Through the trees in this picture is the first place I lived in on my own. It was the upper floor of a duplex in St. Paul, not too far from the University of Minnesota campus where I went to school. I lived at home my first year in college, because during the 90s there was a housing shortage on campus that caused it to be VERY difficult to get into a dorm. A friend of mine spent a good portion of his first semester in a hotel. My husband lived in a study lounge with six other students. The vacancy rate near campus was something like 1%. It was a real problem, so I just opted out my first year. Things loosened up a bit my second year, but it was still very hard to get an apartment. I found this place a ways from school, but on a direct bus line, so still convenient. I answered an ad in the school newspaper from a girl looking for a roommate to share this apartment. Her father was the landlord, and lived in the unit downstairs. They were extremely nice people, and we all clicked. I think my parents felt really good about the father being downstairs, so they happily helped me pay my whopping $350 rent.
The house was built in the early 1900s. My apartment was located in the back up a rickety staircase. When you went inside, you immediately went up another set of stairs, carpeted in white berber. There was a white wood railing I found really charming. The house had been made into a duplex in the 70s, so some of it was dated and not in a good way: cheap wood doors and trim, cheap linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom. But there were some areas where the period details were intact - there was an attic door with a glass door knob, there were intricately detailed, silver radiators in the two bedrooms and living room, and there was a big bay window in the living room.
I lived in this apartment for the rest of my college career. The rent was cheap, the landlord was awesome and it just felt homey to me. I had four roommates here: my first roommate, who was very sweet, but shy; my second who was terrible and we had a big fight and she moved out; the third, my cousin, whom at the time was one of my best friends, but living together basically destroyed that friendship; and the fourth, a friend whom I really enjoyed living with, but in the years since our time as roommates we've had a falling out, and don't talk anymore. Living with roommates taught me one very important lesson: I am not cut out for living with roommates!
Decor wise, well, it was college. I might actually have some photos of my college apartment I could dig up, scan and post, but this was pre-digital cameras. The living room was very beige. I had a beige futon, mismatched wood tables, an old tv with rabbit ears, and two chairs that came with the apartment (mauve armchairs, I believe). By the time I moved out, I'd added some decorative touches, but they were still very college-y (Gustav Klimt posters and loads of candles). My blue chair came to live with me at this apartment. My bedroom was dorm-like: twin sized bed, book case, desk and computer. On a whim one day I painted the wall my bed was against bright yellow and painted some canvases from Michael's other pastels and hung them above the bed. It looked okay, but not as cool as I'd envisioned. Our kitchen was big, but very cut off from the rest of the apartment. It was on one end, near my roommate's room and bathroom, while the living room was at the front of the apartment. It seemed like a bedroom that had been converted to a kitchen. There was a wallpaper border of fruit around the room, and very little counter space. It was really big, though, so we had a dining room table in there with chairs I got at a garage sale and painted a super shiny blue and yellow. I was going for shabby chic, but it kind of just looked shabby.
I learned to cook in this apartment. I was really into Iron Chef and Digsmagazine.com at the time, and just sort of tried recipes until I learned how to cook. The first meal I ever made there was a can of Campbell's broccoli cheese soup, and one of the last was homemade pork dumplings. We held many a potsticker party in that kitchen.
I moved out of the apartment to go live with Matt after we graduated. I saw the landlord about six months ago at a local restaurant, and I kind of hid from him. I feel like I was a bad tenant when I lived there, and I wish I hadn't done a lot of the things I did in that apartment. I removed wallpaper from the bathroom without asking if it was okay (granted, it was falling down, but still! It wasn't my bathroom!), I painted without asking, I spilled blue oil based paint from those stupid blue dining chairs on the carpet and it never came out, I inflicted two terrible, non-paying roommates on him, and my cousin got a cat without telling him and we kept it. God, it's no wonder he sold the house soon after I moved out. He probably never wanted to rent to college kids again!
Still, living in this place was a great experience. I learned a lot about myself, and had some really fun, college times there.