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My First Apartment: A Tale of Lattes & Giant Red Jacuzzis

As life milestones go, few can hold a candle to the pure, undiluted elation afforded by moving out of your parents’ house. I remember it well: I was 24 years old, still slumbering in my childhood bedroom in the backwoods of Stillwater. I felt self-conscious about still being there, but in the name of “halfway legitimate excuses,” I was part of the generation who departed undergrad in a certain state of professional purgatory—salaried, full-time, but at shockingly minimal pay—and saddled with unbelievable debt. Most of us, as I recall, used to walk around clutching our degrees in case we needed to use them as wallpaper on short notice. This was supposed to be the dream.

Needless to say, when I had saved up enough money to finally get outta Dodge, I did what any internet-savvy Millennial would do: I ordered every single small home appliance on Amazon Prime so it would be shipped directly to me in boxes. Then I simply packed those boxes into a U-Haul with my best buddy, and off we went.

Our apartment of choice was actually a condo: a 1,000-square-foot, 2-bed / 1-bath smack in the middle of Cathedral Hill (Saint Paul). Believe it or not, we found it on Craigslist. Located in the 1800s-era Blair Arcade Building, it had all the staggering presence of Hogwarts with none of the unexpected Death Eater attacks. It was also located directly above Nina’s Coffee Café. For me, being able to wake up and struggle-roll out of my home, down the stairs, and directly into a coffee shop was an unimaginable life achievement. And I did this, regularly, with full disregard for my budget. It was beautiful. (June, if you’re reading this: I owe you.)

Nina’s: Recently renovated, equally delicious.
Everything tastes better in Portrait Mode.

Perhaps the best part of our time spent living among the Cathedral Hill elite in our little castle condo was the décor. Our unit had been purchased in the early ’80s, and subsequently not updated even once—but as the old adage goes, “one savvy homebuyer’s trash is a couple-dudes-in-their-early-twenties’ novelty treasure.” Better yet, my buddy’s aunt is, to this day, the most talented Goodwill shopper I will ever know in this lifetime. For months leading up to our move, she frequented a circuit of area Goodwill stores on our behalf, ultimately furnishing our entire place for a grand total of a couple hundred bucks. This was the result:

Join me as we step back into the 1980s.
Note the exceedingly strong dining table game.
The coffee table and side table were both leather-topped. Off to the right, you’ll see a little mosaic side table next to a goose-down Henredon settee we scored for $40. The TV cabinet, I built with my dad. The mirror above the wood-burning fireplace was another Goodwill score. The giant floral-print couch was $20 and we thought it looked hilarious. And most importantly, hunched above the TV is Peter, our beloved chimera, who guarded the condo with utmost scrutiny at all hours.

I find it a tad poetic that the undisputed centerpiece of the condo is the one thing I don’t have a picture of: In the master bedroom, right next to the expansive bay windows overlooking Selby Avenue, was a preposterously large, candy-apple red, floor-level Jacuzzi. This may have been the tipping point for us as young renters (along with the rooftop access included with our lease). Was it weird? You bet. Did it get used? Regularly. Will I someday have one in my own home? Jury’s out, but I’m open to receiving links to glossy-red Jacuzzis if they still exist.

Here’s me & Mom, livin’ it up on the Blair House rooftop overlooking the cathedral.

Lattes & red Jacuzzis aside, there’s nothing quite like your first place away from home. I’m glad mine was in Saint Paul, a city that will always resonate with me—and not only because it kept me awake during my early twenties.

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Aaron Rosell

Having originally joined the industry as a marketer & copywriter, Aaron quickly developed a love for the people-oriented practice of real estate. He became a licensed REALTOR® in early 2017 as part of the Bortel & Co. team at Keller Williams, where he sold 40 homes during his first 18 months as a buyer's agent, listing agent, and director of sales. In October of 2018, Aaron traded his entire wardrobe for fitted plaid, joining The Michael Kaslow Team as a Buyer Specialist. As a lifelong Minnesotan, Aaron's professional background began in book publishing and remote tech, both of which continue to influence his career as a tech-forward, relationship-first real estate agent. When he isn't helping folks buy & sell houses, you can find Aaron in the crowd at First Avenue, searching for brunches in Grand Marais, keeping the lights on at a number of Twin Cities coffee shops, and writing music in local bands First Dates and He Who Never.

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