Livin' Small
August 13, 2010 4:58 PM   Subscribe

It's an important topic for many of us: how to live well in a tiny apartment. You can be seriously organized, or use Ikea furniture in unusual ways. You can do it with modular walls, or you can build an awesome loft. It's a topic that many people care about: Apartment therapy has an annual contest devoted to small apartments, there's a Flickr group devoted to it, and of course Metafilter has covered some of this ground before. (Inspired by.)
posted by jiawen (26 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of twin beds here....such a self-fulfilling prophecy...

(Also: This guy wins.)
posted by schmod at 5:11 PM on August 13, 2010

I think what goes missing in these discussions is the fact that living in one of these spaces also means cleaning it every so often. And while it seems like having less surface area to clean would be an advantage, most of these small-apartment-solutions have leveraged every square meter so ingeniously that even giving the coffee table a wipe-down seems like something you'd have to plan ahead to accomplish.
posted by Ritchie at 5:16 PM on August 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

This post couldn't be more timely, what with my pending move in 2 weeks. Thank you.
posted by leo. at 5:34 PM on August 13, 2010

What I learned from years of dorm living and student housing and moves is a certain zenlike detachment from material possessions. Poverty helps too.

I look at the top picture on that NYT link and do see not "how to live well in a tiny apartment". Organized perhaps, and interesting to look at, but not a place I'd live in.

What I'm trying to say is step one is throw those magazines away. Nobody cares about your back issues of Wired.
posted by pwnguin at 5:45 PM on August 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

Man. That "awesome loft" link made me so glad to have left the East Coast. I used to live in a two-bedroom in Boston and that felt cramped to me; compared to that tiny place, it was a palace.
posted by egypturnash at 5:54 PM on August 13, 2010

(Also: This guy wins.)

yeah, he's a regular Belasco!
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:08 PM on August 13, 2010

Mostly I just keep everything in a heap and perch atop it like a dragon.
posted by hermitosis at 6:13 PM on August 13, 2010 [36 favorites]

You can be seriously organized,
I clicked: the dreaded before and after: I prefer before. (Messy, but capricious, individualistic) How many interesting people you know that live in an 'after'? Yeah me neither.
posted by uni verse at 6:51 PM on August 13, 2010

The "seriously organized" bathroom is lucky to have the space for those shelves. My bathroom has nowhere you could put shelves, except over the toilet.
posted by smackfu at 8:28 PM on August 13, 2010

For me, the 'seriously organized' link opened a Flicker photo of an empty bathroom. Was that supposed to happen?

I suppose having no soap or towels could be minimalist, but a little too minimalist for me...
posted by jrochest at 8:34 PM on August 13, 2010

Flipped through the photo set -- still don't see the bathroom. But none of the other pictures look like organizing or designing so much as just cleaning up/throwing stuff out/putting it away. It's easy to make a photo look elegant, but much harder to live that way, unless you're a monk.
posted by jrochest at 8:41 PM on August 13, 2010

i just see an empty bathroom also, jrochest.
posted by rainperimeter at 10:48 PM on August 13, 2010

Speaking as one moving from a tiny 1.5 room place, to a slightly bigger 2.5 room apartment that is still on a Japanese level of crowding, I find the hardest part about small living is that it's so darn cluttered. And this is from a fairly minimalist person - if you expect to own books or have any sort of crafty hobby you're going to be fighting tooth and nail to keep everything corralled into neat spaces. The aisles are your work area so blink and it's messy. Don't get me started on trying to regulate the dust and laundry. I imagine the 'live simple' advocates who are doing this voluntarily must have seven outfits and a formal costume, live in perpetually temperate climates with little precipitation. And they don't cook.
posted by Phalene at 11:05 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

And they don't cook.

From the "this guy wins link:

Living in a room that’s only 178 square feet, you don’t want to cook much, Mr. Motl said; it’s just too odoriferous. He once made French onion soup, and the apartment smelled for four days. “It was gross,” he said.
posted by zippy at 12:51 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I share a house - there are no blogs seemingly dedicated to people who have to keep the bulk of their stuff in one room. the UK, renters are very very seldom allowed to paint their places or fix up shelves, meaning most of us are stuck with grubby magnolia. I lived in one place with a tiny room but the yellow walls cheered it up so much.
posted by mippy at 3:15 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

. I imagine the 'live simple' advocates who are doing this voluntarily must have seven outfits and a formal costume, live in perpetually temperate climates with little precipitation. And they don't cook.

