Moving into your first post-grad abode is an exciting, almost electric time in one’s life. You don’t feel as though you’re simply (and literally) stepping over the threshold of your new place, but rather, stepping over the threshold of a new phase of your life. Like it or not, you’re officially adulting.
If you’re like me, you spent plenty of time daydreaming about that first apartment, envisioning color schemes and your overall aesthetics. For many, these sparkling, iridescent hopes have been carved out through years of television and movies that always seem to tell us that our first apartment will either be completely magical or a complete dump. The reality is that most apartments lie in between these two extremes. If you’re lucky, yours will land closer toward the fairy tale than a slumping Murphy bed dangling dangerously close to just falling off the wall.
There are some things that I expected would be included in my first apartment:
1. A balcony.
In Friends, many of their greatest moments occurred while bathing in moonlight and overlooking the city. An alternative to this would also be The Rooftop. The same embellished scenarios apply. On this balcony, we foresee ourselves bearing witness to engagements, holding philosophical conversations with old classmates while the wind dances in our hair, and toasting to life’s greatest early accomplishments.
Any balcony worth bragging about is not within the average twenty-somethings price range. One of my friends has a balcony, and it’s just small enough to uncomfortably host three huddled smokers. No one’s actually hanging out there. Balconies can really only carry that luxe feeling if you live on the top floor. Having your upstairs neighbor drop their drink overhead and drip onto you is completely inevitable and not luxurious in the slightest.
2. A view.
City skylines dotted the evening with bursts of electricity. Gyrating bodies pumping up against each other during raucous summer block parties. The sun setting over a glistening waterfront. Basically, any opening aerial shot from a rom-com would be just fine.
Good views cost money—something most college graduates are short on. One window opens up to a gorgeous view of the exterior of the neighboring building while the other overlooks the back alley and the overflowing dumpster. Keep your dream alive by purchasing one of those skyline wall decals and call it a day.
3. Exposed brick.
Nothing says gentrified sophistication like an exposed brick wall. All the great post-college TV apartments had one. Friends and How I Met Your Mother are two right off the top of my head.
That dreamy exposed brick is a fixed accent wall that has managed to add an extra $50 to your rent—and nothing more. While they look great, they end up being a nuisance because they’re completely non-functional. Unless you own the property, you can’t drill screws in the brick to mount a TV or hang a picture.
4. A clawfoot tub.
Clawfoot tubs are an effortless way to add in a simple touch of glamour. It makes an outdated bathroom seem quaint but sophisticated. I got hooked on them from old movies, and as vintage charm has come back into fashion, it seems everyone on TV has one, especially those in more modest income brackets. They’ve propagated the false notion that a clawfoot tub is the more affordable tub option simply because it’s old.
I don’t know anyone with a clawfoot tub. Actually, I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen one in real life. What I do know is that they are expensive, especially original ones. Personally, I ended up with clawfoot tub’s rinky-dink cousin: avocado green rectangle only big enough to bathe a small child.
Also, who wants to use an old tub? That reality sinks in quickly even with modern bathrooms: Wait, how many naked strangers have used this tub before me? This sentiment really helped my squash any residual sadness carved out by the absence of my dream tub.
5. Prime location.
Whether you live in the city or in a small town, you expect to have an apartment in the middle of it all. You want a place where all of the best culture is at your fingertips and that bar where everyone knows your name is just a block or two away. You want access to the best restaurants and be close enough to your job that you can bike there without acquiring a thin sheen of sweat even in the summer.
With real estate, location is king, which means you’ll pay dearly to have that highly prized location. While you fought for your own space in college (roommates, communal lounges, packed quads), the beauty of having your own apartment is that you now have your own space all the time. If you pack your apartment with all the right things and develop all the right hosting skills, you can craft your apartment into being that hangout spot that is all the envy of your friends. Best of all, there is not brunch waitlist at your apartment.
Washer and dryer in your apartment. A doorman to provide a false but calming sense of 24/7 security. A gym where you’ll work off all that final exam stress-eating weight. And if you’re a real dreamer, maybe you’re even thinking about a place with a pool.
Your doorman is a faded sign reminding tenants to tightly shut the door behind them. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a laundry room on-site, your use of it will be intermittent at best because the machines will either be broken or the room will be constantly inhabited by weirdoes. As a result, you’ll find yourself doing laundry at odd hours (like 10 PM on a Tuesday) simply because that’s one of the slower times at the nearest laundromat. A pool? Come on, this isn’t Melrose Place.
7. Furniture and decor.
You’re thinking Architectural Digest, like high-backed acrylic bar stools and a refurbished pair of antique end tables. Décor is a snap: Find what I want and buy it. My varied aesthetic taste will end up looking like a movie set carefully curated to evoke a neo-bohemian flair, right? It will absolutely not look like a menagerie of discarded garbage finds.
It will absolutely look like a menagerie of discarded garbage finds. That is because you don’t realize just how expensive furniture actually is, nor do you comprehend just how difficult new but cheap furniture (a la IKEA) is to assemble. Craigslist will be your best and scariest friend.
I never really reeled in my lofty dream. As a result, I was obviously disappointed. I was so obsessed with what was wrong with my apartment that I couldn’t see the good, like the built-in makeup counter, tin ceiling, or abundance of windows. Without adjusting expectations, you’ll inevitably end up feeling disappointed, even if you managed to land a pretty killer apartment.