprises—I found his Sony Trinitron TV from circa 1985 at a thrift store. But no Carver electronics, no Audiosource equalizer. All of that was purchased from eBay at great expense. I probably spent $2,000 just on the four pieces of the stereo.
He was so spoiled. He had really expensive stuff, he had tens of thousands of dollars of gear in his room. Maybe it was foreshadowing kids today who have all kinds of expensive stuff. Ferris is the first spoiled teen with all that tech gear.
Reading the coverage, it seems that people have really identified with the tech.
I made a lot of noise about that part, because it was such a huge effort to get it. The computer museum that I got the computer from—which is this museum in Brantford [Ontario]—is an incredible space full of all these old computers that are all functioning. [The director] said something that was interesting: people who come into the museum immediately feel very nostalgic. The kind of people who are interested in Ferris’s room are interested in those kinds of details. That’s why I didn’t want to fudge it; I wanted to make sure I got it right. The fun is in the details.
One of the interesting parts of his character is that he’s one of the most famous cool kids in the movies … but he’s also a nerd.
There’s all this foreshadowing to the future in that room. In 1986, when I saw that movie, it was the first time I’d seen any iteration of the Internet whatsoever. I thought the movie was lying to us. You can’t access the school’s computer from your house computer! I’m sure there were lots of savvy people that did know about it at the time, but maybe not an 11-year-old kid like me.
Ferris is kind of a nerd, but at the same time, nerds aren’t nerds anymore. Maybe the film was prescient, someone thinking that computers will be more important than cars for kids.
I went to a cell-phone repair store the other day and it had this little exhibit of old cell phones, and they had almost every cell phone I’ve ever owned. And I did feel a bit nostalgic, even though I’ve only had a cell phone for about a decade.
Our culture is accelerating. How do we catch ourselves in time? It’s through these objects.