Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Living small

Andy Newman blogged in the NY Times today about the winner of a competition to design a building full of much-smaller-than-you-might-expect housing to be built on E. 27th St. between 1st and 2nd Avenue: City Unveils Winner of Tiny-Apartment Competition. The "micro-units" will measure 250 to 370 square feet each.

The article reports that 40% of the apartments will be "priced to be affordable" (from which one must suppose that 60% will be unaffordable?).

As one early commenter pointed out already there's an awful lot of space devoted to hallway. And as another has noticed, there's not much room for owning anything, like clothes. I'd add kitchen equipment beyond the very basics to that. And, looking around my own apartment, and imagining myself living in a space this size, I'd have to add books too, and a desk that has more surface than the minimum required for a laptop.

On the other hand, if I can imagine trading in ~140 shelf-feet of books for an e-reader that contains only the ones that have been digitized ... and if I can imagine divesting myself of too many shirts and a ridiculous number of fileboxes full of redlined drafts of fiction-in-progress ... and if I can imagine cooking less complex meals for fewer friends, and only occasionally ... and if I can imagine dumping several decades' collection of CDs and -- yes, it's true -- vinyl in favor of crappier-quality iThing recordings ... and if I were to imagine living alone (no, M--, I'm not really imagining that) .......... well ... maybe I could make a micro-unit work for me.

I'm thinking these micro-units would work pretty seamlessly for someone just starting out, someone who hasn't acquired much s/he wants to keep. A micro-unit would certainly work for me as a pied-à-terre (and who wouldn't want a pied-à-terre in Manhattan, perhaps not perfectly located, but, hey, only 4 blocks from the 6 Lexington, and two more from Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building?).

Imagining all that divestiture of stuff is not such a hard thing to do. It's not nearly so hard, say, as imagining being homeless, and living out of one's car or a shopping cart or a backpack and a sleeping bag ... and you only need to look around Berkeley (where I live now) to be able to imagine that, vividly.

Can you see yourself living in a micro-unit? What would be the hardest thing(s) for you to give up?

Related posts on One Finger Typing:

Are dust bunnies an argument for e-books?
Moving one's life to the cloud
Gardening for apartment-dwellers
Rock, Paper, Digital Preservation


  1. Reminds me of this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/narrow-house-opening-as-a_0_n_1987050.html which seemed to me at the time I read about it the perfect place to escape from a too noisy life. But then, having lived in a New York apartment almost as small as the micro-units envisioned in the article you cite, I think it's a case of the grass is always greener...

  2. @Bridget: 4' wide, eh? That'd cut down on the vacuuming, I'd say.....

  3. True, but I'm pretty sure the appeal had less to do with the chores and more with the enforced solitude...like a treehouse.