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.

 

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.

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!