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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Cribz: A maximalist abode on Broad Street

At their house on Broad Street, (from left to right) Tess Kerkhof, Veronica Thomas, Saketan Anand, Lillie Westbrook and Amelia Zoernig, all fourth years, try to keep the spirit of Grinnell alive. Photo contributed by Tess Kerkhof.

The first hint that the green, two-story house off the corner of Broad Street and Seventh Avenue isn’t quite what it seems is the light that radiates from the house at night. Not just the twinkling Christmas lights hanging from the porch, still left up from December, but also the purple lights from inside.

Most rooms in the house have fairy lights draped along the ceiling. If not, the overhead light fixtures shine blue or purple rather than white.

“Very few rooms have overhead lights because we’re artsy kids. And artsy kids hate overhead lights,” said Tess Kerkhof `21, one of five residents in the house.

Kerkhof lives at 1132 Broad Street with Amelia Zoernig, Lillie Westbrook, Veronica Thomas and Saketan Anand, all fourth years. Westbrook first scoped the house early in her second year while attending an off-campus cast party for the fall 2018 musical Spring Awakening and immediately knew it was what she and her friends wanted to live in for their fourth year.

“It just seemed like the coziest, most wonderful house at the time,” said Westbrook. Together, all five of the group signed their lease in February of 2019, while they were in the spring of their second year.

It’s clear in Thomas’s room that she much prefers fairy lights to dreaded overhead lamps, and dangled among the lights are photos of her and friends, music records and other artistic projects. In one corner sits a table with four lamps shining down on it that showcases her animation thesis project for her narrative studies independent major.

“Veronica is the original maximalist,” said Kerkhof.

“We’re all just maximalists – except Amelia,” said Westbrook.

Off Thomas’s room is the living room, which fits that vibe to a T. Tapestries of artwork hang throughout, and nearly all wall space is covered by posters, photos, artwork – anything which could stick to a wall.

One of the housemates’ favorite pieces in the living room is a B&S newspaper page from their first year that lists out all current fourth years and makes predictions for their future.

The College’s influence is not just present in the décor but in its wildlife as well. Their cat Loggia, who seems to vanish and reappear instantaneously in different spots around the house, is also named after the loggias unique to Grinnell College.

We’re all just maximalists – except Amelia. – Lillie Westbrook ’21

“We like to keep the things we love about Grinnell alive, even if just in a microcosm of five people,” said Kerkhof, adding that they had thrown a “super intense 10/10 extravaganza” for themselves, with a fully fleshed out schedule and lawn games outside.

The remnants of party streamers and a large ‘Happy Birthday!’ sign decks the ceilings and wall of the living room. Off in the corner lurks a partially deflated yellow balloon from Kerkhof’s birthday in March.

“We have enough spring birthdays that it just makes sense to keep it up,” said Westbrook.

For the housemates, any decorations are fair game, regardless of the occasion. “We really do like to celebrate, without a cause,” said Westbrook.

Besides off-the-cuff celebrations, one of the most prominent customs for the housemates is their tendency towards second-hand items and thrifting. Their couch, piano, flat-screen TV, speaker set, baby-changing table (which acts as a bar) and rug were found free off the curbs in the streets in Grinnell.

“I think our penchant for picking things up off the side of the road is the most important,” said Kerkhof. The housemates also found a grill, a kiddy pool and a picnic table in the same way.

The maximalist, artistic vibe continues on to the second floor of the house. The walls in Anand’s bedroom are decked with soft and fluffy blue fabric, which came from material which Kerkhof and her friend Clara Dingle ’21 used for a Smith Gallery show last year. The blueness is exacerbated when the purple overhead light is turned on.

And upon entering the house, it only takes a few moments to realize the floor is uneven, the far-left corner several inches nearer to the ground than the doorway.

“[His] room – it’s like a hobbit hole,” said Kerkhof.

Much like the other bedrooms of the house, the eccentricities of Anand’s room reflect the creativity of the people who live inside them. And like each room inside the house, the house reflects what makes the group unique: their individuality, artistry and camaraderie.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else,” said Kerkhof.


Editor’s Note: Kerkhof is the Graphics Designer for The S&B. 

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Nina Baker
Nina Baker, Staff Writer
Nina Baker is a fourth-year Russian major with a Russian, Central European and Eurasian Studies concentration from Lakeville, Minnesota. When she's not reporting for The Scarlet & Black, she loves taking long walks, reading, and learning foreign languages.
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