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My Favorite Liminal Spaces: Airport Terminals, IKEA, and a Holiday Inn Express

I love liminal spaces. interiors with a certain clammy vastness that makes people so disoriented they'll do anything you want.

Casinos design for it. Retailers need it to survive. At a certain point, your already-tenuous connection to the outside world severs. You ever see couples fight at IKEA? A lot of the time, it's because they're lost. Everyone's too fixed on the arrows on the ground to notice the wide doorways between departments, like the one in the Spatula Aisle that connects Kitchenware and Lighting.

If you embrace the infinitesimally small chance that the outside world is gone forever, the liminal space widens further, and faster.

Premium liminal space in chain hotels


There's a Holiday Inn Express in Drexel Hill I keep seeing through targeted Instagram ads. The first time I figured it was a fluke. After two or three more ads, I wracked my brain to consider literally two reasons I'd need to stay at a Holiday Inn Express twenty minutes from my apartment:

I'm having my place fumigated? 
I want to experience some premium liminal space. 

Chain hotels are their own specific type of liminal space. They're always placed designed with a pleasing blandness that appeals to me. Beige and taupe walls. Either meaningless harp muzak or Weather Channel smooth jazz plays in the lobby. There are always single-serving boxes of cereal at the Continental Breakfast.

They're places intended to be forgotten when you leave them. But while you're there, everything is intended only to placate you. It's soothing to be limited to basic cable channels and news local to a place you'll never see again. The bath and body product samples. The. Samples.


Every Time I'm In an Airport Terminal, I Turn Into Diane Keaton in a Nancy Meyers Movie

This is mostly in reference to the pernicious inflation that happens in those airport terminals. The moment you put your shoes back on after the TSA check, a bottle of Fiji water suddenly becomes $8.79.

Simultaneously, time is irrelevant if it has nothing to do with your arrival or departure. Again, it's all about placating, but with even more overt sales. Yes, I need the $39.99 travel neck pillow. That actually seems like a good deal. That thing has mostly amazing reviews. But then there's the $57.60 spent on two glasses of a sad red wine blend at 10 in the morning.

We don't romanticize travel dressing anymore. Or at least, most people don't. Airports give us free rein to be grown adults in cookie monster pajamas, as they should. If you're basking in the last few precious moments of limitless leg space, dressing for a liminal space means being completely at ease with movement, both frenetic and none at all.

Before the gate, I want to be swaddled in several layers of cashmere and shielded with sunglasses by The Row.


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