Best Rooms Show Off Student Chic

Seven student rooms were celebrated in a recent contest for bringing a unique sense of style to residential life at Kenyon.


“Best Upperclass Hall Double” in Manning Hall.

When Soren Roeser ’26 first walked into his spacious “dingle” — a double room with only one occupant — in Gund Hall, the prospect of decorating it actually was a little intimidating. 

“My main goal was just to make it cozy,” he said. “It was such a big space.”

The community advisor’s solution was to fill it with items that reflect his passions — first and foremost, aviation. So you’ll find a poster of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance jet on his wall, along with a map of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton. Peppered around the room are a dozen model airplanes and the headphones he uses during ongoing flight lessons.

The result is particularly pleasing to the student from Chicago who ended up winning “Best CA Room” in the initial “Best Room” contest sponsored by the Office of Residential Life.

“It’s almost like I shrunk the Air Force museum and put it in my room,” said Roeser, a member of the Chamber Singers who plans on being a drama major and astronomy minor. “You can imagine how happy that makes me. Every time I wake up, I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is so cool!’”

Associate Director of Housing and Operations Brooke Baker said the contest was an opportunity to strengthen connections between students and the Office of Residential Life in a fun way that highlighted creativity.

“It was really interesting to see the different ways that students express themselves in the way their rooms look,” she said. “It’s fun to see the individuality.”

Each of the winners in the contest, which is expected to return next year, were able to select items from the Kenyon College Bookstore as prizes.

Basha Hutson ’27 and Rae Zhao ’27 were recognized for “Best First-Year Double” for their room in Lewis Hall that they believe has the best view of any first-year residence on campus. Yasha Zehra ’26 came away with “Best Specialty Housing” for her room in Thomas House, and Joseph Ferrari ’24 and his room in Watson Hall won for “Best Upperclass Hall Single.”

Meera Chambers ’24 won “Best Upperclass Apartment Single” for her room in the North Campus Apartments that features a piece of art on loan from The Gund as part of a special program for students. And “Best Upperclass Apartment Common Area” went to NCA roommates Nina Beardsley ’24, Stefanie Durcan ’24, Carly Weihe ’24 and Megan Quinn ’24.

Grace Sparks ’26 and Anjali Zumkhawala-Cook ’26
Grace Sparks ’26 and Anjali Zumkhawala-Cook ’26 are proud of their room in Manning Hall that won for “Best Upperclass Hall Double.”

Grace Sparks ’26 and Anjali Zumkhawala-Cook ’26, who were randomly paired as roommates last year and became best friends, are proud of their room in Manning Hall that won for “Best Upperclass Hall Double.”

One thing that sets their room apart, they said, is their refusal to turn on the overhead fluorescent lights. Instead, they rely on a host of alternatives, including fairy lights, Edison lights, a Tiffany-style lamp that resembles a cat and another lamp in the shape of a mouse. 

“Lighting makes all the difference,” said Sparks, an anthropology major from San Antonio who is part of Kenyon’s track and field team. “So we got a whole bunch of cool lamps.”

They are philosophical about their cohabitation arrangement, in which they share a desk and most other spaces.

“Last year, we didn’t have the experience to really create a space that reflected both of our personalities and preferences. But this year, now that we’re closer, we wanted to incorporate both of our stylistic choices,” Sparks said. “Instead of it being two separate things, I feel like they’re very much one and the same and mesh together.”

Zumkhawala-Cook, a molecular biology major and art history minor from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania who is co-president of the Kenyon College Bee Club, echoed those sentiments.

“We live together, not with each other, if that makes sense,” she said. “This space just feels a little bit more welcoming because we’ve decided to almost overlap our living. … I’m really proud of the work that we both put into our room.”

The walls serve as reflections of their personalities, full of Polaroids of them and their friends, and ceramics made by Sparks are sprinkled throughout.

The idea of making a room a reflection of the occupant resonates strongly with Roeser. In addition to his airplane paraphernalia, there are other meaningful items. These include a model of the German, World War II-era submarine that he leads tours of during the summer at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and the live, light-up circuit-board tracker of Chicago “L” trains.

“Even if I’m not there, I want somebody to get an idea of the things I’m interested in just by looking at what’s around my room,” he said. 

Roeser said he will be returning to the award-winning room next year.

“I like being a mentor figure for first-years. I like helping people,” he said. “And, at the end of the day, the big space has grown on me.”