Researcher / Designer

ethnographic and material investigations

The Things We Keep
An ethnographic study of material possessions in East Harlem.

A home could be likened to a glimpse into our heads. The plaster and lath are the skin and bones, our skull of sorts, a container of all things, sitting, waiting to be observed. The things we keep silently, but visually tell a story of us. Is this why we keep them? So as not to erase our identity? This study sets out to understand consumer culture through people’s most special things in their domestic spaces. With an ethnographic approach, influenced by The Meaning of Things, I conducted in-person interviews, surveys, and workshops with residents discussing their most special things. From these findings, I created Home Moves prompts to re-engage with our things, and a speculative Living Room Lobby to transform personal collections outside of the domestic space.

You can read more in Interiors, Vol. 10 and listen to residents’ stories at

Home Moves
A set of 50 prompts used to explore your things and their
meanings within your own home.

Home Moves is an opportunity for touching objects, examining one’s space, and reconsidering the things one owns. Each prompt emphasizes a new way of seeing and organizing a collection of things. It is meant to open up new possibilities to ways of living that push past convention. It gives agency to the person, their space, and their things, and can literally shift perspectives.  Prompts such as:

Home Move #4: Leave your home. Record everything in your bedroom. Go back home. Find what you didn’t list.

Home Move #16: Remove all until only your identity remains.

You can explore more at

©2022 Sam Bennett