Photo by James BunoanLoft, Long Beach
Occupants:Kelly O, waitress/painter/rock & roll girlfriend, and Chris Hanlin, Dib
Rent:$600 per month
Kelly O first saw this particular loft space when she was 15 or 16 years old; Tom, the painter who lived there, was the dad of a friend. "He was my idol," Kelly says. "I dreamed of having my own loft and being apainter." Now she lives here, on the edge of the 710 freeway, with boyfriend Chris Hanlin of the Dibs (and probably seven other Long Beach bands).
The loft has been everything, including the warehouse for a hardware store. It was caked in decades of dirt when Kelly got out her extension ladder and started to dry-vac the beams 20 feet overhead. It took her two 16-hour days. Together, she and Chris drywalled and roofed the small nubbin of a bed nook that sits atop a steep ladder ("It's hell, drinking, in heels!" Kelly exclaims—unnecessarily, as it's hell sober in flats) and hung it with red velvet. They even installed a stained-glass window. "We slept in a closet for, like, six months!" one of them says. But now the bed space is elegant and soft. And roofed.
The space—1,500 square feet, as far as they know—is sweltering in the summer afternoon, but Kelly and Chris don't seem to notice. They lounge, happy, with wine and cheese and hummus and candles, under her artfully spaced paintings (Kelly's sense of feng shui is flawless), including a huge, twisty-ass copper thing that Kelly made while bands played alongside her at the Que Sera. It weighs, like, 500 pounds.
There is shiny corrugated steel here, as well as fucked-up original brick and red-velvet wall hangings draped down 20 feet of loft wall. They bought 200 yards of the velvet for a steal at $1.99 per yard. Filling up the space are large, sturdy retro pieces of furniture that came from Kelly's grandmother's office. She was a doctor.
Before moving in with Kelly, Chris lived at the LBC's storied Bong Leach. Before that, he lived at Toejams, which was half-Goth and half-hip-hop club. He has lived this way for 10 years. "The reason artists lived in places like this was because they were poor and needed to be able to make a mess! Long Beach used to be full of these places," Chris says. "But they're all drying up. The fucking yuppies are coming in and taking them all."
But home is still where Kelly is. "I'll come home," Chris says, "and she's, like, painting in the nude, and I'm like, 'Whoooooo! This is rad!'"