A teeny-tiny bit of inspiration
June 7, 2014 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Small Cool 2014, Apartment Therapy's 10th Annual Smallest Coolest Home Contest (previously), is in full swing. The first round of voting is now open and will continue until June 13th. Voting for the grand prize will take place June 17 - June 18. To be considered, homes must be under 1000 sq ft. Awards are given out in five categories: Previous year's winners and entries: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005-2006
posted by Room 641-A (63 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite

10,000 sqf is small?
posted by Brocktoon at 6:35 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

I'll be keeping an eye on this thread because a: I LOVE tiny homes and tiny apartments, and b: I am about to move from a two-story house to a 950 sq ft (maybe a bit less) apartment in another city and am currently looking for clever ways to maximize the use of a future smaller home.
posted by Kitteh at 6:38 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]

That 10000 is a typo - the Small category tops out at 1,000 sq ft.

I'm a huge fan of small-space design, having spent my whole adult life living in oddly-laid-out small apartments in big cities, and the Small Cool contest is a gold mine for ideas and inspiration.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:55 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

The "Minim" in teeny-tiny is amazing and different from typical "tiny houses." I liked it so much I had to go look it up online!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:06 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]

Really appealing; I love the ingenuity and organization needed to live well in tiny spaces. I am all admiration and I browse endlessly but always I return to my too-big space feeling a certain relief that I don't have to be that vigilant all the time. These designs and cool ideas are off the charts, though. Thank you for all the links (even past entries!); this favorite will be well perused!
posted by Anitanola at 7:08 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]

This teeny tiny one is so full of unnecessary tchochkes that I am getting super anxious just looking at it.
posted by elizardbits at 7:11 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

I can't believe that a one bedroom flat up to 1000 sq ft is considered small. That's the size of a full house in some places.
posted by Thing at 7:12 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

These Apartment Therapy photosets always make me feel vaguely ashamed of the layout of my own (275 sq ft) tiny-apartment. But I just Tetris'd all my existing furniture into this place, lacking the budget to buy furniture that would fit this place better. It's clean and I am not tripping over my own possessions, so I guess I'll take that as good-enough.
posted by pemberkins at 7:13 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

This teeny tiny one is so full of unnecessary tchochkes that I am getting super anxious just looking at it.

It's like someone took my Grandma's living room and put it in a trash compactor.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:33 PM on June 7 [18 favorites]

"I can't believe that a one bedroom flat up to 1000 sq ft is considered small. "

Yeah, tiny and teeny-tiny are always the most interesting categories (and international, just to see what apartments are like in other parts of the world). "Little" and "Small" are mostly interesting (to me, anyway) if the owners/renters have children and are fitting more than two people into the space. Otherwise it's like, "Well, it's not the Biltmore Estate but it's a perfectly nice-sized apartment ..." and the Apartment Therapy styles of decorating are pretty well-established at this point so you don't see too much that's really unusual or innovative, decor-wise.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:38 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

I've lived in some very small and terribly laid out places. Now I'm in a place that is small by modern American standards, but comfortable for us.

The town I'm in right now is full of 700-900 sq ft post-war houses that were considered adequate for raising a family when they were built (and are still full of families, though no one builds places that small anymore). The biggest issue I've found with smaller places (though still enormously larger than the micro category) is finding furniture that isn't oversized. Just like dinner plates have grown, so have sofas and chairs. That's ideal if you are in a 4000 sq ft place with a great room, but it doesn't work in a smaller apartment or house.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:45 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

[fixed the typo, carry on]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:48 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

This might make me get interested in Apartment Therapy again. I really like the concept, but the execution and hints generally overlap with Real Simple in terms of the style of recommendations too much for me.

And seconding Dip Flash. My house is a little too big for the large category (1200 and change for two adults) but I have a hard time finding furniture appropriate for it. I've been looking for a dining room table that fits our home and it may work out cheaper for the quality to get a custom table made than to buy a commercial table.
posted by immlass at 7:48 PM on June 7

This one is wild, all that in 210sqft?
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:58 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]

Yeah, my house is a 1950 middle-class cottage -- not that little by 1950 standards, but pretty little by today's standards -- and it took me LITERALLY YEARS to find chairs that didn't overwhelm my living room. I'm still looking for appropriately-sized chairs for a couple other spots. I ended up making my own valances because, ready-made, it's either plain tabbed-top curtains or GOOD GOD WE'RE IN VERSAILLES. There's nothing for a simple, small living room that looks "finished" unless you get them custom-made. It often seems like everything's either for college students or for people with gigantic houses.