Like this. No sofa, no dining chairs, no frames or art ('we love bare walls!')...I am a packrat, it's true, but I don't want to be eating my dinner on the floor like a student.
posted by mippy at 3:17 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

bah, forgot my italics.
posted by mippy at 3:17 AM on August 14, 2010

That's far too wasteful of space. In my perfect socialist future, all adults will live in eight-person dorm rooms, where every person has three square meters of floor space (including bed and hallway), and three cubic meters of storage. This is more than enough since the room inhabitants will have a laptop to share for news and entertainment, and for food and cleaning there will be the communal bathrooms and cafeterias on every level of my 100 floor apartment blocs designed according to Brutalist design principals. To save on energy efficiency there will be no windows and walls, floors and furniture will be raw concrete. The future of low-impact living will be 250,000 people living communal ecstacy in these low-impact conurbs!
posted by happyroach at 12:31 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Phalene: "I imagine the 'live simple' advocates who are doing this voluntarily must have seven outfits and a formal costume, live in perpetually temperate climates with little precipitation. And they don't cook."

Yea, papercraft is a ridiculous hobby. My mom probably has more hardware for pressing and cutting paper than my small engine mechanic brother has for fixing equipment. And I bought and assembled her two racks for holding "scrapbook paper", which, now that I think about it, is mostly empty space. And don't get me started on Cricut. They're one good hack away from going out of business.

But as far as living small goes, I'm going to go with wisdom picked up from my ultralight hiking friends rather than interior decorators. It all comes down to multi purpose and composition. My monitor doubles as my TV, and my laptop doubles as my desktop. My handyman toolbox is a Gerber multitool. A raincoat, hoodie and winter coat pretty much cover adverse weather when combined with the standard Tshirt + jeans outfit. My phone is my mp3 player, my camera, my PDA, my egg timer, my GPS navigation tool (and more!). Oh, and one other ultralightweight principle is sharing. I let libraries and the internet take care of storing books and magazines. My Linux cluster is in a time share from someone else's datacenter rather than shove computers into Ikea furniture.

But year, if there's one compelling argument against the lifestyle, it's the twin bed and consequences.
posted by pwnguin at 6:46 PM on August 14, 2010

... The future of low-impact living will be 250,000 people living communal ecstacy in these low-impact conurbs!
posted by happyroach

posted by Ritchie at 8:05 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sick of livin' small. I'm ready to live in a place built to hold full-sized real furniture, with a kitchen where I can chop veggies with the whole cutting board resting on solid counter space.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:48 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I admire the dedication of the guy with the awesome loft, but if that were my apartment, I think I'd have about half as much stuff as he does. I'm like Ritchie; I don't know how you'd clean it.
posted by immlass at 10:11 PM on August 14, 2010

I don't hate anyone in quite the same way that I hate these people:

They then jog to their jobs in Midtown, picking up along the way their work clothes, which are "strategically stashed at various dry cleaners." [snip] "It's a great strategy. You always have fresh things to wear."
posted by kate blank at 7:10 AM on August 15, 2010

In my previous place, the room which had to contain my life was 48sq ft. It never once occured to me to send clothing to the cleaners to save space. Let's hope they never have a baby - they'll have to remortgage the place to afford the fees.
posted by mippy at 9:48 AM on August 15, 2010

I lived in a 400-sq-ft place for a few years. Have less stuff.

Rotating around the room: closet, bed, used the heater as a nightstand, futon, desk, bookshelf-hung above desk on wall, table that folded against wall, door to 80 sq ft kitchen, pantry shelf, hallway to front door and bathroom, bookshelf. It was fine to live in, fine to entertain up to two people at a time, and all around wonderful.

The winner was the closet; it was a full walk in, and as large as the kitchen. Having that amount of out-of-sight storage space built in enabled me to keep clutter out of the main room, and kept the place tidy. The closet was half-tidy, as making a mess just slows everything down.

These days, were I to do it again, I'd rent space in a local woodshop, as that's become more than a room's worth of a hobby.
posted by talldean at 9:55 AM on August 15, 2010

We recently moved out of a 2.3m by 3.6m single room studio flat in London into a pretty standard high-ceilinged Edinburgh Tenement flat. By US standards, our current place is still pretty small, but it's a massive improvement on the London flat where we basically lived on top of our possessions (literally, we slept in a loft bed with stuff stored underneath.

The space is heavenly. Heavenly I tell you. Doors we can close! Space to take more then four steps without hitting a wall! Counter space in the kitchen! A table in the kitchen! More than one cupboard!

I totally admire the ingenuity of people who can really make small spaces work. Looking back, we came up with some pretty ingenious kludges ourselves. But I really, really love having just a tiny bit more space.

All of that said, some of the 'tiny apartment' stuff is applicable regardless of the size of house you live in. We've got a box room in the new flat that we're converting into a study. All these awesome shelf setups and crazy little shoebox desk designs will sure come in handy.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:46 AM on August 16, 2010

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