OK, so I’ve had much going on and admittedly one foot out of The Tiny Apartment’s door for some time now. In other words, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted.

But I’m glad and sorry to say that the final results are in. I’ve moved from The Tiny Apartment. I miss it a tiny bit, but largely it’s good to be gone. The Tiny Apartment was a very small place to live, but if it had a few different amenities I might have stayed.

First on my must-have list for living tiny is private outdoor space. If I’d had a small balcony, patio, deck, or yard attached to my space, I might have stayed. I felt cooped up in my tiny space with no way to directly experience the outdoors. Outdoor space can extend the living space and psychologically make a small space feel much larger.

It was a good experiment—I’ve learned a lot about downsizing, conservation, and optimal use of space. If I had to choose just three, these are my most important micro living needs:

  1. Private outdoor space
  2. Large walk-in closet
  3. Optimal floor plan that includes more than one length of wall

I had none of those!

I’ll include a longer list of wants and needs in a future post.

I think modern micro apartments might be easier to live in with their built-in space-saving amenities. I’d love to compare. Anyone want to loan one to me for a year?

The Tiny Apartment is so small that it must have slipped through some time warpage and came out at the end of it’s first-year lease (and, ahem, months without a blog post).

Hard to believe that it’s July again and a year after my first encounter with The Tiny Apartment. I know it’s time to gather the final data for a decision about staying or going, but other factors besides space size are in play: area rents, convenience, time considerations.

I’m deep in analytic thought as we speak but I will leave you with one overriding finding from my first year: space size is not the most crucial factor for successful micro-living. Room layout and certain essential features, such as a large closet, are much more important. Unfortunately, my tiny studio doesn’t measure up. Now if only a space warp could drop in a few architectural changes, my decision would be easier.

Better late than never, right? This project has been kicking my upcycling butt, but I finally made enough progress to report back.

We’re talking about the tattered dresser makeover project, which is now mid-cycle in the upcycle process. I’m liking the new design and modern look but color choice is, ah, remaining elusive.

For such a small dresser, it’s quite finicky. I brought home at least six paint samples that were all rejected. The dark colors and the light colors looked jarring in such a small room, so I looked for midtones. I finally found a contender, but now after a first coat the color isn’t living up to its swatchy promises.

See the dresser below trying on the interim color. I think it makes the wall look too yellow. The walls actually look browner away from the purple-toned dresser. When the project is finally done, with a different color I think, I’ll show before and after shots.

Dresser with new paint, legs, and knobs.

This dresser redo has added legs and new knobs but hasn’t settled on a final color yet.

Did I mention that painting and upcycling furniture is harder than it looks? The design blogs make it look so easy! But I’m certain that after I straighten out that nasty learning curve, it’ll get much easier. Stay tuned.


I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where the cost of living goes up every second. I phoned a nearby store that sells unfinished pine dressers in various sizes and will even make them to order. They quoted about $400 for a small, unfinished pine dresser with three or four drawers. And I would still have to paint it myself! Needless to say, I continued looking for a used one.

Upcycling Challenges

I looked for weeks to find an old dresser to upcycle but wasn’t having any luck. I need a piece that is counter-height and as wide as the wall outside my kitchen, so my needs are pretty specific. My best-laid plans are to slide it over and use it as extra counter space for big cooking extravaganzas (hah!).

My persistence paid off. I finally found this old pine dresser on Craigslist that was the exact width I was looking for. The wall is 25 inches wide and the dresser is 3/4 of an inch smaller. I paid $15. The dresser is shorter in height than I need but that’s OK because I can add legs to raise and modernize it.

Photo of a small dresser in need of a makeover.

Upcycling dresser project—This small no-frills dresser needs repair and a makeover. It’ll be taller and snazzier but not too proud to act as extra work space for the kitchen.

Dressing Up the Dresser

The complete makeover will include painting, replacing knobs, repairing broken drawers, and adding legs. Oh and I might add a glass top to avoid scratching the surface.

Check back soon for the results.


Hard to believe that I’m halfway through my one-year lease at The Tiny Apartment. It’s been a busy couple of months, hence the absence of blog posts. But that will change in 2014 as I scramble to work on my small-space projects. I want to finish them soon to see if they make a difference in my space issues. I keep rearranging furniture and trying new pieces but the total space hasn’t jelled yet. I have to admit that it often feels cramped and cluttered. My tidiness skills have improved, but it’s pretty much a 24/7 job. With any lapse, my carefully ordered tiny ecosystem can regress into chaos in no time.

But new years are good excuses for new ways of being. Here’s to a creative, organized, and resourceful new year if that is what you want!

The Tiny Apartment gets free heat, just not enough of it. We’re having a crazy cold snap here in the Bay Area with temps down in the thirties. Brrrrrrr! (I know that’s balmy to you Minnesotans, but that’s just plain cold here in California.)

Tiny heater that plugs into the wall.

The smallest space heater I’ve ever seen.

I don’t really want to bring in a space heater, not because of the cost but because of floor space. So imagine my surprise when this ad for a tiny heater showed up in my inbox.

Not only is the heater small, but the whole thing plugs directly into the wall. Zero footprint. It’s supposed to heat up to 250 square feet, so it sounds like a dream come true for The Tiny Apartment.

I haven’t bought one to see if it really works, but I’ll let you know if I do. The cold snap will probably be over before I get around to it. In the meantime, a down jacket works well too.

Check out the November 2013 issue of Dwell magazine devoted to small-space living. I haven’t read all of the articles yet but did zero in on the story about Mad Men star Vincent Kartheiser who lives in a 520 sq. ft. studio cottage. He bought the house pre-Mad Men but chose to renovate it in 2010, well after Mad Men fame (and fortune?). The article doesn’t make his motives clear so I’m curious what drives him to stay. (I assume he can afford a larger home!) But I love that he stays and lives according to his own priorities rather than the expectations of others. Go Vincent!

OK, I’ll just say it: I adore solar energy. That’s strong language for an energy source, I know, but I just can’t help myself. I’m enamored by practical and peaceful solutions. (The sun shines everywhere—it’s renewable and we won’t have to wage war and drop bombs to get it.)

Given the sustainable nature of both micro-living and solar power, I think this blog has license enough to discuss one of my favorite topics. And with solar cells getting tinier and tinier, who knows, maybe The Tiny Apartment can someday have its very own solar collector—the extra small micro model.

Stay tuned and sunned (not tanned).

In my last post, I advocated for at least 400 square feet of living space for a healthy, reasonable life. After researching online, I might be willing to amend that theory for some people. (I’m not sure that includes me.)

Size seems to be less critical than the right layout and functionality. The article “8 Tips for Making Your Own Micro Apartment” validates my theory that odd-shaped rooms aren’t optimal for micro-living. It says that square or rectangular spaces work best.

The article also designates the size of micro-ness. For a single person, according to the article, it’s 250–400 square feet. Therefore, I am sub-micro, more in the nano zone.

I suspect a 300-sq ft apartment with the right layout and multi-functional features may be perfect for some people. The PBS NewsHour video “How to Live Micro: Apartments for the New Single World” demonstrates how it can work.

Let’s face it—my apartment is tiny by most standards. There are tinier apartments out there, but I find it curious that their inhabitants never complain about them—at least in front of the camera.