Nine Benefits of Living in a Warehouse

posted in: Uncategorized | 56

June 13th, 2011

Unconventional living is foundational to the (almost) bohemian lifestyle. I previously mentioned that I built a studio and loft inside a warehouse so this is a bit of a follow up for those interested in the benefits of warehouse living.


The dream of most urban artists and bohemians is the warehouse loft studio. I’ve lived in a few cities around the world and every time, the desire for a huge unconventional living space grows within me. So in San Diego, I’ve managed to create that arrangement.


The warehouse is located in a light-industrial part of town, just east of downtown San Diego. The neighborhood is called ‘Barrio Logan’ and you may have seen it featured on The History Channel’s Gangland. The neighborhood isn’t as rough as it’s reputation, or at least not in my experience. If anything, I’ve made some fascinating friends living here.


So the nine benefits of living in a warehouse:

Cheap Rent: The warehouse I rent is $1400/month. But since it is a 1500+ square foot place with a huge outdoor space and gated yard, arrangements can be made to make the rent cheaper. I currently live/ work in about 500 sq ft of space. The rest is used by a friend of mine who builds and shapes surfboards. He also uses the space for paintings. He doesn’t live there, so I have my own run of the place. My portion of the rent is $500/month.

Piles of Space: That’s right. With 1500+ sq feet of space, 10+ ft ceilings, a huge outdoor area and gate access, there is no shortage of space. I even built a 12’x9′ shed for my motorcycles out back. If you really want rent to be cheap, then split it up with a group of passionate, artistic, creative, bohemian friends.

Freedom: How many places can you really do whatever you want? Remember that desire to own a bunch of goats and chickens? Well who’s going to know when you’ve got a warehouse? You want a sunroof? Cut a hole in the ceiling. Two shower heads? No problem. An extra room? Office? Check check. We truly have done what ever we want. Sure it may take a bit of creativity or some learning, but I assure you building isn’t as complicated as folks would want you to believe. I put in a huge oversized front door so my motorcycles can wheel in with ease. No one taught me how to do it. With a bit of google research, a few phone calls to some people in the know, and a trip to Home Depot and suddenly you’re looking at a staircase that can hold six elephants. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.

Neighbors: If you even end up having neighbors, they will likely be some of the most colorful and dynamic folks you’ll meet. Who else chooses to live in an industrial side of town? My neighbors are some guys who live/work in the salvage yard next door. I also have some welders nearby and some quirky architects too. Sprinkled in the mix are your low income families with charming little kids. In a situation like this, you’re able to have your friend’s terrible ’90s rock band come put on a show and not a single complaint will come your way.

Impress Pretty Girls: Okay, in my situation it’s just one. But still, I like to think it was the warehouse that did it.

You’re Immediately an Artist: That’s right. Just by living in a warehouse, you automatically qualify for artist status. So toss some paint on a wall, get out that marble, chisel and hammer, or get your gypsy-folk band together. When you build your own living space, cut port-hole windows in the bathroom wall, and have custom built stadium seating for your projector theater set up, well then my friends- you are an artist. Now go create.


Okay, well that wasn’t quite nine benefits. I’m sure there are plenty more, but this gives an accurate idea of why living in a warehouse is beneficial to life and creativity. So when someone tells you they live in a warehouse in a neighborhood that you don’t quite think is up to par, well remember this post. Believe it, warehouse living is actually even better than you think. Drop me a line and come visit. I’ll be here til the end of the year.


56 Responses

  1. Coolest. Shit. Ever.

    Not to reign on the practical parade, how cold does it get over your way in winter?

    This puts a whole new spin on housing, nice work.

    • Andrew, thanks! You should pop on by the good ole USA and see the set-up. It doesn’t get too cold in San Diego, but I do have some really good small space heaters for the winter and you can see the huge industrial air conditioning for hot summers. Of course, it’s totally u-necessary so it rarely gets used.

  2. nice! glad you posted this cos i wanted to see pictures of your space. you already know my current unconventional living.. I first thought of/heard of warehouse living from the movie August Rush, where they sort of squat in one. It was really cool to see an intentional community of music minded kids though, even though their ‘manager’ isn’t the nicest fellow.

    anyway, my dream unconventional living space is a mud eco-house!

    • Janet, I plan to throw up a little hidden page where I document the actual building of the warehouse. I’ll be sure to drop you a line so you can really see how cool it is! 🙂

      I haven’t see that film, but it’s on my hit list now. As for your mud eco-house, I’m definitely down with that! I had some couchsurfers from France staying with me a while back and they travel the world making those! Very unique and very cool.

