High-Tech Fixer-Upper

My freshman-year dorm room featured the MIDAS Automation System 1.0. It was a mess of wires and random junk found around campus wired together in strange and perhaps somewhat dangerous ways. The Housing Safety Department (an actual organization within MIT) shut down the whole operation. During the summer before my sophomore year I designed the room on paper, and upon getting to campus I started building. Most of the construction happened the first few weeks of my sophomore year.

Here are visuals of what the room looks like, and terse descriptions of what you are seeing and how it was built.

To the right is my electrical engineering worktable, complete with power supplies, an oscilloscope, and various components. To the left is the primary desk where I do software development and most of my work. Above is the loft, which contains my bed and a lounge chair for reading and relaxing. The flooring that came with the dorm room was diarrhea-brown colored. This is not my favorite color, so I installed hardwood flooring in the room.

Upper level. I built a bed frame out of lacquered pine wood. The loft frame is made of 2x4s and plywood. I did not want any of these materials to show through, so the frame and insides are completely covered. A metal stud spans the length of the edge of the loft. The flooring below the upper lounge chair has padded upholstery.

Main work desk. I installed a metal wall using flashing aluminum cut into squares and glued to the wall. The neon light orb is a custom music controller that interfaces with the MIDAS music server. See the MIDAS Automation System and iBlob projects for more information.

As mentioned, I did not want any plywood or 2x4s showing through, so for each section of the loft I created custom ceiling panels. On each end of the loft are free-form shapes cut out of steel plate on a waterjet. White particle board backs these, and I cut a hole out of the center to allow for recessed halogen lighting. One panel contains a vintage oscilloscope (over the EE bench, somewhat visible in the above picture). It cannot be seen in this picture, but there is a passageway through the loft to get up directly below the top LCD monitor.

On the second level I have a pivot-able LCD monitor which connects to the music server. The music server doubles as a home theater PC. I can also check email from bed - a very important feature.

Restored Herman Miller Eames lounge chair for reading, having guests over, etc. It might be the Plycraft version, I can't really tell. The back wall (white-ish) is a custom light wall with eight individually light-able and color-changeable sections. The main motivation was to have a wall that appears to be a giant window letting light in. The LED display (somewhat cutoff here)  randomly displays various news and weather feeds. The display is recessed into a similar wood as the hardwood floor to match with the rest of the room and give the back wall a flowing aesthetic. The blinds are electrically actuated by the custom joystick controller positioned above the radiator.


Various buttons tie into the MIDAS Automation System. The large dark orb pictured here is the "random button." It reconfigures the room in a random configuration using all controllable devices available to it (this includes nearly 20 lights, blinds, etc.).

The door and MIDAS Automation System touchscreen controller. From the touchscreen I can play music on the surround-sound system in my room, check the weather, and turn on/off lights. The door has polished wood strips cut to size on a table saw, and then mounted in a vertical orientation. These strips span the entire door. On the left I put a strip of metal-plated wood. A mirror is installed in the center.

I wanted an abnormal door, so I thought what better than to paint it white and put a giant ear on it. For scale, the ear is approximately two-feet tall.

More controls for MIDAS. Most of these activate one-touch macros such as sleep-mode.

Loft ceiling panels over my main desk. From left to right: another similar waterjet-cut panel as above the EE bench, a frosted plastic panel which has colored lights inside it and a wine glass holder, and the iBlob music controller.


The suspended loft frame was built out of 2x4s with metal supports. One rear vertical 4x4 gives the loft additional strength so that weight is distributed via the ceiling, walls, and the rear 4x4. This design allows the loft to float in the room, eliminating the need for obtrusive supports reaching down to the floor.

Here is the finished loft frame ready for mounting.

Two 3/8 inch threaded rods feed through heavy-duty eye-hooks mounted to the loft. These threaded rods screw into unistrut installed in the ceiling. The unistrut is installed with four 3/8 inch toggle bolts distributed across four-feet. This way the weight of the loft is balanced across a large portion of the concrete ceiling.

Plywood mounted and loft freestanding. The right still has no flooring. I used 1/4 plywood for the mattress section and 1-inch plywood (not yet installed in this photo) for the upper lounge section.

I found two Herman Miller Eames chairs being thrown away. The bases were missing, so I pulled two chrome chair bases off some old desk chairs and mounted one of the Eames chairs onto a base. I used leather cleaner and moisturizer to restore the leather to new condition. The second chair I found had a heavily destroyed bottom section, and without a need for two chairs, I decided to make a matching ottoman with the other one. I removed the back-mid-section off the chair and mounted it to the other chrome base.