The “tiny home” trend probably isn’t going anywhere, at least for the time being, and we sort of get it. Minimalism is cool, and there’s something enchanting about the idea of throwing away all of your unnecessary stuff and living with just the bare essentials.
But for apartment dwellers in large cities, minimalism isn’t a choice; it’s a way of life.
“The key is to be conscious of what you truly love and need and use, and then create ‘homes’ for each item,” says Felice Cohen, who lived in a 90-square-foot apartment in New York for four years (more on that in a moment). “It might take a while to figure out how to store stuff, but once you do, it can be truly rewarding.”
What does [make me happy] are experiences, not stuff.
Rewarding, sure, but it also requires some serious discipline. Here’s a look at 10 of the smallest apartments in the world. Keep this in mind the next time you complain about closet space…
Manhattan (90 Square Feet)
No, this isn’t the smallest apartment on this list, but it’s a great introduction to tiny living.
First, the good points: This tiny apartment is just a block away from Central Park, and when she lived there, Felice Cohen paid $700 per month, which is incredibly cheap for New York.
That tiny space continues to make my life bigger.
There were, of course, some substantial drawbacks; we spoke with Cohen to find out how she dealt with the limitations of this minuscule pad.
“With no kitchen, I wasn’t able to make scrambled eggs,” Cohen tells FashionBeans. “I also didn’t have a couch to spread out on. But that was pretty much it [for the disadvantages]; those wants were fleeting. I made it work for me. Sure, I would have liked to host dinner parties, and there were occasions when I had two friends over for take out, but in [New York], there are many places to go to.”
Eventually, Cohen says that her tiny apartment gave her a new sense of perspective.
“I felt that tiny space gave me the opposite of limits,” she says. “Those 90 square feet stretched around the world. I have heard from strangers all over the globe asking for my advice on organizing and praising my philosophy on living large in a small space. That experience made me realize that I had a philosophy—one that I still have living in a larger space.”
As for the apartment itself, it featured a fairly standard bathroom, a bed (located above the apartment entrance), and a toaster oven. Cohen says that, in a pinch, she could fit nine people in the apartment (but when possible, she’d ask to meet her friends somewhere else).
Still, we had to ask: Does she miss her cozy apartment?
“No, I don’t miss the tiny space,” Cohen says. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a special place in her heart for it: “I loved it for the years I was there, and it served its purpose, allowing me to quit my stressful job and finish writing my first book about my grandfather. For that, I will always be grateful. It also helped me to see that living tiny can make my life larger.”
Cohen now speaks regularly at Tiny House Festivals (yes, that’s a real thing) across the U.S.
“That tiny space continues to make my life bigger,” she says.
Hong Kong (4 Square Feet)
In Hong Kong, a 128-square-foot apartment isn’t too unusual, but if you can’t afford such an extravagance, you can opt for a 4-square-foot “microunit.”
I’ve got to live here. I’ve got to survive.
It’s essentially a wire mesh cage, but at least it’s cheap (about $167 per month, per The New York Daily News).
The paper spoke with Leung Cho-yin, a 67-year-old who rented one of the cages. The man said that bed bugs frequently invade the cramped sleeping spaces.
“I’ve been bitten so much I’m used to it,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve got to live here. I’ve got to survive.”
Residents of these spaces wash their clothes in a communal bucket and share a two-stall bathroom. The kitchen is basically just a sink. It is, objectively, a terrible way to live.
The good news is that Carrie Lam, the new Hong Kong Chief Executive, has pledged to “inject as much innovative thinking as possible” into the city’s housing market, hopefully reducing the cost of real estate in the process. That’s important, because this isn’t the only time Hong Kong appears on this list.
Hong Kong (16 Square Feet)
See what we mean?
This Hong Kong apartment is smaller than the average prison cell. It is, however, significantly more expensive at about $384 per month. For that money, you basically get a closet along with a few amenities including wireless internet, an air conditioning unit, and—sometimes—a window.
The building’s hallways are small, and the rooms are just big enough for a bed. To personalize the cramped quarters, many residents set up shelves with trinkets and decorations. Still, we imagine that they try not to spend too much time in their tiny homes.