(Brian's Off-the-Grid that TD links to is the "Minim" I linked to above, I ended up reading like his entire website.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:02 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

The Minim is great. I don't really like the idea of lugging around the one-legged table, but the design is otherwise brilliantly clean.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:06 PM on June 7

When I first moved to Hong Kong, I tried using Apartment Therapy to try to get my stuff to fit. It didn't quite work. Apartment Therapy's idea of Teeny Tiny is still bigger than where I've lived. Officially, my apartment is 190 sq ft, but that includes a weird bay window area and some counter space (Hong Kong is cheap like this) where you can't really put much there, so I'm guessing actual, usual square footage is under 150 square feet.

Going from a massive 4 bedroom apartment to this has been a shocker, but luckily all the furniture shops here cater towards tiny concrete boxes so lots of hidden storage space. All of the hotel rooms I've stayed in while traveling have been bigger than my apartment. I'm actually not sure what I'll do with having a lot more space!
posted by astapasta24 at 8:10 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

The Minim is fantastic. We tend towards smaller houses as well, but have furniture that we've picked up along the way, so it's not as clean as some of these.
posted by arcticseal at 8:14 PM on June 7

if you have open shelves/pots&pans over/near your stove in your tiny kitchen, it means you don't actually cook.
posted by at 8:23 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]

Yup, my wife and I live in a house that's just about 800 square feet. It honestly doesn't feel that small, until you try to buy a couch or hang clothes to dry or find a place for artwork (there's like 10 feet of free wall space in the entire place). I looked up our house in the 1940 Census, it was occupied by an older couple and their adult son and his wife....
posted by miyabo at 8:37 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

I love Brian's explanation of his house...

I can have a dinner party for 8, take an overnight guest on the 8' couch, cook in a highly functional 10' galley kitchen

Ummm.... TMI perhaps Brian?
posted by pompomtom at 8:46 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]

I love the small/tiny house movement, but when I say I'd like to live in such a space (in the "little or "tiny" category) most people act like I'm insane. "You NEED at least 1,000sq ft!" Pshaw. Now I can show them this!
posted by IndigoRain at 8:54 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

I remember a hotel room I booked in Hong Kong once. Everything had drawers. Everything! But you couldn't put your luggage on the floor, because there was just enough room to walk around the bed and to the door.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:01 PM on June 7

For those of us in littler houses, a great book is Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House. A lot of it is better if you're building, but there are many ideas you can cherry pick, like deciding we preferred two bedrooms (kids sharing) and a tiny den to three bedrooms, to have a flexible "away" space. Lots of patterns language type stuff about how people use and feel comfortable in different kinds of home spaces.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]

When I moved into my teeny-tiny place I looked into Murphy Beds and discovered the world of high-end space-saving furniture. Wow.

Resource Furniture

Home Element

Elevator Beds

And even more cool hidden beds
posted by Room 641-A at 9:10 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]

That's not small. This is small.
posted by Segundus at 9:37 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Tiny places for rich people!
posted by ReeMonster at 9:55 PM on June 7 [19 favorites]

Neverwas Haul for the win! Interior.
posted by boilermonster at 10:43 PM on June 7

For rich people, sure, but they're damned fun to look at. This one is 210 square feet, has a nicer kitchen and living room than I've ever had, includes a big awesome pull-down screen for watching movies and table seating for eight, is apparently entirely off-grid (rain catchment and filtration system and solar panel roof, natch) and is totally portable since it's on a trailer bed. Wow. That is what I want for Christmas.
posted by koeselitz at 10:44 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Ha, so true! When I moved into my condo, the previous owner left a valance in the bedroom that was the JCPenney 100% polyester version of Versailles and covered in at least fifteen years of dust.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:57 PM on June 7

Having lived for a year in a 160 square feet apartment in Paris with my wife and our two dogs (admittedly with a mezzanine bed) all I can say is: "teeny-tiny"? really?
posted by Omission at 11:23 PM on June 7

I keep trying to go to Apartment Therapy for ideas for my very small but not really galley kitchen (a 6 x 6 foot shallow U) and they offer ideas like open shelving (but my cupboards are crammed) islands (but I'd have nowhere to stand) and hanging pot racks. I actually need layout ideas, which they're often short on.

Also, for small spaces vintage furniture works very well: you don't need trendy mid-century, although that's lovely stuff, but even things from the 40s and 50s have a simple small footprint. I just sold a telescoping table set from the mid-50s which fit perfectly in the repurposed small bedroom that was my dining room.

