News & Politics

2004 Kids Rooms: Celebrity Memories

Tony Kornheiser loved baseball pinups. Judith Viorst shared a room with her sister. We never forget our childhood bedroom--it helps shape who we grow up to be.

Childhood Memories

As a teenager, Robert Wiedmaier covered the walls of his bedroom in Belgium with clipped photos of George Billon, Paul Bocuse, and other famous chefs he read about in the French newspaper Le Monde. He also hung snapshots of motorcycles, his other love. His parents didn't like the motorcycles, but they didn't change the decorations.

"Your room is your own little domain within your household," says Wiedmaier, 44. "It reflects a lot about who you are."

Now Wiedmaier is the chef/owner at Marcel's, an upscale French restaurant in downtown DC. He drives a Harley-Davidson to work.

Ex perts flood us with parenting advice: Listening to Mozart makes children smarter; television causes attention deficit disorder; a good breakfast helps them stay alert. But what about a child's bedroom?

"The bedroom has a psychological impact on the child because it's the child's space," says Jane Annunziata, a psychologist in McLean. "It's a place for the child to express himself." It's often the only room in the house that doesn't reflect parents' tastes, she says.

Jackie Leonard, an eight-year-old from Northeast DC, shared a room with her older sister, Sydney, until her parents converted the family library into another bedroom.

A trundle bed occupies the space where a desk sat. Shelves are filled with Jackie's basketball bobble-head and Barbie collections; her baseball caps are draped over a miniature palm tree on her desk. A poster of a ballerina hangs on her wall. "I think the girl is really me," Jackie says. "I love ballet."

Mo st of us never forget our childhood bedrooms–the wall color, the bed, the posters. But when parents furnish their children's rooms, most aren't thinking about how influential their decisions might be.

David Jameson, an architect in Alexandria, traces his disdain for drapes back to his bedroom on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The room had big Andersen windows that overlooked the water, but blue baseball-player-print curtains obscured the view. More than 25 years later, Jameson is known for his clean, modernist work–and he still thinks drapes are unnecessary. "You don't see them in any of our projects," he says.

Growing up in the 1950s, Tony Kornheiser had two beds–one for him and another used by his beagle, Frisky. "I didn't have any brothers or sisters," Kornheiser says. "So the dog and I were pals."

Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Frank Gifford peered out from full-page portraits that Kornheiser cut from sports magazines and taped to his walls. There were probably 20 of them, he says, and "they stayed there for years and years and years."

These days, Kornheiser's dog, Maggie, sleeps in bed with him and his wife, and he doesn't have to look at photos of athletes. As a sports columnist for the Washington Post, he sees his favorites in person.

Fo r children who have to bunk with siblings, bedrooms can be battlegrounds. Wiedmaier didn't get his own pad to decorate with chefs and motorcycles until he was 11. Before that, he lived in Germany, where he shared a room with his older brother.

"When you're sharing a room, it's never a retreat," he says. "There was a lot of fighting going on." Wiedmaier found refuge in another room in the house: the kitchen.

Judith Viorst, author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, shared a room with her sister until she was 13. She was ecstatic when she finally got her own room. "The most important thing about my own room was that it was my own," says Viorst, who lives in DC's Cleveland Park. "Nothing moved unless I moved it."

Each of Viorst's three sons had his own room. But when she sat down to write children's books, she drew from her early bedroom experience: Alexander bunked with his brothers.

Fo r some parents, an attachment to their childhood bedroom displays itself in their own kids' rooms. Jane Beard, an actress and director at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, had a "really cool" bedroom growing up in Princeton, New Jersey. It had a slanted ceiling, cozy alcoves, a four-poster canopy bed, and "a little sitting area that made me feel really grown up," she says.

Best of all was the dormer window that Beard crawled through to climb onto the roof, where her parents never thought to look. "This was my rebellion," she says. "Other kids smoked or did drugs. I just sunbathed on the roof."

Beard got to repaint her room every year, in any color she liked. As a teenager in the 1970s, she opted for neon green, neon blue, and then hot pink. Now her 14-year-old daughter Lindsay's bedroom sports the same three colors, even though Lindsay had no idea what her mom's childhood room looked like.

"It was amazing how much stuff went into her room that would have gone into my room when I was her age," Beard says. She had asked Lindsay to describe her dream room–then surprised her by redoing the room overnight while Lindsay was at a sleepover. Lindsay, too, can climb out her bedroom window onto the roof, but her mom knows to look for her there.

When DC Council member Jack Evans wants to remember his childhood bedroom, he walks up to his son's room on the third floor of his Georgetown home. The bunk beds where seven-year-old John lays his head once belonged to Evans–and to Evans's father before that. The dark-maple bed set has been in the family for nearly 80 years. "I see no reason why they couldn't keep going," Evans says.

There's another family tie: The furniture in his two daughters' bedrooms once belonged to the girls' grandmother.

So metimes our bedrooms aren't just a memory. David Jameson flashes back 20 years every time he visits his parents' house. "My brother and I call our rooms the shrines," he says. "It's all still there." Although, he says, "they did put a computer in there. It's kind of a sign of the times."

When Judith Viorst's sons, now 41 and 43, visit her–another son lives in DC–they stay in their childhood bedrooms. "In recent years, when I've added something to their rooms or taken something out, they've grudgingly conceded that they're grown up now," she says. They occasionally pester her about a picture or a rug. One son still objects to a pinkish chair she put in his room.

"You're a middle-age person living in another city," she tells them. "What do you mean it's your room?"