It’s been almost three months since move-in, so now might be a good time to report preliminary results in my micro-living experiment.

Living small definitely has its benefits, but I can’t say it’s all easy. After living in such a tiny space, I suspect a small space would feel just about right.

One of my readers commented that many Americans have more space and stuff than they need. I’m down with downsizing but I suspect we need a reasonable amount of space for basic comfort.

Divide and Design

I’m not at all opposed to studio living; in fact, I think I like it. But I think I’d prefer a larger, dividable space. My studio is so tiny that dividing the space into different areas or zones is not possible or advisable—I want my limited space to feel as open and airy as possible. But I may partition it at some point to test my theory.

The studio is also a bit awkward in layout and configuration. It’s an end unit on an irregularly shaped lot, so all of the walls are at a slant, which contributes to my space issues.

The Envelope Please

My not-so-scientific conclusion is that the average downsizer might want to start with a minimum of 400 square feet. Some people are content with less space, such as this New York City architect living and working in 78 square feet. But I suspect that many of us lack that kind of discipline. And “New York small” is probably different than “everywhere else small.”

But, I haven’t completed all my space-saving projects or found all the right multipurpose furniture. Will I feel differently when I’m done? I don’t know. Stay tuned.

 

News flash: The Tiny Apartment’s affinity for small things does not extend to bridges over large bodies of water.

On my maiden crossing of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, I shuddered at the side-by-side contrast of the new and old bridges. With the creaky old bridge looming next to the new one, I peered into a dark and distant past that in actuality was only last week. Were people actually driving over that matchstick construction as recently as a week ago?

Believe it or not, my tiny kitchen lost six linear inches of counter and cabinet space. I had to agree to this to get a new refrigerator. As you know, I had hoped to add counter and cabinet space, not remove it. It seems irony was just waiting to pounce on The Tiny Apartment’s weakest point.

My old 20-inch Frostman refrigerator was a disaster. It froze things in the fridge section and, living up to its name, covered everything in the freezer with a layer of frost. I kept the temp high so it wouldn’t freeze everything in the fridge, but then everything in the freezer didn’t freeze.

Photo of the sink before the new fridge was installed.

My dish rack before the new fridge. How spacious!

Apparently, 20-inch fridges are a thing of the retro past. To fit a new 24-inch frost-free fridge, the crew had to saw away part of the surrounding cabinet. Ouch! That hurts in a kitchen this size. And now I have to move everything around because the counter that held my dish rack has vanished. Losing that little counter space has thrown off the entire kitchen layout.

On the bright side, I have a functioning refrigerator, albeit bigger than I need, and now I can keep ice cream in the freezer. I guess my days of single-serving pints are over. As they should be.

Photo of sink and new fridge minus the left counter space and dish drainer.

Oh no! No more tiny counter space to hold the tiny dish rack. C’est la vie!

While pondering my kitchen space problems, I stuck a small shelving unit on top of the counter to simulate open shelving. I tried it on a whim and kept it as a fun interim solution. But new developments have brought unexpected changes to my little kitchen and these shelves are now gone. I’m posting these photos anyway to document the kitchen’s evolution and to show you my quick-fix solution.

Shelves on the counter hold dishes and bread bin.

Small shelves on top of the counter act as a temporary fix.

I liked the texture and color this arrangement brought to the kitchen, but counter space was still a big problem.

I still think wall shelves are the only viable solution (cabinets would be too bulky). As soon as I figure out how to hang shelves with concealed hardware, I’ll put them up.

Counter space to the right of the shelves.

Counter space to the right of the standing shelves.

In the meantime, I’ll share my recent kitchen upset in the next post.

In my previous post, I presented one-piece furniture options for both sleeping and sitting.

I’d almost decided on a convertible sofa (see example of how one works) until I realized the footprint would squeeze out room for a coffee table (as I may have mentioned, my place is teeny tiny). I stumbled upon a suitable piece from Scandinavian Designs that seems to defy categorization (see pic below). Is it a daybed, a chaise, or as the company calls it, a chaise futon? It really has no resemblance to a futon. To me, it’s a cross between a chaise and a daybed, but let’s agree to call it a chaise.

Hybrid chaise lounge and daybed with small footprint.

Hybrid chaise/daybed with a small footprint.

Enough Room for a Coffee Table

The chaise is only 30 inches deep, which leaves plenty of floor space for a coffee table and ottoman. Although the carbon footprint is larger than I’d like, the physical footprint is perfect. In all the browsing I’d done, both online and brick and mortar, it was the smallest, lightest, and most versatile. While it wasn’t my first choice for sitting comfort (no backrest), its practicality won out.

