I Turned a Warehouse Into My Dream Studio in Just 2 Months
Priceless reno advice, right this way.
Updated Sep 27, 2018 5:27 PM
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Most people wouldn’t look at an old seafood warehouse and think: What a charming event space this would make! But most people aren’t Monica Wang, a photographer and the founder of the Revery, a soon-to-open Los Angeles concept studio and venue in exactly such a space.
“We had to start completely from scratch, and of course didn’t even have power or water, but the clear vision in my head fueled us throughout the process. I knew it could be so special,” says Wang. She pictured a versatile spot, to be used for anything from a filming location to a wedding, and tapped design firm Venn Studio to help. And while not yet completed, the Revery is such a far cry from the 3,600-square-foot seafood freezer and warehouse it originally was—so we asked Wang how she got it done. In two months, no less.
“Before you start the construction process, make sure you get multiple bids from at least three to five solid general contractors,” advises Wang. You’ll likely notice wildly different prices for essentially the same task as you go through their offers—this is a good way to get an idea of what your budget should realistically be versus what you hope it will be.
It’s All Down to the People
Her number-one tip for fast-tracking the renovation process? “The most important thing you should do is hire a reputable general contractor—shout-out to City Constructors!—and make sure you get along with your superintendent really well before signing your construction contract,” states Wang. Bonus: She was able to leverage her contractor’s connections to tap into efficient subcontractors. “What they say is true: Good people know good people,” she says.
Keep Track of Every Little Task
Wang’s calendar was so specific, it included precisely when each subcontractor group would come in, how many days the project would take, and when they would leave. “Your superintendent should be able to stagger different groups to work in tandem with one another to increase efficiency, too,” says the photographer.
You’ve heard it once, we’ll say it again: Always allow for twice as much time as you need. Per Wang, functional updates like demo-ing the floors, pouring in new concrete, and sealing the finished floors took the most time. “It’s so funny that you spend most of your budget and time on things that everyday people wouldn’t even notice!” says Wang.
Splurge on the Unexciting Stuff
Speaking of functional fixtures like flooring, they’re what Wang recommends investing in. At the Revery, polishing and sealing the concrete made a world of difference, pulling the whole space together and balancing out the original details that Wang generously refers to as “patina.” “Save on decorative furnishings, lighting, and paint,” she says. “We chose basic white paint for 90 percent of the space and bought huge five-gallon buckets of it.”
Take It One Step at a Time
Gut renovations, whether it’s updating a powder room or demo-ing a massive warehouse, are overwhelming, so don’t dwell on the big picture too much. “I chipped away at our to-do list every single day. Even if it didn’t feel like a lot on a day-to-day basis, over time it was,” says Wang.
Be the Hype Man of Your Own Renovation
Wang also made sure to be on-site almost every day, getting her hands dirty, keeping morale up, and making sure everything went smoothly. “Sometimes we ordered pizza and other times I pitched in with the painting, because it was detailed work on small spots that no one would notice but me,” she continues. Communicate calmness and enthusiasm, and watch your construction team reflect that right back to you.
See more gut renovations that wow: I Bought a Cabin Sight Unseen and Created My Dream Kitchen This Pink Kitchen Transformation Proves That Gut Renovations Are Worth the Stress This Home Is Proof That You Can Do a Gut Renovation for Under $25,000