My Very First Apartment (circa 2010)

My bedroom in 2010:

My bedroom in 2020:

white bamboo ladder - blanket ladder - ladder for blankets - easy DIY painted ladder - bedroom decor - master bedroom - whitewashed furniture - chalk paint DIY - beach house bedroom - blue and white bedroom

Quite the difference, huh?

I graduated from West Point in May of 2009 and moved into my very first apartment in Hawaii at the beginning of 2010 after attending a couple different Army schools.  I was 23 years old and was sooooo excited to finally have my own place after living in military barracks for the 4 years I spent in college.  The only personal items I was able to decorate with back then were a sequined picture frame I kept on my bookshelf and I had a hot pink down comforter shoved in a drawer that I’d pull out to sleep with.  (Everything else from spacing and angles of clothes hangers, how clothing was folded, how toothbrushes were displayed and medicine cabinets organized, and how beds were made was dictated to us and we would get in major trouble if anything was out of line.)  Needless to say I was ready to flex my creativity after all of that!  My first assignment as an Army officer was at Schofield Barracks, which is an Army post on Oahu.  My little apartment was in Waipio, not far from post.  In retrospect it was not a fun place to live as an unmarried junior officer, but I loved my little 2 bedroom apartment and I felt so grown up and I enjoyed an easy commute too.  Most everything was sourced from IKEA (prior to moving to Hawaii), TJ Maxx or HomeGoods.

All of that said, I decided that it would be fun to do a throw back post today and share what that very first apartment looked like!  I worked really hard at piecing this apartment together and was SO proud of my work.  Looking back at these photos is pretty funny because I see so many things that I’d never do 10 years and 9 apartments later.  But it’s also fun to see how much my style has changed over the years and how much I’ve grown as a decorator.  (I’ve slowly replaced things but do still have the artwork that I’d collected in Europe and that mirrored nightstand!)

I know I still have lots to learn and I’m sure my style will continue to evolve and mature as I get older, but this just goes to show that practice (even practice with decorating) really does help you get better at things!  If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut then clear out the space and slowly move things back in after studying images you’ve saved on Pinterest or dog-eared in magazines.  Figure out what it is that you like in those photos that speak to you and slowly work to collect pieces in that style, as well as timeless pieces that will never go out of style.  “Shopping” your own house and pulling things from different rooms is a great way to refresh a space too.   Even a little rearranging can help you hone your skills.  I’ve had almost 10 homes in 10 years and all the practice has really helped me refine my style.  Can’t wait to see what our next home in DC will look like and I am really looking forward to decorating (and sharing) another new place.

I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane!  I’ll share my second apartment (2011-2012, right after my Afghanistan deployment) in another post soon.

To see how my style has evolved, here is the home tour of our 2017-2020 Hawaii home that was published on The Everymom.

Here is what our 2016-2017 house in Kansas looked like.

Here is what our 2014-2015 Columbia, Maryland apartment looked like (featured on DesignSponge and honestly I think I was trying to hard when it came to decorating this space).

And here is what my 2013-2014 Arlington, Virginia apartment looked like (featured on The Everygirl).

2010 Master Bedroom

2010 Guest Bedroom

2010 Living Room/Dining Room/Kitchen

2010 Bathroom

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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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19 Comments

  1. Tara
    April 29, 2020 / 5:37 am

    Your apartment reminds me of my old style so much!! ALLL the black ikea furniture hahaha! I also thought my style was so good and now i look back and think “what was i thinking?!”

    • April 30, 2020 / 2:49 am

      Haha sooooooo much IKEA black furniture. I still remember my big shopping trip. It was a blast! So glad styles have changed since then lol

  2. Rebecca
    April 29, 2020 / 5:40 am

    It is fun to see how your style changes! In college I was very into the aqua and brown color combo, from my backpack to my comforter. Now I prefer soft, calming neutrals.

    • April 30, 2020 / 2:48 am

      Thanks Rebecca! I remember that color combo so well! I can envision your comforter perfectly. I’m all for the calming neutrals now these days too!

  3. Katie
    April 29, 2020 / 6:32 am

    This is SO fun to see. My Freshman dorm room color scheme was black and white with hot pink for me and bright yellow for my roommate. And we had a sign on the door that said Katie^2 (Katie squared) because we’re both named Katie. 😂😂 Still best friends 12 years later! But with better style.

    • April 30, 2020 / 2:47 am

      Aww I love that! Bright and bold colors were definitely the rage back then!

  4. Lauren
    April 29, 2020 / 7:55 am

    Katie, this is such a right out of collage apartment. Reminds me so much of my first few apartments. It’s fun to see how your style has changed over the years.

    • April 30, 2020 / 2:47 am

      Thanks Lauren! lol yep you can tell I was determined to embrace every trend possible. So much zebra!

  5. Courtney
    April 29, 2020 / 8:46 am

    I recognize that style!!! It’s so sweet to see your evolution of style!

    • April 30, 2020 / 2:46 am

      Thanks Courtney! It’s fun reflecting on how things have changed!

  6. Terri
    April 29, 2020 / 10:02 am

    You did a wonderful job! You should see photos of my first apartment. In my defense, it was the mid 90’s. 😉

    • April 30, 2020 / 2:46 am

      Thanks Terri! Haha I’m sure yours was amazing and probably a great place to party too 😉

  7. Carolyn
    April 29, 2020 / 5:39 pm

    I had that exact same ottoman :). My place was very beige, red, and faux dark leather. I finally made the swap to whites/sea foam green/light blue/gray/etc in 2010 and left all of that heavy stuff behind!

    • April 30, 2020 / 2:45 am

      Things feel so much lighter with more neutral colors, don’t they? The heavy colors were certainly popular back then though!

  8. Leu2500
    April 30, 2020 / 7:27 am

    Honestly- your style hasn’t changed that much. You’ve just lightened things up by using navy/blue instead of black. For instance, the master headboard. Old & new have the same feel; they are just different colors. And that zebra stripe chair would still work, only you’d paint it white & maybe change the fabric – say to the ikat on your sofa. Or a gingham/buffalo check. Still sort of geometric-y.

  9. May 3, 2020 / 1:26 pm

    I love the flashback! I really need to start considering the whole design of the room when I buy stuff. When we first moved in together, we bought stuff that we liked because we liked it. Our first home was a hodge podge of everything.

  10. May 4, 2020 / 1:09 pm

    This is one of my favorite comparisons. I think it’ll be fun to see from over the yrs how you styled in Washington DC vs Hawaii vs your next move with some of the same staple pieces in new homes!

  11. Kathleen
    May 21, 2020 / 8:22 am

    I remember what it was like to leave the barracks and go to a civilian house, even for a day! Everything felt so comfortable and fancy. You have a lot of decorating talent!

    • May 22, 2020 / 1:22 am

      I agree! It was always such a nice dose of the normal world, wasn’t it? Thank you for taking the time to comment and read!

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