What I Learned in College: Creating a Home Away From Home

*photos by kendra maarse for michaela noelle designs

One of the most important lessons I learned in college was so simple, and one that you may already know. My junior year, I lived with two of my favorite girls in a little duplex in Seattle. Since I am from the Bay Area and would come back to spend summers there, my roommates (both from Washington) picked out our house to rent.  I had no say in it, which admittedly was hard, but I was okay with it. 

Upon arrival I burst into tears. I would be living in the room that happened to be the old dining room of the house, had holes in the wall, no closet {this was truthfully my biggest concern!}, was painted a baby boy blue color, sported cold tile floors, and had glass doors into the room. My oh my, was this a daunting task. In addition, the kitchen was oddly laid out, housed the washer and dryer right next to the fridge {which came in handy when thirsty and doing laundry :) }, not to mention the floor was completed sloped and uneven.  The family who lived above us might have been the worst thing about the whole place. They were completely dysfunctional, always screaming at one another, and let their dog go to the bathroom on their balcony upstairs which then leaked onto our porch.  Simply put, it was a little bit of a hot mess. 

You know what I learned, though? A few things.
1. A little elbow grease and some great design finds goes a long way. I fixed up my bedroom and ended up LOVING it. I was so proud of how far it came. See the before and after here.
2. It doesn't really matter where you live or what the situation is. If you love WHO you're with, and you have a great support system, you will be just fine. I adored my roommates, we made the best memories in that weird little house, had a lot of laughs, and these friendships are a few of the things I miss most about Seattle. 

Friendship and roommates are such a sweet thing. I didn't have many good experiences through college with living situations, but this one was different. We lived great together and we were also wonderful friends. Community is so, so important. I'm beyond thankful for the little home away from home that we created in a seemingly hard situation. 

Did you ever experience something similar to this? Sometimes the best memories are made when you least expect it!

Enjoy your day!


  1. So cute and I agree, who you live with always makes a difference:) Thanks for sharing!


  2. I'm forwarding a link to this series to my cousins that are entering university this year :)

  3. I just pinned one of these images. My dorm room was definitely NOT this cute, but I'm hoping my upcoming move to an apartment will be!

  4. When I was a junior I was living in an apartment on campus for the first time with 2 of my friends and 2 other girls who I did not know. We all met at the end of the previous school year and talked over the summer about who would bring what to the apartment. My parents run a next to new shop so they could of found us all these fabulous things, but one of the other girls said that she already had furniture. I arrived later then the other girls with my parents and when I saw the furniture I burst into tears. It was old and dirty and the couch had been sitting in a shed for several years. Not to mention that this girl was a complete tomboy,which I am quite the opposite. It took me quite a while to calm down about the furniture, but that tomboy and this girly girl became fast friends! :)

  5. I think finding pieces that need a little TLC or creativity are the best! It makes it more fun and you appreciate them that much more, plus it's so fun to put your own little spin on it!

  6. you're so cute! i never excelled at making a home away from home over the course of college!
    kw ladies in navy

  7. You did an amazing job with what you were given! I have a great roommates and terrible roommates, but it is all the college process. It shaped me into who I am today!

    PS: I have that dress hanging on the wall :) Love it!

  8. I would have cried too! Katie is moving into a duplex with three of her sorority sisters. We are having fun picking up things for her new place.

  9. Just went back & read your before & after post! Amazing what all you did!! Looks fantastic!!

  10. Seriously I would have cried too!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Yes! I had both positive and negative experiences. But the sweetest ones are the memories that last:) You have a knack for decor for sure!

    Aesthetic Lounge

  12. You might just be the cutest little muffin in all of blog land!! I just stumbled across your blog from Ashley's post today (gorgeous pictures & congrats by the way!!)... and needless to say, I'm your newest follower!
    Your room- I die. It's amazing! The before and after pictures have me in awe :) And it's so true that your "space" doesn't really matter. It's all about who you're with and how you cherish your space that makes you happy!

  13. oh my goodness, YES! My roomies and I lived in the cheapest apartments in town. Our place wasn't too bad (minus the stale, dingy look of the furniture, it came furnished) the first 2 years, even with some loud neighbors and some drunk knockings on the door...but the last year was just plain bad! One word: roaches. We scrubbed, cleaned, and did everything and nothing. Our neighbors changed that year too and we could often hear a parent yelling and scolding their child...and we had another roommate who was and wasn't there and didn't really help out with the roach problem (which I'm convinced was because of the next door neighbors).

    But even through that grossness, we made it through because we adored each other! Those two are my best friends and always will be! :)

  14. Oh gosh that sounds like a nightmare!! Your room turned out absolutely adorable though! You have such an eye for design

  15. I LOVE reading these posts Michaela! I can so relate to all of them. It's funny seeing the behind-the-scenes story too, because I remember this room makeover was how I came to find your blog, and I was so in awe of the perfection, but without knowing the story behind it. It IS amazing what some great design and hard work can achieve! P.S I didn't comment earlier, but I'm so happy for you with everything that's happening in your life / career right now! Hope you aren't too stressed this week! xo

  16. That room is gorgeous! I'm in the process of redoing my room at home now and I've been looking for a gray color and have tried two different samples and neither have been light enough. I think I might have to head to Home Depot after work and try this Natural Gray!

    I had terrible roommate experience both years but this fall I'm living in an on campus apartment with friends and I cannot wait!

  17. I'm loving the chevron on that dresser!


  18. You really did make it so homely for yourself :) Iv never been away to College myself but I imagine the room mates you have and friendships made will last a lifetime! x

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Thank you for stopping by! If you have a specific question, please email me at hello@michaelanoelledesigns.com. I always reply to emails! Have a blessed day! xoxo

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