As some of you might recall, 7 months ago, my husband and I moved into a loft in Kansas City. Now this wasn't a typical loft, it was a true, dare we say "rustic and as-is" artist space. It was 2,500+ sqft of awesomeness near an airport, a train yard and two freeways, but bucking up and being ok with the noise and spacial oddities made it all the more fantastic. That was until... ... the roof opened up, the leaks started pouring in, we had birds, bats, bugs, heat that literally almost melted our faces right off!
Its amazing the things you'll overlook when you first fall in love with a space. We knew going into the lease that it was an as-is space and there would be things to overcome. We were ok with all the noise, the brick that needed to be re-grouted (and got mortar on everything on a daily basis), the slanting, unsealed concrete floors and the 100% square space with only two walls closing off the bathroom in one corner, that was the biggest design challenge we've ever had. It was however, ridiculously well priced for it's square footage and allowed us to run power tools for art projects inside without problem. Plus, it didn't hurt that all utilities were paid and we could run the heat or ac as much as we wanted (although the circuits would only handle the one ac unit without blowing... nice right?).
We did some great projects in the space, such as putting up hanging wooden walls and installing 30' of curtains, for right at $40!
The second we signed the lease we started looking for renters insurance, from the looks of the building, we figured we'd need it and we were right! But because the building had been known for problems, 9 different insurance companies wanted close to $400 a month ( I wish I were kidding) to cover a small basic amount of items and not from any of the things we were worried about (the ceiling flying off and water damage).
So we did what most would do and asked the landlord to fix the leaks in the roof (we knew about two super small pin hole drips that didn't really effect us, but like I said, you can be willing to overlook a great deal for a great space!). He agreed and for the next several months we had "repair" crews in and out of our loft and on the roof (which drove our dogs crazy). The small leaks became worse and at one point in time, an unexpected rain left us floating in our own gear as water poured in like a water fall, right on top of our computer equipment. Plus, in the photo above of our bed and a ladder next to it, the ladder isn't for added rustic charm, it's because the roof access panel above it leaked and rained like a water fall on us while we slept one night. Extra awesome.
Our frustrations with being water logged, were still being outdone by our ability to craft and cook and seat 30 people at our dining table at one time (which sadly we never obtained a real picture of, but it was great!), we even had a 8' workbench in our kitchen! Once the heat of the summer started, temperatures inside our space, with the air conditioners on went up over 100, topping out at 115 during the times the sun was setting. Life was unbearable and so 7 small months after we had moved in... we moved out.
We packed it all back up, donated and thrifted what wouldn't fit into the new space we found and moved. Family and friends pitched in, we've never been one to hire a moving crew and it seemed like the boxes we had just broken down and saved, were all filled again and relocated.
Over this past week I've finally unpacked the last few boxes from the move and am ready to enjoy a little rest and relaxation. There were a few things we'd like to pass along to those who are interested in a rough artist loft. They look amazing in magazines, people ooh and ahh over them and wish they could live in a space like that, but there are things to look for before signing the lease. Here's what we wish we would have stuck to our guns on before all the crazy drama and drips from the ceiling started.
• Check for previous water damage: Even if your landlord says it's fixed, if it's dark, stained or obviously had damage in the past... run. Run for your life. We later learned that the nails used to secure a new roof that was laid weren't long enough and lifted right up and out, allowing the water to run under the tar and soaking all that we owned.
• Check For Renter's Insurance Availability: And make sure to do so prior to moving in. In a raw space, it may not be an option and you never know what will happen. It was a lesson learned the hard way. The extra plus double suck, hard way.
• Come Back Without Your Landlord and Ask Around: Wait in the parking lot if you have to. Usually the folk who live in artist spaces will be quite honest about the type of space they live in and the problems they face. If there are challenges, they'll usually be open and sharing about it, because 9/10 times it will be an annoyance and who doesn't like to share those?
• Check the Windows and Walls: We faced a great deal of climate change in our space and even though we didn't pay any utilities, the drafts that came in, be it hot or cold, made the space almost unlivable. We were unable to keep artwork from curling right up with humidity and even with the help of dehumidifiers, we still couldn't keep things safe. For us, our artwork is usually the most important pieces we own. Furniture may come and go (thanks to Craigslist and a strong DIY spirit), but our collection of original artwork is for the most part, priceless.
• Don't Sign A Big Lease: Many spaces will let you sign a 6mo lease now, even if it's a little extra, this is a great option if you want to try a space on for size. Another option would be to talk with your new landlord about options for vacating the space, if the "as-is" issues become significantly worse. Most will know the problems their building has and even though they won't always be upfront about it, are usually willing to work with you.
It was a long 7 months, there was a great deal of unpacking, repacking, Craigslisting of furniture and things being up in the air, but what we did learn is that life is too short to deal with things that make you unhappy. Even though our new place is 1/3 of the size of the old, it doesn't leak, smell like the neighbors ashtray, or shake in the wind during a storm.
Do you have a rental horror story? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!
(Images: Sarah Rae Trover)
Please forgive the lack of styled photos of our space, or the lack of photos in general, we spent most our time moving things away from water and drips and didn't get the chance to do a real tour of our space before leaving.