Monday, February 23

Life in smaller spaces

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, any unused space in a home will be filled with stuff. This is a cardinal rule of modern life that has been confirmed to me many times, and it holds true whether you want the stuff or have any desire to clean it and maintain it. Many of us still feel the perverse need for this large amount of living space. One of the common complaints about living in a compact community is the lack of space to stretch out your arms. But is more always better?

The Mrs. and I downsized in the last year from a 2-story house to a 450 sq. ft. apartment, and, in my opinion, this did not require any sacrifice in quality of life. We just have to be more efficient with our space and more selective with things we purchase. Here are some strategies we've come up with:

  • Elevating the bed up 6 in. on risers gives an extra 16 cubic feet of storage. We drape of bed skirt to the ground to avoid the appearance of clutter.
  • Televisions can take up a large amount of space, because they require all furniture to be oriented toward them. We keep a monitor and speakers in a nearby cabinet and temporarily connect it to a laptop on a table to watch videos. The set-up time is only about 1 minute.
  • Under the couch is a line of 8 shoebox-size plastic containers that store items, such as office supplies or cords, that are used on a regular basis. It essentially functions as a separate chest of drawers.
  • The printer is embedded inconspicuously in a bookshelf.
  • A stackable washer/dryer unit fits nicely in the bathroom.
  • The interior space of a room is often underutilized. We've placed two back to back metal carts in the middle of our kitchen for extra counter space and storage.
And we've got nothing on Gary Chang, a Hong Kong Architect recently featured in the New York Times, who has managed to configure his 344 sq. ft. apartment into one open space that can be converted for 24 different uses.
"What appears to be an open-plan studio actually contains many rooms, because of sliding wall units, fold-down tables and chairs, and the habitual kinesis of a resident in a small space. As Mr. Chang put it, “I glide around.”"


Dave said...

Me and my gf live in about 650 sq feet and love it.... You realize just how much junk most people fill up their place with and that, that stuff is well junk.

Steve Davis said...

Yeah, we went from 1200 sf 2 BR house in arkansas (our first home post wedding) to a 700 sf basement in DC with limited flexibility. But we made it work for a year before moving up just slightly into a larger non-studio space. But we were mathematical in figuring out what to take, leave, or sell. I made a scale plan of the floorplan, and scale cutouts of our furniture to figure out what we could move.

Did it when we moved again after the first year two, which is what's pictured.

We've enjoyed the smaller scale living. We always have a box of stuff to give away in our back hall. Clothes, knick knacks, plates, etc... And generally when we get something, we give something away. That's the plan anyway.