My big issue is that I have to throw away much of my parents' old furniture: my 1300 square foot house is plenty big enough for me and the beasties, but the stuff has got to go.
posted by jrochest at 11:28 PM on June 7

Omission: "Having lived for a year in a 160 square feet apartment in Paris with my wife and our two dogs (admittedly with a mezzanine bed) all I can say is: 'teeny-tiny'? really?"

Yes, really. 140 square feet. 160 square feet. At least a dozen in that ballpark. Admittedly these aren't in Paris, but they do seem to match your stringent criteria for "teeny-tiny."
posted by koeselitz at 11:39 PM on June 7

Tiny places for rich people!

The apartments perhaps since I can't speak to what they're paying, especially in NYC or SF where the price seems to go up by the minute.

But the tiny houses... I know a guy who builds them for a living. His prices are generally 12-24,000, depending on materials and the complexity of your design. This price will get you the standard 150 to 240 sq feet with loft. Add in the cost of the trailer, maybe 500-2000. Add another 2-3000 for delivery if you can't pull the trailer yourself.

I suppose you could add in another 10-30,000 for the off-the-grid hardware and for a set of Apartment Therapy-approved knick knacks and furniture. The final price is still within reach of a middle class couple.

One of the chief reasons for the appeal of tiny homes is the feasibility of owning a house with no mortgage payments. It's definitely not a rich person only thing. Here's a set of small-ish, modern, interesting houses built for poor rural Alabamans and sold for 20k.
posted by honestcoyote at 11:47 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]

Well, this is definitely an eye-opener for me about cultural views on living space. My last flat, with me and my partner living in it, was 50 sqm (~540 sqf) and felt plenty big enough. We've just moved in with a flatmate to an 80 sqm place (~870 sqf) and it feels huuuge. The landlord did say he wouldn't be happy if our currently-single flatmate moved in a girlfriend, though.

Possibly-relevant details: this is in Switzerland; both places have balconies; both buildings have laundry rooms, so we don't need space for a washing machine.

(This flat would feel still bigger if we actually finished unpacking and assembling furniture, so I'm going to get on that now.)
posted by daisyk at 1:48 AM on June 8

The first house in koeselitz's comment is just lovely, incidentally. The other doesn't grab me -- I wouldn't feel safe with all those windows around the ground floor.
posted by daisyk at 1:55 AM on June 8

I'd like to see a $/sqft metric on those. It's easy to be small and design-y when you can pour money into it.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:43 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]

Our current bedroom is small; enough that we bought that Ikea platform bed with the pull-out drawers because the only other storage options was a nice but huge armoire that sort of towers in the room. But the new bedroom is a bit smaller (!), enough where platform bed would be of no use (no room to pull out all those drawers), so we've been building something like this, an idea cribbed from an Air BnB host we stayed with a few months ago. Basically the full size bed will go against the wall, but the other side will be open-ended, wide and tall enough to store extra linens/clothes/etc. It will be pretty high too so I need to also build a small series of steps for my elderly cat to be able to get up there.
posted by Kitteh at 4:56 AM on June 8

I've been looking for a dining room table that fits our home and it may work out cheaper for the quality to get a custom table made than to buy a commercial table.

Alternately, buy an antique table (which was my solution for the rather small dining area in my current house, which is otherwise quite large).
posted by thomas j wise at 5:03 AM on June 8

Around where I live in london - house prices for proper, not ex-council flats are £1000-1500/sq ft now…
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:56 AM on June 8

My wife and I were in 450 square feet for a few years with 2 cats. The last year was with a newborn as well.

I love small living spaces, but after we installed a baby corral at the foot of the bed that had to be pushed out of the way to walk from the bed to the couch, we decide we had to move.

Plus I think it's bad form to raise a kid like he's veal.

Small living spaces rule. Babies have too much stuff.
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:27 AM on June 8

""Having lived for a year in a 160 square feet apartment in Paris with my wife and our two dogs (admittedly with a mezzanine bed) all I can say is: 'teeny-tiny'? really?"

You had a mezzanine bed?! Monsieur le Président!

Look, half of the battle in these places is figuring out where to put the bed. This contest isn't really about interior decorating, or how to lavishly furnish your house, or The Four Yorkshireman, it's mostly about the creative use of space. No one here is complaining about their tiny home!

