This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
In Refinery29’s Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennial city dwellers. Today, Marcella Lentz-Pope showcases her Brooklyn four-bedroom loft.
In real estate, two attributes reign: light and space. Brooklyn resident Marcella Lentz-Pope managed to get both — but not without some major dough and some extra work.
The Los Angeles native moved to New York and scouted specifically for a large loft she could design herself, turning it into a bed-and-breakfast and photo studio location called The Funky Loft. After investing $10,000 of her own money, the large studio became a four-bedroom apartment, with the largest bedroom residing on the second floor balcony — Lentz-Pope’s living quarters. “It took me four months to make back my initial investment,” Lentz-Pope says, but the resulting apartment has a whopping 1,173 square feet. All this for $2900 a month, utilities included. Smart investment? Click through to see for yourself.
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Watch Marcella show off her sweet digs here, then click through to hear more about how she got her start decorating and representing spaces.
Tell me about how you started Airbnb-ing.
“I’m from Los Angeles originally, and I had a loft in downtown LA for four years. It was a similar layout but twice as big, and rent was very cheap because of the neighborhood. Instead of having roommates I just started Airbnb-ing the other rooms, and then I ended up building another room in the loft. It was awesome; I was meeting people from all over the world, and my rent was being paid.
“Then I wanted to move to New York, and I moved here and got situated for a bit. Once I was stable, I thought, I want to do the same thing. So I looked on Craigslist to try and find a space, and asked all the landlords, ‘Can I build it out? Can I Airbnb it?’ I finally came across this space that was this huge, open rectangle, and it needed something to be done. I spoke to the landlord who was this really cool guy, and he was like, ‘Yeah, do whatever you want; that sounds awesome, sounds like a good plan.’ So I took my savings and put it down and thought, ‘Okay, let’s hope that this’ll work.’ I designed the layout and everything, and then we hired a construction company to come in and actually build it all and do it properly. Once it was done, almost immediately we were fully-booked, and the rest is kind of history.”
How long did it take you to find the space?
“I was looking for three months or so. It was crazy hard to find a space, and I was on Craigslist every single day just seeing if anything new would come up. I found places that didn’t allow Airbnb, but I wanted everything to be up front. I didn’t want to be hiding anything; it’s a terrible situation to be in when you’re living in a place and you feel like you have to hide from your landlord. I also found a couple places that were okay with Airbnb and renting out the space for film and photo shoots, but those spaces were around four grand, five grand. Which is probably what this space is worth now.”
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So you rent out the space for photo shoots? How did that start happening?
“I’m an actor, and I’m also a locations agent. What happens is a location scout will come to me, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, we’re looking for this kind of space, do you have any.’ I’m basically an agent to other people’s homes. It started with just my place, and then I started representing my mom’s place, and then some of her friends were like, ‘We have a cool house; we want to have shoots, can you book us shoots.’ So I made a website, and then people started contacting me after I made a website, saying, ‘I have a really cool space, will you be my agent.’ Now that I have shoots here in this space, too, and it’s the same thing. I know what to, how to deal with insurance and all that.”
Are there any decorating tips you’ve learned?
“If there’s something that’s missing, or if I need to fill space and I don’t really have anything, I just go over to where my plants are and I’ll pick out a specific one and put it over there. A plant is always such a great fix. If you have a dead space, put some green there, and it’ll also just make it look alive.
“Also, sometimes if something just isn’t working, I’ll remove everything in that area. I need to see it completely dead and then start from scratch filling in items and things, and then I’ll start saying like, ‘Oh, this looks good, move that over here,’ or, ‘Okay, you’ve done too much, back up.'”
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You seem to have a lot of vintage items or second-hand buys. How do you source them?
“Seriously, I go through Craigslist and I have key words or phrases that I’ll just type in. Frequently I will find something great or fabulous, but I can’t afford it. Once in a while you will find something that someone just needs to get rid of it really fast, so they’ve lowered the price. Those are the special finds.”
What phrases do you type in?
“I love velvet, so I always type in ‘vintage velvet couch.’ Then I’ll type in ‘vintage velvet sofa,’ ‘vintage velvet chair,’ and then I’ll get rid of velvet and just do ‘vintage couch,’ ‘vintage sofa,’ or ‘vintage chair.’ I’ll also type in ‘fainting couch,’ which is a lounge-type couch that is really cool. You know how you go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole? I just go down the Craigslist hole. But usually I start with ‘velvet couch.’
“I’ll also type in random things. I’ve been wanting to get some old movie theater chairs for a very long time, and once in a while I do see them, but I can’t afford them. They’re a few grand for one or two pieces.”
Any tips for shopping on Craigslist or Etsy?
“You need a lot of patience. Our dining table took me three years to find on Craigslist. Someone would post it every once in a while and sell it for like $600, $700, and three years later someone posted that they were moving and they needed to get rid of it, and they sold it to me for $250.
“For Etsy, because it is such a personal experience and you’re not usually dealing with people where it’s their main gig, you can totally write them and say, you know, this is a little bit over my budget. If it’s $50, would you mind taking $35? They might met you in the middle and say I can do $40. Or they might say, I can give you 10 percent off. So just write a personal message first and ask if they’ll take less.”
Etsy, $500, available at Etsy
What’s your end goal?
“If I could afford to own a place, I absolutely would. That’s what I’m saving for. Of course you need a certain amount of money to put down, and I just, I didn’t have that at the time. I still don’t have it yet, but think positive.
“Part of me is like, ‘That was so stupid; I could have put that money into a downpayment. I just made someone else’s place so much better.’ But I’ve already made that money back, and I’m already back into my savings and I’m making more than what my rent is right now, so eventually I will be able to buy my own place. As long as I’m not losing money, then you know, it’s not that bad.”
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