While Sampson Dahl’s ex-girlfriend thought the old laundromat he was considering as a potential new apartment was “disgusting,” she saw the potential for a great live-work space. He left after a month.
“I don’t think a place should be a perfect representation of what a simple mind can expect it to look like,” Dahl tells CNBC’s Make It. “I think a space should be an imperfect representation of people who are in their lives at that point in time.”
The 27-year-old production designer is no stranger to being in commercial spaces; He used to live in a warehouse in Chicago, so he knew going into his apartment that he wanted to replicate that experience.
“I prefer the freedom of a commercial space, although there are certainly fewer tenant rights,” he said. “There seems to be something more ethical about moving into an empty storefront that’s been vacant for years than taking an apartment in some residential neighborhood that you’re not familiar with.”
Dahl found the former laundromat in Maspeth, Queens, in an online forum in 2019. A former tenant added a small kitchen that gives Dahl enough room for a sink, stovetop, and toaster oven. The Laundromat has not been functional since 2005.
When he first moved in in March 2019, the rent was $1750, and he paid two months’ rent and an $875 security deposit. In 2021, his rent rises to $1850 and he pays an average of $120 for electricity and $60 for internet.
Dahl is into production design, and one of the perks of the job is access to lots of free furniture after projects are completed, so he used that to decorate the space.
“This space enables some [my] Tendency to hoard, but I try to be as decorative as possible with it,” says Dahl. me.”
For Dahl, his favorite part of living in the former laundromat is the sense of community he gets from his neighbors because it reminds him of his childhood. The 27-year-old grew up in a commune in Texas which he described as “not a cult” [but] A non-profit humanitarian organization providing disaster relief and access to the homeless.”
“I really think Such an open-door policy was molded and maintained throughout his adult life. That’s how my mom always lived,” he says.
It is because of that philosophy that Dahl has made it such that his living space is open to others. Even their fridge and communal hammock are out front. This community spirit has proved essential for Dahl, especially after the neighborhood was robbed a few months ago.
He says, “There are more people looking out for me than I’m looking out for myself, and this is true community. I knew true community as a child, and now I know it again.”
Although Dahl loves the space he’s built, which includes a songwriting and organ station, he says he only lives there because it’s what he can afford right now, but he hopes that he would move out and that it would remain a collaborative studio space.
Dahl said, “It’s going to be just an open shop, anybody who wants to come in and learn to paint or continue painting or record a song or learn to continue singing. It’s for novices and those who are already passionate about their work.” They say.
“Living in a storefront has taught me resourcefulness in a way I’ve never known before. I really can’t be too picky about what comes my way; I just have to make the best of it. There are great skills that I could ask for, he added.
“It’s not something I can teach myself; it’s something you can only learn from life. It’s really in line with my life philosophy.”
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