I Live In An Old Ice Cream Factory — & My Rent Is $3,750 A Month

appearance by Angela Mak; produced by Brianna Donnelly; edited by Sam Russell.
In Refinery29's Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennial women. Today, we chat with 34-year-old Angela Mak, who lives in an old converted ice cream factory in Manhattan.
New York might be lacking in real estate options, but it does have a lot of character. Or, at least, that's what 34-year-old Angela Mak discovered when she and her husband moved from Hong Kong to Manhattan.
"My husband was all about character, it was this whole thing where he didn't want to live in a box," Mak says. So when they first saw this building on the border of Gramercy and Kips Bay, they knew they had to move in. The only hiccup: There were no availabilities.
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So the couple hotel-hopped for the first two months ("I don't recommend that at all," Mak notes), and when a space finally opened up, they called up the agent, saw the space, and then signed that day. "And I'll tell you, we have all the character," she says.
Their one-bedroom apartment, which consists of four different levels, seemed to combine all of New York's aesthetics into roughly 800 square feet: exposed brick, industrial beams, and Pepto-pink carpets. Watch the video above for a full tour, then read on to hear more about the history of the space.
So this used to be an ice cream factory?
"It is a former ice cream factory. I actually met somebody who moved into the building right when it opened and he said that the 1st and 2nd floor — which is us — used to also be a brothel. So we also have a street entrance, where limos used to pull up and you could come in discretely to see your private clients."
It seems like such a strange space. Are there any separate rooms?
"It is a duplex split into two, which means there are 4 mini floors, but I would call it a 1-bedroom duplex. There's only one door in the entire space, so you’d have to be a couple or a single person living there."
Can you talk about how much a space like this costs?
"We had a ton of costs because it’s a co-op. The application fee I believe was $400 and our rent last year was $4,000. $4,000 rent, a $400 application fee, a move-in fee, a move-out fee and the move-in and move-out also have deposits associated with them so I think it was $10,000 total."
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Was there anything you splurged on when decorating the space?
"To be honest, most of our stuff we got off Craigslist or Ikea. The brand new items are from Ikea. The most expensive thing in my apartment would be my desk. I think it’s probably worth thousands of dollars because the lady in the Upper West Side divorced her husband and she said it was her husband’s desk and she just wanted to get rid of it. So what we’re splurging on I feel is rent."
What's your Craigslist strategy?
"I basically went to all my favorite stores: West Elm, Crate and Barrel, you know and I had a vision of exactly how I wanted the space to look. And you can find almost anything you want on Craigslist with some patience. You can type in West Elm reclaimed barnwood and you need to be militant about it. You’re on Craigslist every hour searching the same keywords. Like Crate and Barrel acrylic chairs. And you have to be the first person to say, 'I’m going to take this. This is my number. I can give you cash. When can I pick it up?' Once you’re wishy-washy about it and you don’t really know what you want, that stuff is going to go."
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