  3. The warehouse has come such a long way. I remember when it was just slabs of concrete. I also love that I can suggest something new and I come home from yoga and it’s built. It really brings on a whole new aspect of “renting”. Also, when you have a warehouse space you want it to look open and clean so it makes you want to rid your unnecessary belongings. You have done a GREAT job with this warehouse. I know you put a lot of sweat and labor into this place and it paid off. My family is so jealous of our warhouse living lifestyle. Can’t wait to show it off to my brother tonight.

    Did you hire professional painters? Outstanding work. 🙂

    Can’t wait to live in many more warehouses with you. Next project: GARDEN BOXES!


    • Thanks Meg. I must say you’ve been such a huge help and driving force to actually making it happen. You’ve seen my previous two apartments, so you know how far I’ve come!

      Oh, and I should mention, all the colors and painting was done by Meg–^ 🙂

  4. I’m impressed. I wish it was feasible here in Michigan.

    • You can definitely do it up in Michigan, Matt! And if anything, you can probably find some huge spaces for cheap!

  5. Philipp Knoll

    David, I’d love to have that space to reside in! This would be amazing – a totally different lifestyle. When trying to combine professional and family life this should be the way to go. In our case there would be enough room for the kids to play in and be creative, places to hang out, room photography (one of my passions) and a spacious office – all in one under one roof.

    As a matter of fact we are just looking for a place to fit our needs of an unconventional lifestyle. Not always an easy thing to find. Just like anything else it requires patience.

    In your position I’ love to thing that it was me who impressed the girl 😉

    – Philipp

    • Philipp, it sounds like you have a NEED for a space like this! 🙂

      It can definitely be a test of patience to land a great spot, but even a good spot is often better than most residential set-ups.

      And I should give myself more credit… I did land the girl before the warehouse 🙂

  6. This is sweet.

    For my three dogs and me this would work perfectly. A nice place to relax, work your art, meet new people and mingle. Superb.

    For the bohemian in each of this, this has GOT to ring true for most people.

    And, you’re down in San Diego. A whole lot to do, see, and live.

    • Christian, you could do some dogsledding in the right sized warehouse… It may be something to consider… 🙂

      Give me a shout if you’re ever down this way. I’d be happy to show the spot in person!

  7. You got a nice place. Very laid back and different. Different in a good way, of course. I think that living spaces should be space and freedom to be who you are, but also safe. It seems like you got all the elements. Warehouse living seems like a good way to go.

    • Steve, you’re right! This is a pretty damn good way to go. Allocating space for the freedom to do what you want can be the difference between someone who creates and someone who hopes to create.

  8. Lori Popkewitz Alper

    Not sure it would fly with 3 kids,a husband and a dog could-what do you think?Maybe my next life:) Really-what a cool, cool space. Love it. Are those paddle boards-or surf? I’m jealous of it all!

    • Well Lori, I hope you can be the one that makes it happen! I know if I can find a 3000 ft warehouse, I’d happily start up a family and give it a go!

      The surfboards in the photo are: my 5’8” fish, a 7′ mini-malibu that was my first shaped surfboard, and that 10′ longboard from the 1960s on the right.

      But a stand up paddle board sure would be nice. Maybe my next one? 🙂

  9. Todd | Channelingmyself

    I will never get over how expensive the rents are out there in CA, but considering your share is only $500 that is pretty darn good.

    • I think the myth of expensive living is going right out the window. Sure, you can spend $2500/ month for a studio on the beach, but you can do the same thing in Chicago or NY for prime location.

      The trick is a bit of creativity. I’m always amazed at how affordable and creative some living places can be.

  10. LOVE it! I want one. I love Meg’s point above that with it being so open, being minimalistic is important to keeping the place looking neat and organized. I used to have a very big house. Now that it is just me and the kids, I bought a much smaller house. I think the next step is a warehouse! Actually Steven and I have pondered the possible future living spaces we might like and kind of along the lines of a warehouse…we talked about some of the old church buildings that are for sale in some of the areas we travel. Big, open, beautiful brick buildings…huge windows…lots of potential. Thanks for sharing the story!

    • Do it Liane! I’d consider home ownership if it meant an old church or warehouse. Old bricks, big windows, lots of light and space. That’s all we should want! I hope you and Steven make it happen. And I will happily come visit 🙂

  11. Annie Andre

    don’t forget when you have warehouse status, you officially become very mysterious and cool. congrats on the warehouse styling. It looks fantastic from what i can see.
    my husband will be jealous, he loves surfing. We have to store our surfboards in the garage instead of as center pieces in a house.

