Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Several times a year a major city paper publishes a story about the coolest small space in the city. The latest entry is too cute to boot. The article leaves some questions unanswered. Where, for instance, is her storage? How does she entertain? Does the small space make her feel claustrophobic in foul weather.

Ms. Biosic's small space is typical in that it enjoys a high ceiling and as the picture reveals she sleeps in a loft space. In this case, and to be fair, we ought to calculate cubic feet as she lives within a volume. The sleeping loft is a design that appreciates the fact that the occupant doesn't need headroom when she occupies it and makes her space livable.

I am going to guess that the most important piece of furniture in her space is the table. It serves a multitude of uses. It is a dining table when she eats, a desk when she works, a prep surface when she cooks, and a board when she irons. Her satisfaction with her space is dependent on maximizing the surfaces she has by putting them to multiple use.

I believe that the key to the success of this and other small spaces is that the occupant offloads to her surroundings the support systems that round out her needs. Typically she does her laundry at the Laundromat, picks up a variety of meals at anyone of hundreds of new venues catering to her, works out at the health club, keeps her excess stuff in a rental storage space, uses public transportation, and arranges her Thanksgiving Day guests overnight accommodations at a nearby hotel. She gets her reading material at the library, maintains a very basic wardrobe which she can update regularly, and the art she views hangs on the walls of nearby galleries.

This life style is served up like a bauble, fun to read about, and reserved for the "bohemians" that exist like curios in a gallery. The facts are that most of us continue to move to the suburbs and house scale continues to grow. But the current housing crisis might give that momentum pause and allow many to consider the lessons learned in descriptions of small spaces to be more generally applicable.

The primary factor in determining housing cost is scale. Builders build and price on a per square foot basis. If we calculate the "value added" that Ms. Biosic enjoys by living in a dense urban area, she can more than offset the higher per square foot cost that she pays to live there. The smaller house movement is most relevant within an urban context. If we apply the additional environmental benefit of having a smarter, more efficient dwelling, then small spaces become less an art object and more a critical piece in solving our global problems.


  1. I think one of the main things is that she lives in this small urban apartment by herself (or with her mentioned boyfriend)... to try and live in something small but be more than 1 or 2 people means that you give up a certain quality of life... and this is from a person who lives with 7 other people in an area a very similar size to her apartment (who cannot sit up in her bed) on a boat. Her apartment would be paradise to me! Tarina... who is currently in the South of France

  2. My wife and I lived in a 700sq. ft. art deco cottage in Palo Alto for two years. It was tiny. We loved it. It was the essence of easy living. Everything was close at hand. It was also great to entertain in because it was so cozy and had a great patio space that we shared with two other cottages. We really loved that little place. Sadly, the owner, a developer, decided to scrape the three cottages to build a McMansion. We were forced to move, but luckily found a similar place.