The top folds out to queen size if I ever need extra sleeping space. But for now, I lay a cushy piece of natural latex foam over it to sleep. I’m brainstorming storage ideas for the foam—turns out latex is heavy, making it bulky and cumbersome to roll up and store. I could find lighter options, but I already own this foam and it’s super comfy. And natural latex is cleaner and healthier than lighter, more processed options such as memory foam. I also have a wool/cotton topper, but it’s actually heavier and bulkier than the latex foam.

Is Blue a Big or Small Color?

Of three eye-popping colors, I chose turquoise. Even though it’s bright and brilliant, the color is less obtrusive than red or purple in a small space. Plus I just like the color.

Some small-space designers advocate light or neutral colors to maximize the feel of a space. But other designers disagree. In any case, I didn’t have many choices in this size footprint, so I’ll work with the color whatever the effect.

Good Fit and Find

Overall, the combination sofa and bed is a great choice for a very small space or as an extra sleeping space in a guest room or office. If I must say so myself, good find!

In my micro-studio I have room for a sofa or a bed but not both. One piece of furniture that serves both functions seemed like the best solution. Here were the choices and pros and cons of each:

  • Sofabed—A traditional fold-out sofabed is labor-intensive to operate, the mattresses aren’t the most comfortable, and the footprint can be deeper than other options. But they do have a back and arms, the best for sitting comfort
  • Convertible sofa—A sofa with a click-clack fold-down back is less labor-intensive to operate than a sofabed, but folding it down can require moving it out from the wall or letting it sit out permanently a few inches from the wall (in my studio, every square inch is vital space)
  • Futon—Futons are bulky and clunky to operate. I don’t mind sleeping on a futon, but I don’t like sitting on the steep angle in upright position
  • Daybed—A daybed usually lacks a built-in back and arms, making it the worst choice for sitting comfort. But they’re user-friendly for sleeping and you can find them with shallow footprints
  • Traditional bed—I could have gone the obvious-bed-in-the-studio route and loaded up a small bed with bolster cushions and pillows, but I preferred a living room aesthetic over a bedroom one

To my earlier point, furnishing a tiny space is not a tiny task! I think I could have written the entire Wikipedia in the time it took to suss out a solution. Next, I’ll show you what I found.

 

While my apartment stays the same tiny size, my vocabulary is expanding. Lately I’ve been tossing around the terms footprint and double-duty like I’ve been micro-living for decades.

Example Usage: That ottoman’s footprint has Godzilla stamped all over it. And you can’t even store anything in it—I need a smaller one that does double duty.

OK, I don’t really talk like that, but you get the picture.

The words also help as shopping parameters to weed out impulsive purchases. When shopping for The Tiny Apartment, I try to find the smallest possible footprint for any given item. If it can also serve more than one function, it immediately goes into the shopping cart.

Photo of cute vintage coffee table.

Cute (oops!), I mean cool vintage coffee table that has no storage options.

For example, even though I love my smallish vintage coffee table (that’s also adorable), it’d make more sense to find a table that can store my keyboard and other things out of sight while not in use. (Please note, cute and adorable are two other words that crop up often around small things. It will be challenging but I’ll try to use them sparingly.)

If I were more entrepreneurial, I might open a home goods store that stocks only small things. I might call it Slim’s.

Photo of cute vintage coffee table with keyboard on top.

Cool vintage coffee table with keyboard (and tons of other stuff not shown) cluttering it up and masking its cuteness.

I got a late night phone call from fellow micro-dweller and friend Alan alerting me to this year’s San Francisco Mime Troupe show “Oil and Water.” The Tiny Apartment is featured in the show! Okay, not my Tiny Apartment, but a tiny apartment. Two characters in the show live in a micro-apartment, and wackiness ensues as they try to share the tiny space with themselves and visitors. In one bit, two visitors enter and everyone moves around the space like sardines in a can. Sounds hilarious.

The Mime Troupe addresses socially relevant material, and micro-living is a hot topic these days, so that’s how my and Alan’s living situations ended up featured in the show.

For all my non-Bay Area readers who haven’t seen a Mime Troupe show, it’s not pantomime. It’s actually loud and raucous satire and it’s a lot of fun.

Support the Troupe(s)

The SF Mime Troupe, now in its 54th season, is an institution in the Bay Area. But the 54th season almost didn’t happen due to a lack of funds. With seven more free shows in the parks this summer, I hope people, myself included, go out and support the show (they accept donations).

Up and Coming: TINY at Large

Escaping the four walls of The Tiny Apartment, thetinyapartment.com will venture out and report on various happenings in the micro-living community. Later we’ll take a closer look at Alan’s micro-apartment. At approximately 300 square feet, I admit to some bouts of square footage envy.

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.

TINY APARTMENT SOLUTIONS

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

Solutions:

  • 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.