When I moved in here I hated the small kitchen and thought I'd have to give up everything but basic cooking, but then I saw that Deb from Smitten Kitchen had the same kitchen, just with more floor space. All I needed was to see that it could be done. Someone may have a $1000 antique mirror, but the concept -- a mirror can make a room look larger, or reflect more light into a dark room -- works just as well with a $5 thrift store mirror.

Kitteh, that bed looks great!
posted by Room 641-A at 8:22 AM on June 8

For rich people, sure, but they're damned fun to look at.

You can see more of the Minim house on its website including construction photos. You can also buy the plans and see a cost breakdown. Labor is not included in those costs if you have a builder do the work for you.

It's in DC's Boneyard Studio with a couple other tiny houses. The city's housing regulations don't let people live there, so they are not full-time homes.
posted by peeedro at 8:42 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]

The conversion factor for square feet to square meters is 0.092903, but the appropriate conversion factor for the US to Euro apartment size labels is 0.05 or so. In my mind a tiny apartment is a single room with a kitchenette instead of a kitchen, a sleeping alcove instead of a bedroom and a toilet half the size.
posted by ikalliom at 9:58 AM on June 8

For the record, the average British house is 818 square feet (76 m^2). Just barely over the threshold from "little" into "small" by this US-centric competition's criteria.
posted by cstross at 10:24 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]

Alternately, buy an antique table (which was my solution for the rather small dining area in my current house, which is otherwise quite large).

Most of the furniture we're looking to get rid of is antiques--but British antiques from when I lived in the UK as a teen, and designed for a larger home. Including, alas, our dining table, which is a giant Victorian lump that looks huge in our dining space. If we get rid of it and don't immediately replace it, though, we'll probably pull out a pub table we use for something else.
posted by immlass at 10:28 AM on June 8

For the record, the average British house is 818 square feet (76 m^2). Just barely over the threshold from "little" into "small" by this US-centric competition's criteria.

Yes, I forget that this is a very US-centric competition in terms of "ooh, look, tiny homes!" There is a hell of a lot more space over here in North America than there is in, say, the UK. I often forget that until we go visit family and friends. My SIL and her husband bought a lovely semi-detached house a few years in Billericay and my word, their bedrooms are tiny. Everything is very compact and neat, but compared to a typical NA home, I suppose their house could qualify as a tiny home too.

I quite like the idea of smaller homes in terms of a potential NA trend. It's sort of why I have slightly resented the house in which I currently reside. It's two stories, lots of space, but it's only me, my husband, and three cats. We are never having children so I feel bad that we take up all this unnecessary room and fill it with stuff we don't need. I would like the future purchaser of our home to be a family that way it feels less wasteful. I think that over here it just sort of became the norm to want/buy large homes (regardless of your child status).
posted by Kitteh at 10:40 AM on June 8

Kitteh: I'm in the UK, I'm middle-aged, and I've been on the property ladder for 27 years. Upshot: my wife and I live in a rambling old apartment that, at 1600 sq ft, is double the UK average in floor space but about 70-80% of the US average. (We work from home, so it's also our business premises.)

I was lucky to get it, and before I did so I lived in much smaller places for decades. I used to have dreams about moving, and finding myself in an apartment with a side door leading onto a corridor with other side doors onto, oh, spare bathrooms connected to yet more bedrooms, a granny flat with a spare kitchen, and so on, fractally expanding the further I explored until rather than being a pleasant realization that I was no longer living in a shoe-box it became freighted with anxiety about how I was going to furnish it all. That's how deeply the cramped nature of our accommodation digs its claws into our psyches. The British housing bubble has emotionally scarred tens of millions of people, so pervasively and subtly that most of them don't even realize how it's affecting their behaviour from one day to the next. There's a down-side to tiny homes: they're fun when it's a personal choice, but less so when it's a suffocating imposition.
posted by cstross at 11:12 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]

Just measured my (NYC) apartment (which I share with my boyfriend) out of curiosity and it came to about 320 square feet (slightly smaller than I had thought it was). The one thing I really struggle with is the lack of space for entertaining guests. I enjoy seeing how other people deal with similar challenges of preexisting small spaces (and oddly laid out ones - I have a huge bedroom and a tiny living room and kitchen, for example) more than the ones with people building homes from scratch with hide-away dining table contraptions and whatever. I almost feel like they should be considered two separate contests.
posted by naoko at 11:26 AM on June 8

cstross: Oh, I understand and agree with you! My point was that it's very easy for us over here to see tiny homes as something of a marvel and a neat thing, but for some folks, it is more "I have no choice but to live in a space this small but I wish I did." When we're in London, the conversation with our friends inevitably goes to being unhappy and upset that they can't afford more space to live in and the horrible rents/cost of places that are available to live in. I wish it were otherwise for them, I do.
posted by Kitteh at 11:58 AM on June 8