London (60 Square Feet)
This apartment went on the market in 1987. Before that, it was a broom closet; no, we’re not kidding.
“My cozy flat is just fine for sleeping,” resident Ray Barker told The Daily Mail in 2010, “and it’d be a lot harder getting to my job [without it].”
The Daily Mail reported that the tiny apartment features a convertible sofa bed, a toilet, a shower (which doubles as a closet), and six-inch-deep cupboards.
Barker bought his microscopic space in 2006 for £120,000; in 2010, the flat, which is near Harrods in Knightsbridge, was worth about $264,000. Thanks, housing crisis.
“I do the cleaning while lying in my sofa bed,” Barker told the paper. “In fact, I can wash up, answer the door, make a cuppa and go to the loo all at the same time.”
That’s quite the mental image.
Manhattan (78 Square Feet)
Alright, so this apartment looks more like the entryway to a home than a full living space, but it compares favorably to some of the other entries on this list. The price tag isn’t bad, either; residents pay a mere $800 per month to live right in the heart of Manhattan.
There are a few caveats. For starters, the apartment has no kitchen and no running water. It shares a single bathroom with three other apartments, which might be a dealbreaker for some people. There’s no kitchen, either, but there is a refrigerator and plenty of cabinetry.
Resident Luke Clark Tyler, who makes his living as an architect, built a convertible sofa-bed for the space, and he keeps dishes, books, and other essentials in a large closet.
“If I do want to get something else, I have to be very careful,” he explained in a video for FairCompanies.com. “I have to say, ‘well, what can I get rid of?'”
Paris (86 Square Feet)
The designers at Kitoko Studios, an architecture and design firm, converted this former maid’s quarters into an apartment. It’s surprisingly livable, as the designers set out to use the “concept of the Swiss army knife.”
That means that pretty much every surface slides, opens, or unfolds into something else. One cabinet houses a table big enough for two people; another has room for books and a computer. The stairs that lead to the bed double as tiered storage space, and serene artwork covers each cabinet. There’s even a window right above the kitchen sink.
As this apartment sits right below the building’s roofline, it offers easy roof access for when residents feel claustrophobic. All in all, it’s a pretty nice space.
Paris (130 Square Feet)
Call us crazy, but we could definitely live here. Two floor levels make this small space seem much bigger.
Julie Nabucet, Architect Marc Baillargeon worked with partner Julie Nabucet to design the space; they packed the apartment with custom furniture including a pull-out bed and stairs with built-in storage. “Our approach to architecture is that the house is not so much a machine for living, but a tool for living well,” Baillargeon told Wired.
And live well you will. The apartment’s current owner, Thibaut Ménard, says he notices new things about the space each day, acknowledging that Nabucet and Baillargeon clever designs make full use of the flat.
“This studio has been created in a very intelligent and adaptable way of thinking, and with plenty of storage space and cupboards, which makes it suitable for each type of situation,” said Thibaut Ménard, the apartment’s current owner.
Poland (140 Square Feet)
Polish designer Szymon Hanczar planned out his gorgeous but tiny apartment. “Extremely small flats are great for people who are minimalist, who want to enjoy the city life,” he said.
While his apartment doesn’t have a kitchen, he did include space for a coffee machine, refrigerator, and a meal prep area. The bed is located right above the bathroom, which has a combination toilet/shower (try not to think too hard about that). A wall-mounted bike serves as Hanczar’s transportation around the city.
We have to admit, some of these tiny apartments are pretty incredible spaces.
However, we wonder what happens when a minimalist leaves their comfort zone: After you’ve lived in 90 square feet, are larger apartments overwhelming?
Not really, according to Cohen, who moved to a 500-square-foot apartment after leaving her tiny New York crib.
“I grew up in a large house and always thought one day I would live in a large house, but after five years in that tiny space, I realized that wouldn’t make me happy,” Cohen tells us. “What does [make me happy] are experiences, not stuff. I now live in just under 500 square feet and I am always working to fill it with friends and family.”