Close-up of the kitchen counter

The tiny kitchen’s counter space (not shown are two tiny parcels to the left of the sink and right of the stove top).

The back wall in the kitchen is just crying out for open shelving, right? Below the wall is the only counter space to speak of. There’s little room for food preparation, especially after a few small appliances stake their territory. Open shelving will help keep clutter off the counter and will also solve the problem of no overhead cabinets.

I’ve been brainstorming some solutions (see below). In this tiny kitchen, I may want to try them all.


Problem: Kitchen needs counter space and is too small for an island.


  • Cover the sink or an open drawer with a large cutting board to create an extra work surface (easy! see pic below; hey, what happened to my vintage cutting board that pulls out from under the countertop?)
  • Keep a mobile cart outside the kitchen and roll it over for temporary counter space (easy, but requires giving up precious space in the main room)
  • Build a lightweight, removable countertop that spans part of the open space and props against the counter on either side (requires some time and effort to build; I’ll make a quick cardboard prototype and show you later)
  • Add shelves on the wall to keep things off the counter (with these vintage plaster walls, may require some time and effort)
Photo of cutting board and sink.

A large cutting board covers the sink to act as temporary counter space.


You won’t go far when you walk into my kitchen, but at least you’re physically out of the main room (not so in some studios). Even though it feels more like a walk-in closet than a kitchen, it’s actually sort of charming, kind of like a little play kitchen. I don’t think I’ll be doing any serious cooking here, but it’s great for making coffee (my #1 priority) and preparing light meals.

Overview of kitchen

Not ready for the big reveal, here’s the kitchen on move-in day. It’s roughly 30 square feet.

Full List of Amenities

  • Two-burner hotplate
  • Apartment-sized refrigerator (not frost free! do they even make these anymore?)
  • Pull-out sink sprayer
  • Convenient U-shaped configuration
  • Hardwood floors
  • Window over sink with view of trees, bottle brush buckeye, and hummingbirds
  • Takes about two minutes to clean

You may have noticed no oven on the list. It’s true. I have no oven of any kind. Next on my shopping list is a small convection oven.

View of kitchen window and refrigerator.

A window over the sink—one of life’s simple pleasures.

Photo of two-burner stove.

Nifty built-in counter-top stove.

I’m shocked that it’s been nine days since my last post. The last week has been a blur of activity—moving stuff, foraging for stuff, arranging stuff, and rearranging stuff. Not tons of stuff, but an attempt to curate the right stuff.

The wrong stuff hasn’t stayed around for long. Here’s my new micro-living ultimatum to stuff: move in, contribute in a meaningful way to the community of stuff or move out.

But pure minimalism is not in my DNA. I like the blog The Minimalists and hope to learn a thing or two from it, but I have to say there’s something disturbing about this minimalist closet. Is this real life or just a photo shoot? Non-minimalists need to know!

Living in a small space could be boot-camp training for minimalism, but not necessarily. Some micro-dwellers find ways to have a lot of stuff. I love the color, texture, and eclecticism of this 312-square-foot studio featured in Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool 2012 contest.

Despite my hardcore tactics towards the stuff brigade, my place is still in disarray. In the next few posts, I’ll show you my blank slate apartment (the “before” photos from move-in day).

For the record, my studio isn’t one of those fancy transformer apartments with “flexible features.” Those micro marvels hide or disguise amenities until you’re ready to use them.

Old radiator used as a plant stand.

The radiator in my vintage studio transforms into a plant stand for most of the year.

My studio is what you see is what you get. It’s big on vintage charm and character but tiny on amenities. I’m still looking for that magic button that reveals my oven and bathtub!

The vintage radiator/plant stand (right) looks cute now; I hope I still think so when it clocks in for work this winter. Vintage radiators often whine and protest vociferously if they have to do anything but sit there and look cute. (The noise might make for some nice sound art, but I’m a light sleeper).

This building was built early last century. It’s unusual I think, in that the majority of units are studio apartments. Most of the studios are small enough to qualify as micro, but a handful are junior studios (like mine), which are even smaller. I wonder if they were once larger and were later split into smaller units. More on that story later as updates come in.

