Issue Three | Nerd Chic

Issue Three | Nerd Chic

I came across an interesting question a few weeks ago. Is there such a thing as "nerd chic" when it comes to interiors? This idea of turning a nerdy fascination into something aesthetic and appealing from a design perspective.

It's interesting because, as a fellow nerd, it made me look at the tchotchkes I have collected on my desk. A Vault Boy, a LEGO Aston Martin, a red Swingline stapler, an Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure, a sonic screwdriver, just to name a few.

Fine additions to my collection

Most of these things fit within the realm of standard desk decorations. One does not.

I bleed Star Wars. I mean, I've been a fan since my grandpa introduced me to A New Hope when I was three or four years old. I have decades of love built up of this universe and saga, so when I come across something Star Wars, I need to have it. The Stormtrooper isn't alone, either. Among my Star Wars memorabilia are a few action figures, a vinyl record of the original score, books, and a rug that surprisingly didn't take a lot of convincing of my wife for us to get.

The point being, there's a lot of stuff. And most interior design blogs and magazines are very anti-stuff.

Stuff Wars

There's a battle between minimalism and maximalism. With minimalism, the idea is to simplify life by ditching physical belongings. For minimal masterminds Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, minimalism is a form of self-discovery. It's not so much a question of giving up stuff as much as it is learning how to do a lot with very little. They teach a lesson of value and honestly, I respect the two of them. And within the world of design and architecture, minimalism is a way to show of a space for the beauty is has without the distractions of stuff. Both of these takes on minimalism are valid.

Minimalist Guru Joshua Fields Millburn and his closet. Image from The Minimalists.

Yet, opposite of minimalism is maximalism. It is, as you can guess, the exact opposite of not having stuff. Maximalism is a saturation of things that make a space feel full, sometimes even cluttered. To my knowledge, there isn't a version of Joshua and Ryan for maximalism, but if there were, they'd be too busy to write about it. Maximalism is often seen as chaotic. Busy. A clean freak's nightmare. But the beauty of maximalism is that (if it's done right, at least) it is the epitome of self expression. With maximalism, you are wearing your home on your sleeve, like tattoos of the things you love.

Nerd chic exists in this maximalist world.

Collection versus Curation

If you have a love for something, you're bound to collect items that make you reminisce about that thing. Such is the case for nerds. You have your Pop Vinyl nerds. You have your comic book nerds. You have your record nerds. All these people have collections of the things they love.

A good friend of mine and YouTuber Ross de Roulet (Xwing on YouTube) has the dream collection of any Star Wars nerd. His studio is adorned with lightsabers, helmets, countless classic and soon-to-be classic action figures, ships hanging from the ceiling, and a level of enthusiasm that ties everything together. Ross's studio has this charming, cool feeling about it that makes any Star Wars fan fawn. He's taken great lengths to make sure this space is dedicated to his love for the franchise. This is an example of curation through a collection.

Ross, showing off his impressive helmet collection, with any Star Wars nerd's dream displayed in the background.

It's honestly not hard to achieve this "nerd chic" that so many people like Ross has found. The core principle is to curate your collection. Take things out of boxes. Hang things on the wall. Frame your comics and display your records. Be proud of what you've collected.

The Fault in Pricelessness

I know there's going to be a lot of people that disagree with me on this. I'm one of those "wear your sneaks" kind of guy. If you purchase something that has an emotional value to you, I believe you should flaunt it. If it's literally worth its weight in gold or too fragile to be wielded in everyday life, go ahead and put it behind a glass box. But if it's designed and meant to be used, please use it.

What joy is there in buying something only to stare at it, untouched or unboxed? I often get this feeling that people never moved on from the Beanie Baby fad from the 90s. For those unfamiliar, the 90s saw a boom in these small, plush animals filled with foam beads. They were cheap and there were hundreds, if not thousands, in circulation. But much like Pop Vinyls today, these Beanie Babies had an artificial idea of value put behind them. As if someday, Jeff Bezos will open his phone and scroll through eBay to find a Beanie Baby he once had some 30 years ago.

The problem there is that most of these things are purely artificial. It's built on hype. And while I'm not going to dive too deeply into the problems of hype culture, it has had an unmatched effect in how people store things in their homes. There's this fear that a certain item will lose its artificial value if it's suddenly bare.

I say: fuck that.

Let That Freak Flag Fly

So you want to make your nerdy obsession aesthetic. Well, it comes with a lesson of humility and direction of curation.

Find your favorite items. The things you are most proud of. Dig them out of storage, blow dust off of them, unbox them, and show them off. Put them on display like the tattoo you got in your early 20s. Curate what you have and stand by it. Build a theme with what you have. Maybe you want your own Star Wars room. Maybe you're a Trekkie and want a living room that reflects that (in that case, look for mid-century inspired pieces in red, yellow, and blue). Maybe you have a collection of baseball or Pokémon cards and want to pop them out of the 5" binder. Find a way to display them in a series.

Embrace nerd chic like you embrace your nerdy love in the first place.


Joe Staples is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. When he's not writing, he's getting settled into a new apartment in Greenpoint and finding a way to prove to his wife that we do, indeed, need a second Star Wars rug.

If you like what he writes, subscribe to his newsletter. Maison Staples comes out every other Thursday with a deep dive into art, design, architecture, and more.