    I just got back from a trip to Virginia to visit my brother in law who lives in a 30 foot yurt. His son has a 20 foot tall tepee that he lives in next door to his dad’s yurt. How’s that for alternative.

    I much prefer your studio. But can we see some videos damn it. How about “Welcome to David’s Crib”

    • Thanks Annie! I am glad to have the cool and mysterious vibe going for me. 🙂

      I think your husband is generous to leave his boards up in the rafters. I think they make a nice center piece in the living room, no? I would like to see your brother-in-law’s yurt! That is insane! I never would have considered that here in the states. This I must see! Please connect me with him!

      And yes, perhaps I can get a little video tour of the place… That is a great idea!

      • Annie Andre

        I want a full blow INtro “welcome to David’s crib” LOL. Music and start your motorcycle inside the house.. I see a viral video coming..

  12. […] this means ants. Or at least it does when you live in a warehouse. My living situation is unique. I built a studio/ loft in a 1500 sq foot warehouse in Barrio Logan, east downtown San Diego. Because the […]

  13. Hugo Martins

    I have dreamed of living in a warehouse or loft since I started playing guitar (coincidence of not) about 4 years ago. I am not 18 and hope to be able to do something of that sort when I am about 21.

    I noticed in the back of the photograph there is a guitar, do you play? Take care.

    • Hugo, You can definitely make it happen! It’s truly not that difficult. It just takes a bit of passion and creativity.

      And yes, I do pluck a few notes. I have been playing for almost 9 years now, which is crazy to me. You can see my favorite guitar here!

      • Hugo Martins

        9 years? I bet you can pluck more than a few notes 😀

        • Well perhaps that was my attempt at modesty. I am *trying* to learn the violin now too. Always a beginner at something!

          • Hugo Martins

            Violin is hard, it requires passion and time. I would also like to learn violin but if I ever get to really learn a new instrument I am probably start with the sax.

  14. Brian Gerald Murphy

    I love this. Now if I could only find a warehouse in downtown Manhattan with cheap rent (ha!).

    • Yes, that is the trouble… Though I plan to live in NY for a spell and I’m determined to get build a warehouse set up there too. It may have to be outside Manhattan though… hmmm….

  15. Great to find your blog via ‘Be More with Less’. I lived in SDCA for 13+ years and love reading about your warehouse living. And all the benies are so true! I am now living the bohemian life (nearly) in Central Mx and was happy to read babout your super cool life. Keep at it, David!

    La vie Boheme, Joseph

    • Joseph, thanks for popping by! The unconventional living set up is a far more exciting life. It sounds like you’re already dialed in, set up in Mexico and all. I may have to swing down that way myself. btw, your ‘found objects’ art is damn impressive. Reminds me of a thinking mans isla de las munecas.

      • Thanks, David. Much appreciate your kind words. And you are welcome here anytime. You’ll LOVE San Miguel de Allende. Saludos, JB

  16. […] you must know about my set-up.  I live in a warehouse where there is no yard, well technically there is a yard but it’s a concrete driveway big enough […]

  17. 5+1 Awesome People That Happen To Blog

    […] Almost Bohemian and Nine Benefits of Living in a Warehouse. It’s worth […]

  18. This sounds like a great idea to me–

  19. […] Most of the emails are questions about different things I’ve written about here. For instance, this past week alone I’ve gotten emails about how to rebuild certain parts of a 1969 Honda. I’ve also connected with two people about my Huck Finn rafting down the Mississippi River adventure. Another person emailed me about vintage CZ motorcycles, specifically a 1947 he found on Craigslist. And just today I received another email about how to find and build up a warehouse space. […]

  20. […] do you currently live ? Right now I live in a warehouse space I build in Barrio Logan, San Diego… Though I’ll be leaving in 2012 to travel […]

  21. […] of The Minimalists as they passed through San Diego on their Minimalist 33 city tour. Seeing as the warehouse is the ideal crashpad, it only makes sense to keep a revolving door […]

  22. Are you still living there and if not can I???

  23. First off, thanks for all the great info and good vibes to be found here.

    My partner and I would really love to do the warehouse living thing – and we are at the point in our lives where we can make it happen and, because of the nature of our jobs, we can relocate to almost anywhere (west coast preferred) to find the right warehouse living situation.

