When is a home just too small?
Micro-apartments are seen as a solution for people willing to sacrifice space for location. But is there a limit to how small a home can go and still be comfortable?
We’ve written a number of blog posts glorifying tiny homes. Their charm is often in the ingenuity of their design, with furniture that multitasks and creative storage options.
But as much as we admire these clever tiny homes, would you want to live in one?
"I think it's different strokes for different folks," Graham Hill told journalist Bridget Moriarity, who recently wrote a piece for Curbed about smaller living spaces. "If you're a 22-year-old coming to New York City, you may be out a ton and not have much of a budget, so maybe you want to rent a 200-square-foot place that's closer to the center instead of having a bunch of roommates or having to live far out and commute all the time."
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Hill, the founder of Treehugger, recently published an op-ed piece in The New York Times about the joy of living with less stuff. But critics point out that he spent $365,000 to modify his 420-square-foot New York City apartment, for which he paid $287,000.
Many of the micro-apartment stories come from large, expensive cities: New York, San Francisco and even Providence, R.I., where enough residents are willing to trade space for a place in the heart of the city. Small-space proponents argue that the city around them is part of their living space. Plus, the new developments with small apartments also include some communal spaces, such as courtyards, movie screening rooms and terraces.
Writes Allison Arieff at The New York Times:
Small housing units can be well-designed, though their success is contingent on the success of the urban setting in which they exist. In other words, what’s outside the door needs to be compelling enough to make up for what might otherwise be internalized inside a larger home.
But it’s not only urban dwellers who are embracing the ethos of small spaces, at least in limited numbers. A family of four built a 168-square-foot house in Florida after they were hit hard by the recession. Two women in California built tiny dwellings to save money.
How well a tiny home will work depends a lot on your circumstances.
In recent years, I have downsized from a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom house with a garage and lots of closets to a two-bedroom house to a one-bedroom house and now to a one-room loft apartment. For a single person, one large room works fine. If you had two people who slept at different times, or a baby, it wouldn’t work very well.
Marc Vlessing, a co-founder of Pocket Living in London, believes that there is a limit to how small a house or apartment can be and still be livable.
"I balk at anything below 300 square feet," Vlessing told Moriarty. "You don't want to become the new student dormers. This has to be a credible alternative to living in suburbia. If it just becomes too cramped, then I think people go, 'OK, it's terrible, but I'll do the commute.'"
What factors would compel you to live in a tiny space and how small would you be willing to go?
"A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff." - George Carlin
We live in 600 sq ft, ground floor, & 300 sq ft, half floor. The house is old, though, so, it isn't set up to maximize space and the doorsills love to remind my elbows to keep clipped in to my sides. If we had the money to gut or raze (depending which option makes more sense), while living in a more modern apartment somewhere, we'd do it.
We lived in an apartment before buying this house that was 835 sq ft, but, it was a much better floorplan, and, it had closets, so, it seemed big rather than small like this house feels.
I think it comes down to space management and the tools (furniture & closets & cabinets) to do it. Small spaces are small, not necessarily inexpensive.
If you are single...a small space will work out just fine. Being in the military, I was required to live in the barracks when first joined...it was a 10ft by 10ft room with a bathroom I shared with my neighbor and one small closet. Down the hall was a communal kitchen that everyone on our barracks floor could use if we wanted.This was before wall mount-tv's were even invented. My bed was along one wall, my desk and tv and computer. It was ok, for "one" person. I couldn't imagine two people living in it. Now as a family of 5, anything less than a 3 bedroom couldn't possibly work.
That said, I also lived in Europe for 7 years and American's don't know what "small" is when it comes to living. They don't have closets, you're lucky if you have a garage, and a bedroom may only fit the bed. So you have to mount your storage on the walls above you in some cases.
I live in a small 640 square foot (16 x 40) house on 5 acres in the north Minnesota woods. It has a living room, narrow dining area, bathroom, and a bedroom across the back of the house. An Irish Wolfhound and 3 Whippets share the space with me. Each dog has his or her own bed (the Wolfhound sleeps in an old sleigh-bed crib sans dropside that matches the living room furniture); I have invested in several wardrobe cupboards and pantries for storage, which is the biggest issue in a small home. I do have an 8 x 16 deck/porch on the front of the house that extends the living space in warm weather. I love this small house, especially now that I have an organizing system in place. Great for a single person or a couple, but logisitcs for a family with children would be hard. And yes, I do have a never-ending Disney show of wildlife just outside for entertainment!