As I’m settling in Wudaokou, Beijing, and getting to know my roommates, I have come to really enjoy them and, more importantly, admire one of my them, in particular, for his uncanny creativity and imagination. He’s a 20-something Indonesian-Chinese music composer, studying here in Beijing, aspiring to become a famous Pianist.
This post won’t be about his inimitable hospitality or care for people, but about his ingenious awareness.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Roosevelt’s normative stance on making the best with what you have is a great way to describe his attitude. Since our residence is still under construction, it’s rather bare. However, I’m fond of its simplicity and minimalist atmosphere, since it allows for much flexibility and freedom.
Let me start off by saying that I love sitting on the floor, whether I’m working on my laptop, studying, or relaxin’ with friends. So, one day, my roommate walks in and notices my love for this sort of atmosphere and decides to improve it.
"Improve it? It’s the floor, and I’m sitting on it. What do you have in mind?" I ask.
He looks around and asks whether I’d like my bed to be extended. He explains that with an extended bed I could use the ledges as a working bench, which would allow for a more comfortable seating position and a better posture. It sounded interesting and it would be much better on my back, so I thought why not. I followed by asking him what materials we would need and how I could help. He responds by saying that we could just save money and use what we have.
How could we make the bed larger given the limited material we have holding it together? As you can imagine, this was very confusing.
He goes into this strange calculating mindset and with his fast-paced Indonesian accent responds, “just wait and help me!”
And with that, we began tearing my bed apart…
My bed sits on these strange block foundations that hold the mattress up. He took apart the foundation, used some of the unnecessary structure to make an entirely new section for the extended section.
What’s amazing is that not only everything was done on-the-fly without any sort of measurements, but also that no materials were purchased. He literally used what we had for additional functionality without taking away from the bed’s original purpose.
Here are two pictures of this super-extended bed, where I’m able to place anything I’d like, ranging from my laptop, books, breakfast, etc., as I sit on the floor and go about my day.
You really have to see it in person to appreciate its brilliance.
Naturally, this inspired me to really try and see how he had imagined this solution. I thought to myself, “OK, so he basically thinks that you can use what you have in creative ways in achieving what you want.” I believed that I had mimicked his way of thinking with such a simple premise, so I looked around my room, and tried to find other things I could modify in creative ways, just as he did.
As I mentioned earlier, the residence is bare, due to its infant nature, my disposition for simple living spaces and lack of superfluous items. There is basically a simple computer desk that I use on a daily basis, a wardrobe, and bed. Nothing more; nothing less.
After looking around for several minutes, I couldn’t think of anything else, mostly because everything was being used for its intended purpose and they were just perfect.
It’s truly amazing how your experiences, expectations, and mindset limit you.
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
Here I was, standing, in awe and amazement, once again, due to my roommate’s ingenious creativity.
Several days later, I come home from work to the messiest living room I’d ever seen. My first reaction was that of any other person: curious and pissed off about why this shared living space was demolished. I stepped into his room to ask what he what he was doing. Before I asked him anything, I saw that he’s ripping apart his wardrobe. He starts explaining that he wants a sliding table over his bed, which would allow for him to eat food, listen to music, work on papers, while projecting his computer onto the wall.
I didn’t know what the hell he meant, but I believed every bit of what he was intending to build, considering my bed was a no-brainer for him.
He noticed that one of the doors of his wardrobe is the length needed to cover the width of his bed, which would make for a perfect tabletop. And with that, he took apart his wardrobe, modified it to hold a projector, and went on to build the ultimate table.
He took some parts of my bed no longer in use, some parts of his bed, along with some other random stuff sitting around the house to help build the structure of the table. He explained that because the table is going to be long, it would need to slide back and forth for easy access. So, he put the entire table on wheels along with rollers on the inner-sides of the legs, so that the entire table sits on the bed’s tracks allowing for frictionless sliding.
He, then, used some of our washing machine’s leftover tubes for wire management and this neat flexible LED lamp. As you can see in the pictures, the extendable lamp has all of the wires hidden within the tube, along with an LED lamp positioned at the very end. Furthermore, he built a docking station for the lamp below the table, so that he’s able to put it away when not in use.
Now that the table is structurally stable and electrically sound, he started building power outlets, electrical channels, etc. underneath the tabletop so that he can install underglow lights for soft lighting, speakers (that’s right, audio speakers), and power outlets for easy charging.
Anyways, it was time to finish up the top with organizers for helping hold plates, books, and other random stuff. He decided to use some thick rubber mat to hold the tableware in place. After about an hour of precision cutting, the tabletop was complete.
So, at this point, I’m thinking this hi-tech table is going to become self-aware, standup and walk around for itself :)
After a couple of days, this table is now able to:
- Cover the entire width of the bed
- Slide back-and-forth with ease
- Provide under-glow lighting
- Light up the room with lights & lamps
- Power any electrical device
- Entertain with built-in speakers
- Organize tableware
- Serve as a working bench
- and who knows what else
If I were to pay someone a respectable amount of money to build me a custom table, it wouldn’t be as functional or unique. In addition, the most impressive aspect of this project was that he built it all himself, with limited tools and limited space, and, most notably, with the materials sitting around the house.
What’s truly fascinating is when you ask yourself:
- Who looks at a bed and sees a working bench?
- Who looks at washing machine hoses and sees lamps?
- And who the hell looks at a wardrobe and sees a multifunctional sliding table?
My roommate, Zhang, does.