YouTuber Christine Lee Has a “Silly Standard” for Decorating — But It Works
Watching a Christine Lee YouTube video is like sitting in a cozy corner of the internet made especially for college students. The recent Harvard graduate spent the last four years sharing glimpses into her undergrad life (as well as her various, adorably decorated dorm rooms and apartments), providing hours of content that manage to be both relatable and aspirational for her loyal following of 133,000 subscribers.
But Lee didn’t set out to become a college influencer.
Her YouTube journey actually began in middle school, when she started sharing proto-BookTube book reviews — like this adorable one of To All the Boys I Loved Before, shot in her childhood bedroom. Her book content eventually gave way to more personal videos in high school about the college admissions process. “I was vlogging the end of senior year because I was feeling very nostalgic, as one does, and wanted to capture that time,” Lee says.
For Lee, these videos initially functioned as a creative outlet and “digital time capsule” — also, a way to keep in touch with her family in Korea. But her videos resonated with more than just her loved ones. When she began posting college acceptance reaction videos in the spring of 2019, her account really started picking up steam, largely thanks to Lee’s down-to-earth personality and candor.
By the time Lee began her freshman year at Harvard, where she studied neuroscience with a minor in ethnicity, migration, and rights, Lee had tens of thousands of followers — a fanbase that only grew as she posted move-in vlogs, “study with me” sessions, candid Q&As, and her popular “college diaries” series throughout her time at school.
Now fresh out of undergrad, Lee is enjoying her time at home in New Jersey before gearing up to work as a care coordinator at Boston Medical Center in the fall. Soon, she’ll be applying to med school. “I think it’ll be a pretty good year,” she says — and yes, she’ll continue documenting it all on YouTube.
Although I was familiar with Lee’s YouTube channel, we didn’t cross paths during our overlapping years at Harvard. (She graduated in the spring of 2023, as I was finishing my junior year.) But when I reached out to her, she was excited to connect and eager to share her advice with current and future students, just as she does in her videos. Read on for her advice on creating a homey dorm room, managing college schedules, and being OK with her life (and her space) not always looking perfect for social media.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
DT: Your living spaces play a big role in your videos. What’s it like opening up your home to your audience?
CL: Where I live and the space that I am in definitely impacts my mood, it impacts my thought process. Especially as a student, a lot of times I am spending my time studying in my room, I’m working on applications, I’m reading, I’m learning, I’m educating myself. So I feel like that’s something that I really do take a lot of energy from, in terms of the physical space that I’m in.
It’s something that’s so important to me in terms of who I am and forming my identity, that it naturally carried over into the content I make. I feel like it just naturally happened that I would end up sharing it in my videos as well.
DT: How did you go about intentionally creating your living spaces?
CL: It’s something I’ve always done, even from a very, very young age. Like, in middle school, I would decorate my childhood bedroom so there was not a single blank wall. I have a whole entire wall where every square inch is covered in photos and movie ticket stubs and memorabilia and cards and letters. I think that kind of energy is something I’ve taken with me into my college dorms and apartments.
For me, it comes down to — and this is a very silly standard — but I feel like, if I were to be trapped in my room forever, would I be OK with it? Obviously there are limitations in terms of, I can’t be super ambitious with the smaller spaces in dorm rooms, and I’m limited by money because I’m financially independent in terms of buying decor and whatnot. But as long as I felt like I could do it myself and I wouldn’t mind spending all day, every day in my room, that’s what I went for.
DT: What role did your homes in college play for you?
CL: My home was always a haven. It had to be super warm and super cozy and very much a cocoon. That was really important to me when I was building my space in all the different dorms that I passed through over the last four years. I always gravitated toward plants, and yellows and greens and browns — those were always really calming and soothing to me.
There would always be photos on the wall, and I would always tape up art and letters and ticket stubs and notes and Post-its and all those little tidbits that would remind me that this is my space.
DT: Did you feel pressure for your space to look a certain way, or to be “perfect,” because you were featuring it in your videos?
CL: I like to have a very clean and tidy room. That’s always been a stress-reliever, to clean and vacuum and tidy up and everything. It’s something that I think is very tied to my physical and mental well-being. So there was never really too much pressure, because I was always pretty naturally inclined to want it like that anyways.
But I never really put that kind of pressure on myself to be unrealistic, either … I think the people who watch my videos do genuinely appreciate that, because it is realistic and it is very true to what undergraduate life really is. I’ve never been too concerned with trying to make it picture-perfect in that way. That’s not really the kind of content that I make.
DT: Do you think your living space contributed to a successful undergraduate career?
CL: It meant everything, honestly. It definitely meant everything for my mental well-being, because whenever I feel incredibly overwhelmed with life and work and all the different things that I’m balancing, it’s like, “Oh, maybe I should go back to my room. Maybe that’ll make me feel OK.”
There’s this interesting connection between the physical space and my mental well-being. In a way, it was almost like a proxy. When I’m taking care of my space, where I live, where I rest, where I recharge, and where I think, it reminds me to take care of my mental well-being as well. It was definitely such a touchstone for self-reflection and considering, “How am I actually doing in this moment?” I think that really sustained me through my entire college career.
DT: Were there certain places you looked for decor inspiration?
CL: I’m such a Pinterest girlie. Their algorithm is so top-tier. When I got a few of those pins that really went for the vibe that I was looking for — which is very natural, earthy, but not super minimalistic — the algorithm definitely picked it up for me.
DT: I know you had a common room in one of your dorm suites. How did you go about designing a co-living space with your suitemates?
CL: They were some of the closest friendships that I formed in college. So, in a way, our common spaces reflected the very comfortable chaos of our friendship. There was no rhyme, no reason to how we decorated our common space.
In our senior year, we would put up decorations for each season or each holiday, and we just never took them down. So by March, there were Halloween decorations in the windows, and hearts and flowers, and streamers from past birthdays. We had a “Happy Birthday” sign hanging on the wall for months, for God knows how long. A Christmas tree in the corner and LED light stips.
As the year progressed, it just got more and more chaotic. But we loved it. We definitely wouldn’t have had it any other way. That was the kind of space that we felt so comfortable in and everyone just really loved. I think that’s way more important than stressing yourself out with trying to get a picture-perfect room.
DT: Now that you’re a college graduate, what tips do you have for students who want to create a space they love?
CL: Don’t be afraid of buying things secondhand. Don’t be afraid of piecing things together in ways that feel more authentic to you.
Sophomore year, which is when we were entirely remote due to COVID, I got all of my furniture pieces secondhand, or I bought them very, very cheap, or I got them from friends. I didn’t feel the need to buy new things every single year. I knew what pieces I loved and I knew I could stick by them. But at the same time, if I saw something that I personally really liked or wanted — for example, I really wanted a clothing rack — I got that.
But in general, don’t be afraid to buy things secondhand. Get them from friends or trade them with friends. What’s most important is that you feel comfortable in the space that you’re in and you’re able to make do with what you have. There’s no shame in that, I think. I was able to build really lovely, comforting spaces following that set of guidelines.
DT: I love that tip. In my dorm, I mostly have posters I took from hallways, pictures of friends, and little random things I find.
CL: Exactly, or I’d buy from graduating seniors. I would pick up those fake vines.
DT: I have a disco ball from somewhere …
CL: It’s fun! I like when there’s a story in all the little pieces that you have.