Move Over, Bobby: Karamo Brown Queer Eye’d His First Apartment From Fratty to Fab

published Jul 19, 2019
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Welcome back to My First Apartment! Whether it’s your first studio, a four-bedroom deep in the city shared with a handful of roommates, or even an entire house (lucky you!), there’s something special about moving into the first place that’s truly your own. In this series, we’ll showcase actors, artists, entrepreneurs, and beyond—asking them to revisit that oh-so-sweet nostalgia of newly-found freedom.

While I haven’t forgotten any of Karamo Brown’s signature pep talks on the past few seasons of “Queer Eye,” I’m quite confident season four (which drops today!) will be a reminder of just how good he is at giving a life-changing motivational speech. (If you need further proof, just check out this commencement speech he gave for a partnership with EXTRA gum at Chaffey College earlier this year!) And while you might think of Karamo as the one that handles interiority, not interior decorating (that’s Bobby’s role!), turns out, he actually is pretty good at zhuzhing up a space, too. Honestly, what can’t the Fab Five do?

Credit: Apartment Therapy

“I’ve been Queer Eye-ing houses since I was young, don’t be fooled” Brown says.

One of his more noticeable makeovers? The first apartment he lived in while studying at Florida A&M University. It was basic and pre-furnished—and, honestly kind of gross.

“You could tell that maybe the 17 people who lived in my apartment before me were all frat guys,” he says.

Always a stickler for a clean space, he decided to take the apartment on as a two-day project. He painted all the walls (white for the common area, and a different colored accent wall in each of the bedrooms), headed to T.J. Maxx for affordable artwork, and called a friend who worked at Rent-A-Center for a hook-up on cheap furniture. (“I ended up paying $20 for all brand-new living room furniture and beds.”)

The result? A beautiful first apartment that his former roommates still comment on to this day. Interested in reading more as Karamo heads back to the early aughts in Tallahassee, Florida? Read on!

My First Apartment: Karamo Brown

City: Tallahassee, Florida

Neighborhood: Tallahassee doesn’t really have neighborhoods like that! It’s a very small town. But my building was about five minutes away from the university.

Size: Four bedrooms (I had three roommates) and a shared common area.

Rent: My rent was like $600 bucks. Can we all go back to the early 2000s? And the funny part is that I was still so irresponsible. Like I would literally come home and be like, “Oh my God, how am I going to call my mom and tell her that I spent the money and couldn’t make the $600 rent?” Thank you for reminding me of that because I’m going to be a little bit more gentle with my kids.

Credit: Laura Hoerner

How did you pay the rent?: I had a scholarship that gave me some of the money. My mom gave me a little bit of extra money. I also had a job as the front desk clerk/night auditor at the Holiday Inn. It was the only way that I could go to school and keep a job. So I would do all my fun stuff in the daytime and then I would get to work at 11:00 p.m. and work until 6:00 a.m. It was great because no one was there. I would invite so many friends into that lobby to hang out with me. Unless there was a game going on or it was graduation commencement, it was dead in there.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Why you decided to live there: By the time I moved out freshman year, I was tired of living in the dorms. I didn’t want to share a bathroom with 18 people anymore. It affected how I felt about myself and how I performed in school, so it became important for me to get out of the dorms immediately. I’m a big believer that your personal space very much affects your mental health. Even back then, I knew I needed a space I could call my own and feel comfortable and create in.

But there was a waiting list to live in the apartments. I was very smart and put myself on the list my sophomore year. I was one of the first approved for junior year.

Describe it in three words: It was sexy. I had sheets made out of black satin—that’s so tacky now that I think about it, but back then it was cool!