I live with my partner and cats in a 600-something ft2 inner-city house in Winnipeg that suits our needs well, but I mostly grew up in a 3,600 ft2 monstrosity in Florida. I'm as smug about it as anybody every time the "tiny" house thing comes up, but I still have actual dreams of just pacing—from room to oversized room in characterless, low-slung ranches and poorly-built stucco McMansions. The extra space might be unjustifiable, but it's wonderful and I miss it and these closets are a fucking joke.
posted by wreckingball at 12:22 PM on June 8

I love the Minim. The folks at Boneyard Studios do regular open-house style events, so I've visited a couple of times. All the houses are charming, but the Minim feels much more liveable to me than the others. Brian has space for about 100 or so books, which might have something to do with it.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:32 PM on June 8

I have lived in the US my entire life and never had a house or apartment larger than 700 square feet.

I have a feeling that this list is centric of something, but it's not the US.
posted by koeselitz at 1:56 PM on June 8

My current house is 900 sq feet (83.613 sq m). I've lived in bigger and smaller places, but 900 is probably the sweet spot. The house was built in 1900 and has a very open, informal layout by the standards of the day. It's small enough to clean quickly and big enough for me to pace through (while thinking of Big Ideas) without feeling trapped. The layout offers plenty of personal privacy, even with another person, 2 big dogs, and 1 cranky cat sharing the space.

The only time it feels cramped is when friends / family are over for dinner and I'm trying to fit 8 adults and 3 squirmy children into the dining room.
posted by honestcoyote at 2:33 PM on June 8

I look at these tours and I see that I, too, could live in a small apartment if I had both a zeal for organizing and gobs of free time in which to maintain an impeccable living space.
posted by Monochrome at 2:34 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

I have a feeling that this list is centric of something, but it's not the US.

I believe the word you may be looking for is "suburbs".
posted by immlass at 3:19 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]

Our house is around 700 square feet, which is certainly big enough for two people and one dog, but does start to feel cramped when we try to squeeze more people in it. A few months ago we had nine additional people for dinner (most of whom were small kids) and that was pretty tight.

Most of the furniture we have now has been bought since we moved in here, and was bought with an understanding of exactly where it would fit and how it would work. We'd certainly never buy any more large things without knowing where it's going to live (we can't, for example, buy any more pots and pans without getting rid of some existing things).

Mrs damonism hates clutter – things need to be put away. Our biggest problem is storage space. Buying a lighter summer doona and finding somewhere for the old one to live was a major logistical exercise that involved unpacking and repacking several cupboards.

Still, I like it. My parents no longer have any kids living with them and live in a house at least three times as large as ours. While, as a visitor, it's nice to have things like a guest bathroom, I always feel a bit lost when visiting.
posted by damonism at 3:56 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

I almost feel like they should be considered two separate contests.

Or at least a separate category. I think they're great as another way to evangelize small homes but it feels like they're more letter of the rules than spirit.

I wouldn't feel safe with all those windows around the ground floor.

Since 3rd grade I've lived in apartments that were all on the 2nd floor or higher. I'm not particularly risk-averse in general, but houses kind of freak me out like that. The exception was a ground floor duplex I lived in for a year or two. It had bars on all the windows so I wasn't worried about break-ins but it would scare the shit out of me when people like Jehovah's Witnesses would come knock on the door!
posted by Room 641-A at 4:10 PM on June 8

peeedro: "The city's housing regulations don't let people live there, so they are not full-time homes."

Meanwhile in Portland...

(And, seriously, how have I never heard of Boneyard Studio? It's practically in my backyard...)
posted by schmod at 7:03 AM on June 9

I am genuinely curious about what some of these people do for a living. Are they mostly artists/architects? Is it possible that Melissa from accounting has a gorgeous apartment that I'll never see?
posted by Spiced Out Calvin Coolidge at 5:43 PM on June 11

And why won't Melissa invite me to see it, even after I dropped all those hints about our shared interest in architecture ?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:59 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Even though they are small, they look expensive. I'm always curious about the cost effectiveness of these small houses are. Also, what kind of compromise is it to live in such a small place? Is it easy to get used to?
posted by jackskis at 1:21 AM on June 15

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