Transformer Apartments
Here’s two apartments that do magic tricks:

  • It’s amazing what this Barcelona studio dweller has done with 237 square feet, although I think opening and closing the doors every day might drive me nuts.
  • I love this apartment in Paris where the bathtub is hidden under the dining room table! The veranda is a perfect extension of the living space.

Was it Ikea madness or my own? Shopping at Ikea during the July 4th weekend sale? What was I thinking? Strangely enough, even though the showroom marketing maze was packed and difficult to navigate, the checkout lines were short. I breezed through in some sort of Ikean space-time warp.

I wonder if the massive redesign in the Emeryville store confused shoppers so much that they couldn’t find their way to checkout (despite the herdlike signage). I envision shoppers pushing their carts endlessly in circles, piling on more and more stuff, and then abandoning them mid-maze, clawing their way to emergency exits out of Ikea-induced exhaustion/overload. Or, near closing time, security finds shoppers trapped in the maze in shopping-induced stupors. They manually lead them back to checkout, to mile-long lines and Ikea has to stay open all night to check them out.

Or maybe they just had all the cash registers open. Forgot to notice.

I wonder if Ikea has considered an express lane to the checkout area (or toll lane—you’d have to pay them to let you out of the store early). But I guess that defeats the purpose of the maze.

As you might have suspected, I have a whole shopping/consumer love/hate philosophy about Ikea, but I’ll share that with you in another post.

FIND: Sometimes the small finds are the most fun. This simple inexpensive storage solution is perfect for my winter clothes. It’s a zippered bag made out of recycled plastic and it can fit in tight spaces. I had considered storing my winter clothes offsite, but now I can cram this bag on the top shelf of my tiny closet.

Tip: A flexible bag fits better in a tight space then a cardboard box or plastic storage bin. And it looks cuter too. You can also carry it by the handle if you ever need to move it. Did I mention the $2.99 price tag?

Photo of storage bag

You can use this recycled plastic bag for storing out-of-season clothes. It can sit on its side or stand up (as shown), and you can mold it to tight closet spaces. Or it’s actually cute enough to leave out. Love the zipper!

I actually went to Ikea for curtains (I’ve always liked their selection of lightweight white curtains), but no luck on that front.

Oh and I did find a few other small-space solutions. More on those later.


Sourcing product for the home is no simple task. Besides a nice lunch break talking shop (writing and editing) with my friend Ann, I spent most of yesterday browsing, procuring, and working on items for my new apartment.

One might think that in such a small space, outfitting it would be quick and easy. But so far it seems the opposite. With such limited space, every item that enters the space must serve its intended purpose (there’s no room for loiterers) and also be pleasing to look at (most things will always be in my line of sight).

I am trying to reuse what I’ve already got if it works. In the coming days, I’ll share some of my old and new finds.

The apartment seems to have shrunk since the last time I saw it. It feels roughly 1/3 smaller than I remember it. Some of my plans for furniture items and placement were completely off the mark. Luckily I haven’t moved the big stuff yet. I think some of it won’t be joining me.

It’s funny how the memory can fail when wishful thinking is involved. It’s back to the drawing board for me.

Main Room of Studio Apartment

Besides the main room (shown here), there’s a tiny bathroom, a tiny closet, and a tiny kitchen, all attached to the right side of the main room.

On a positive note, aren’t the floors lovely? And it does get great light.

Tonight I have my first date with my new apartment. I pick up the keys this evening instead of having to wait till sometime tomorrow. I’ve been essentially camping out in my art studio for the past two weeks, so even a half day earlier than expected is awesome news.

Maybe I’ll suggest dinner together. And who knows what the night will bring—perhaps I’ll even sleep over.

I can’t help but visualize floor plans for my itty-bitty studio, even though it’s likely a futile effort. I previewed the studio three times before signing the lease, and the walls seemed to close in a bit each time. I’m afraid that when I finally move, the studio will have shrunk to breadbox size and nothing will fit like I thought it would.

But in the previews, the studio was filled with massive furniture and storage boxes. I’ve never understood why people put large furniture in small rooms! Once all the stuff is gone, I’m hoping the walls will move outward instead of in.