Credit: Apartment Therapy

I’d also say artistic or music-themed. You could have sworn I was a musician [from the look of my room], but I was not. I graduated from high school in 1999, so MTV was still very popular. Remember how you could unfold CD liners and there would be posters? I’d put those in frames and put them all over the wall. I had a big one of Missy Elliott in Supa Dupa Fly. I thought it was so creative and innovative at the time. She was probably one of the first artists I’d seen that embraced her size. I loved that she came out and was like, “I’m different.” There was Bob Marley was on my wall, of course, ’cause why would there not be? There was a Wu Tang poster right over my bed. In my bathroom, there was a big poster of *NSYNC cause I loved them. I was convinced I was gonna marry Justin one day. It didn’t work out. There were also a couple of records I got from a trash can after someone threw them out. It wasn’t about the music. I just liked the colors.

Credit: Laura Hoerner

And then I would also say clean. I very, very neat—which was the reason I eventually moved out of that apartment, because my roommates were not! I was like, “I’m tired of living with you all!”

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Who came over the most?: Because our house was the cleanest, people would just come over all the time and hang out. I loved it. Every time someone knocked on my door, it was exciting. I’d be like, “Come in! Stop studying and come hang out!” I loved how carefree it all was. But don’t try that now—I won’t open the door! As an adult, I hate when people stop by my house unannounced.

Best memory: When I lived there, I decided to run for city commissioner, which was pretty cool! I wish I could say it was because I had political dreams, but it was really because the incumbent was doing nothing for the students and it was a college town. So I thought I could rally the students, make them believe we had power, and [convince the commissioner] to meet our demands. Ironically, after he met our demands, I dropped out of the race and one of my close friends, Andrew Gillum (who just ran for governor of Florida), saw the momentum I had and actually won the seat and then became the mayor! So he wouldn’t have had a political career if it wasn’t for me! (Totally kidding!)

Thing you hated most about living there: How dirty my roommates were. Now, I would talk to them to try and help them figure out why they were okay living in filth, but at that age I wasn’t able to. I wish I could have paid attention to that more, because I realized it’s hard for me to live with someone who’s dirty.

Credit: Laura Hoerner

I would give this recommendation to any adult that needs to find a roommate: The first thing you should find out is their cleanliness habits. Are they someone who drops clothes everywhere? Are they someone who like doesn’t mind living with filth and dirt? Can you live with that?

One feature you’d never live with again: It had this wraparound balcony that was so gross because it faced the street. It was always dirty. (I eventually put fake grass from Home Depot out there so you couldn’t see the grime.) But I’d never do a wraparound balcony ever again unless I was buying a place in, like, the Bahamas, where it was facing the ocean.

One feature you’d never live without: I’m 6′ 2″ (almost 6′ 3″), so I need a big, big bathroom with a big shower. I’ve not moved into places because the bathrooms are too small. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never been able to move to New York. It’s like, “Girl, I can’t do it!”

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Song that will always take you back: The first night I lived there, I ordered Dominos, sat on the floor, and played the Kelis CD with “Caught Out There” over and over again. I was going through a break up, but it was like, “Look at me! I’m in my own apartment! I’m eating Dominos!” It was perfect. Actually, the more I talk about it, the more I realize I was so irresponsible and emo as a college student! I thought I was so much cooler back then. But even just thinking about that song will bring me right back to that brown carpet in the middle of the floor, screaming “I hate you so much right now!” along with the CD.

Smell that will always remind you of it: My room smelled like Lysol and bleach because I was always cleaning. The room across the hall always smelled like incense. The room in the back smelled like skunk because [that roommate] was on the football team and stunk every single day. We had a variation of smells.

Favorite piece of furniture: I just came from a twin bed in my dorm room and the bed I got from the Rent-a-Center was a full. It felt massive.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Did you get the security deposit back?: I didn’t! And not because of me! Because of my roommates! They were all so horrible. The way that apartment worked was that the building could either pair you with three roommates and you would only be responsible for yourself, or you could pick your four but then you’d all be responsible together. So when they messed up the house, I lost my money. But, actually, I’m still in touch with them! Once I didn’t live with them, I thought, “I don’t have to see your stinky room again so this is all fine.”

Read more about your favorite celebrities’ first apartments