Ice House

Inside Houston’s New Rage Room

The owner of Tantrums, Houston’s first rage room, knows that sometimes you just need to break stuff.

By Marianella Orlando October 24, 2016 Published in the November 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The wall of instruments held baseball bats, crowbars, golf clubs, lead pipes, a sledgehammer and a bowling ball. Wearing a face shield and protective gloves—and still feeling the stress of a very long day—we stood before it, pondering. We had, after all, just been issued a kind of dare. “If you can break apart that desk, you’ll be the first one to do it,” Shawn Baker, owner of Tantrums LLC, had told us. As we grabbed the sledgehammer, she closed the door behind her, leaving us in a plywood room with the desk and lots of glassware.

This is a “rage room,” where people pay to destroy recycled items and furniture. The first and only person in town to offer such an experience, Baker opened the place in December of last year, months after getting laid off from an oil company where she’d worked for 25 years. The idea came to her one afternoon while she was sitting in her backyard hammock. “I had nothing else to lose at that moment,” says Baker. “I told my husband and his response was, ‘Screw it, just do it.’”

So she set up shop in a business park next to 290, where she offers four rooms—which customers can destroy for 5- ($30), 10- ($45) or 15-minute ($60) sessions—decorated with a wide range of materials, including kitchen appliances, glassware, furniture of all stripes, TVs and computer monitors, sourced through donations, dumpster dives and various shops around town.

For $125, Baker will tailor rooms to specific themes.  “I have a lot of teachers come here,” she laughs, “so I’ll set up a few school desks to mirror a classroom.” She’s also received requests for cemeteries and, once, a bathroom—which is where one client caught her spouse cheating. While some try it just for fun, Baker says, a lot of her clients are going through a divorce, breakup or lay-off.

“There are points in our lives where we reach a breaking point and we want to throw a tantrum,” she says. “I wanted to provide a place where people can do that. People will bring a box of their own stuff, especially photos of an ex, and will redecorate the room, put on music and just go at it.”

Alone in the room, it was our turn to go at it. We picked up the sledgehammer and took a whack at the desk, but not a single dent resulted. We tried again and again. Still nothing. Frustrated, we glared at the desk in front of us, taking a moment to remember why we were here. And then it all came flooding back: the looming deadlines, the unanswered emails, the flat tire, the overflowing laundry basket, the fact that it had stormed right after we washed our car…

We hoisted the sledgehammer high into the air and drove it directly onto the top of the desk. A loud crack bounced off the walls; a large gash opened in the center. A sigh of relief escaped our mouth, and with one more swift swing, a chunk soared off. We hacked and hacked and hacked some more. Soon, pieces of the desk were scattered across the floor. Our arms tired and aching, we swapped out the sledgehammer for a bat and took on the vases, cups and ceramic knickknacks. When we looked up, we’d smashed every item in the room.

Walking out, we felt relieved and accomplished, proud to have destroyed where no man had destroyed before. But that only lasted a little while. With the day’s stress gone, there was nothing stopping our pent-up emotions from tumbling forth. In short, it took throwing a tantrum, then having a good cry, to reach true catharsis. Therapy, we suppose, at its finest.

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