    Our question, though, is HOW do you go about finding the actual warehouse – i.e. what kind of words/terms am I looking for in real estate listings and/or what sort of resources can we use to actually find a list of places that are even AVAILABLE for this kind of “residential” living? We want to start looking, but we realized we have no idea where to start and no background in being able to even, for instance, drive around and determine which places might be amenable to live/work/art and which places are just, I dunno, commercial-only. Can most people renting out commercial warehouse space be talked into a residential deal? Is there a type of zoning designation we can be on the lookout for that would clue us in to the viability of a neighborhood or space?

    Thanks in advance for ANY help anyone can give us!

    Best of luck and much love to all of you!

    jim and Michelle

  24. […] far the most common email I get is in response to my (recently former) warehouse living art space. Though my piece on not using shampoo for six months received over 40k views, I […]

  25. Hi, are you still living in the warehouse? My husband is a metal sculpture and the idea of living in a warehouse has always appealed to us. We are searching now and have maybe found a space. We are older, so I’m a a bit afraid of a break in. Did you experience anybody trying to break in to your property? Thanks for any tips. = Deb

    • Deb,

      I’m currently on the road, sort of slow traveling for the past year or so. I do miss having a home base though, and the warehouse sure had its luxuries: no neighbors, bonfires every night…

      As for safety, I never had any problems. I lived next to a junkyard and a few other industrial shops. But if security is an issue, I’m sure your husband could come up with some appealing metal sculptures that also act as security bars/ gates… I had some friends do this and it turned out great.

  26. First of all David,

    Great site, articles, and general approach to life.

    I’ve just landed a pseudo-industrial space here in Portland that I’m stoked on.
    First things first, I need a big map. (obviously)
    Preferrably vintage, and beaming with character. Where did you find yours?

    Secondly, because it has 16′ ceilings, I’d love to build a you know what. Yup, you guessed it, a cargo net suspended 10 feet up as my reading/opium corner (sans opium).

    And, to get up to the net, I’d love to have a pulley system that is counterbalance by my exact weight (maybe 5# less) so I can grab the rope, give a small jump, and be brought up the the net for my reading pleasure.

    Anyways, more to come on this David. Thanks for providing great inspiration!


    • Luke, you best email me some photos of your opium den cargo net once you get it built.

      As for the map, I snagged it from an abandoned building that had an old travel agency in it. Skateboarded home with 4’x8′ panels under my arm.

  27. Chris Grajo

    Hi David,

    Amazing place you have there. I just graduated from SDSU. I’m in a 6 month lease right now but I am going to go above and beyond to find a warehouse for myself before my lease is over. I love the creativity behind a warehouse. I have always dreamed and aspired to live in a warehouse/loft type apartment but all the ones that are actually apartments are way too expensive. Your way doesnt seem impossible for me. Do you still live in this warehouse? Does it have a full bath and full kitchen?


  28. Kyle Garrity

    Dave, way cool write up. I’m trying to do something similar in LA. Any tips on how to go about finding a warehouse for rent?

  29. I just stumbled upon your site and love your style. I wish I had the fearless guts to live life the way I see it should be. Kudos for finding your own niche in life. I love the line ” Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.” Cheers!

  30. My friend and I are both artists who are starting a magazine. Are their any locations like this with similar pricing?

  31. I stumbled upon this blog while getting ideas of how much it’s gonna cost me to renovate a warehouse hubby and I are looking at. You’ve got me excited all over again! For a while there I was getting discouraged because everything I found was all high end and pricey! Look, I just want the darned warehouse and I’ll put whatever used/salvaged stuff I can find and call it shabby chic! LOL Fingers crossed that we can get all the financing etc. worked out! Going to go look at it Wednesday. Oh and my agent has to sign paperwork stating we wont sue should we get hurt looking at it! Wow! Now I really can’t wait!! Hehehe I’ll keep you posted!

  32. This is amazing. I’m trying to do something similar in Utah. Do you shower here? What did the owner say about renting?

  33. how do you avoid getting cited for no occupancy certificate for residence? Warehouse does not meet code for a residence so usually will cite you and prohibit full time residents code for one demands egress etc. do you just stay under the radar somehow? Or city is not diligent about enforcing? Here in HoustonI think building inspectors would tag us and close it down?

  34. Where are there live/work warehouses like this?
    I need a place to work and have been looking for a space. I am a painter.
    Would appreciate any direction.


  35. Jeff Southerland

    Great articles!

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