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Clarissa Explains it All

How to live in the bedroom from Clarissa Explains it All, Nickelodeon, Melissa Joan Hart“Way cool!”/ “Na, Na, Na, Na” / “All right! All right!” 

Of all the bedrooms of the eighties, the nineties and even the aughts, none invited more jealously than that of Clarissa Darling. Covered in scrunchies, littered with hubcaps, and filled with folk art influences (red patchwork quilts, hand painted chairs, mosaic tile dresses, tchotchkes), it was the perfect teenage girl’s escape. Even better? The show was credited with becoming the first Nickelodeon series to feature a female lead.

How to live in the bedroom from Clarissa Explains it All, Nickelodeon, Melissa Joan HartFilmed in front of a live, studio audience. Nickelodeon Studios, Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. 

The room was chaotic, and yet provided Clarissa the perfect amount of individual expression and zen. Boys were never allowed in, especially her little brother Ferguson (Ferg-Face). Dun dun dun. Exceptions were made for her platonic friend Sam, who would come in through the window to the sounds of a guitar riff.

Her bedroom had backsplashes of pink and floral wallpaper, the remnants of a girl’s princess room. Yet, Clarissa decided to live in a hand-painted, graffiti splattered, mishmash of stripes, checks and chili-pepper string lighting. As much a part of the show as Clarissa’s personality, thank goodness the set-design did not succumb to typical, feminine stereotypes.

How to live in the bedroom from Clarissa Explains it All, Nickelodeon, Melissa Joan Hart

Clarissa dealt with normal adolescent issues such as first crushes, getting a driver’s license, sibling rivalry, bullying, grades at school, insecurities, shoplifting, experimenting with drinking, and confronting the issues of a inquistive teenager yearning for independence. She even played a lot of her mental scenarios out on a joystick, creating one-off DOS computer games, or in squiggly pie-charts on a “fourth-wall” whiteboard.

How to live in the bedroom from Clarissa Explains it All, Nickelodeon, Melissa Joan Hart

Clarissa was, and still is COOL. She mentions liking They Might Be Giants, Pearl Jam, and The Violent Femmes. She loves photography, sometimes wears ironic hipster glasses, digs Keith Haring and openly admits to believing in UFOs. She even had  a pet alligator named Elvis! I wish we could meet, and be friends, today.

How to live in the bedroom from Clarissa Explains it All, Nickelodeon, Melissa Joan Hart


1 /  Silver 14-Inch ABS Plastic Hub Caps (Set of Four)
2 / Melissa & Doug, Oversized Elephant
3 / Hand Painted Furniture Colorful Crazy Ladder Back Chair
4 / Yellow 3D Movie Linearly Polarized Glasses
5 / Patchwork Quilt, Cocoon Osprey Red
6 / Pottery Barn, Shelby Accessory Tower, inspired by an antique letterpress printer’s cabinet
7 / Rosanna Nesting Doll (5-piece set) in Green
8 / Zebra Print Tape Dispenser
9 / 1974 Illinois State License Plate
10 / Keith Haring, Whimsical Pink Musk Candle
11 / Black Paint Splatter Pillow
Backdrop / York Wallcoverings Check Wallpaper


To “tweens” from the early nineties, Clarissa is somewhat of a mythic, fairytale creature – the sister figure many never had. And how fitting, seeing as though the show’s creator, Mitchell Kriegman, named Clarissa “Darling” from J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. That was Wendy’s last name.

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Hey Arnold!

My good friend Andrew Springer works for Good Morning America on ABC. He is the guru for all things television and is often spotted reading a hard cover, non-fiction book on the history of the medium. No really, this kid has a killer commute and refuses to switch over to e-books, he likes dog-earing the pages and feeling the paper! But, I digress, Springer is my go-to grand poobah on the history of network television and the rise of certain thematic media trends. He was actually my friend who suggested I do a post on The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s interior design and set design, HERE. I recently asked him for his next suggestions – I was thinking of recreating the look from the oh-so-eighties “Clarissa Explains it All” but he suggested another Nickelodeon classic, Hey Arnold!. He texted me, “Remember his TOTALLY AWESOME bedroom?”. I do remember his bedroom, and I think the space officially accounts for the first time I was ever jealous of a cartoon. I think the creators of the cartoon even knew how cool it was since they dedicated an entire episode to its powers.

The cartoon Hey Arnold! was created by Craig Bartlett (author of Rugrats) and premiered in 1996. It ran for five seasons, had exactly 100 episodes, and…. Bartlett originally set out  to become a painter “in the 19th-century sense”, but started pursuing a career in animated films because of inspiration he found during a trip to Italy. It also did not hurt that Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, is Craig Bartlett’s brother-in-law. This new career turn brought him to claymation and Pee-wee’s Playhouse (another cult classic), it turns out Arnold was actually a minor character spun-off from this series, and was originally greenlit as  “Arnold Saves the Neighborhood”.

Hey Arnold! takes place in the fictional American city of Hillwood. The nebulous city seems to be based on large, metropolitan  cities, including Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and New York City with sporadic references to Nashville, TN and Allentown, PA, as mentioned in the Sally’s Comet Episode. Basically, the city is an amalgam of urban Americana. The series chronicles the life of Arnold, a 4th-grader in a nameless city , who lives in a multi-racial boarding house with his grandparents and a motley assortment of neighbors and friends. He is a reluctant hero, problem solving, and always forced to “do the right thing”. I learned several things from Hey Arnold!; how to spell the word “qualm”, to never eat raspberries, to never try to make a pig listen, how to judge hitting baseballs in the wind, saw my first televised bar mitzvah, the plight of refugees of The Vietnam War and adoption in tore worn countries (Mr. Hyunh and his a daughter, Mai), and a million lessons on ‘not judging a book by its cover’.

“The boy with the cornflower hair. Me beloved, and my despair.” – Helga

Image found HERE.

SO HOW DO I RECREATE THIS BEDROOM SO THAT STOOP KID WILL BE AFRAID TO LEAVE THE STOOP (and stay in the house?) The skylight is key, with a modern meets industrial vibe.

Image found HERE.

A modern day rendering and replica of Hey Arnold’s Room, HERE.

Image by Lotta Agaton, via HERE.

Image found HERE.

Image found HERE.

Van Vorst Park — Jersey City, New Jersey, Image found HERE.

Image found HERE.

Arnold had a very 1960’s to 1970’s anthropomorphic and avocado/orange rug. His walls was a blue green with alien print and ufos on the. His bedspread and blanket were a solid seafoam color. He had a very funky starburst, Eames style clock on one wall. Some of the details were very nifty-fifities diner-esque. He had a dusty pink modular storage unit with space for books, knickknacks and orange drawers. In the middle of the room sat an old car Bench Seat (or diner booth?) in red upholstery. He had a radiator, a fish tank, a PC, flowers, a show rack, an oblong egg chair, and he had track lighting. Somehow both urban, inexpensive, and modern.

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What is your favorite TV bed room?

P.S. All screencaps found HERE.