Tiny, well-designed apartment is snug, cozy

Seattle's Steve Sauer (a former Boeing interiors engineer) has done up his 182 sqft apartment over two levels, with cleverly segmented nooks and crannies for different uses. It's as snug as a houseboat, and looks like it'd be a great place to live: "I wanted to compress my home to squirt me back out to the community.That was one of the philosophical reasons. I want to be able to shop daily, not store a lot and eat really well."

Tiny apartment shows the value of a good fit



  1. I’m wondering how long it’ll be before tiny houses become the boring establishment, and when the rebellious young hipsters will have to live in ginormous mausoleums in order to be ironic and hip.

    “I know your unawakened mind can only conceive of a super-efficient, compact home that maximizes space, form, and function, but perhaps someday you will be as cool and enlightened as I, living in my 20,000 square foot warehouse surrounded by useless stuff. Your material possessions are clothes, a toothbrush, and a laptop, you say? So 2010. I have filled this entire warehouse. It has a basement that’s twice as big. Also full. Of toothbrushes and laptops.

    ‘What’s that? You say this is an absurd, completely impractical way to live that wouldn’t work for the vast majority of human beings? That’s just your lack of understanding talking. Now I’m going to make little tiger claw impressions in the air as I feistily climb onto my bed. THAT’S MADE OF BEDS’

  2. Former Boeing interiors engineer? So he thinks those damn economy seats are actually big enough?

    I lived in an apartment about this size (but not with as much stuff shoehorned in) in Tokyo for about 3 months. It sucked. If you ever wonder why people in Tokyo are out drinking, eating, whatever every evening, try living in a place this size. You really just want to get away from our apartment.

    1. Former Boeing interiors engineer? So he thinks those damn economy seats are actually big enough?

      Hey, you’re right! It’s HIM!! GET HIM!!!!!

      We tall folks gotta fight back against our living-space oppressors. Heck, if Frank Lloyd Wright were still alive, I’d short-sheet his bed. Not that he’d notice. ;^)

    2. “If you ever wonder why people in Tokyo are out drinking, eating, whatever every evening, try living in a place this size.”

      You say that like it’s a bad thing? It’s about lifestyle. Staying home all the time isn’t necessarily what everyone wants.

  3. That’s nice, but if I had a TV I’d want to be able to see it from my desk and eatin’ table. I always liked to watch TV while I was doing any programming.

    I always wanted to try dividing a small apartment vertically but I found a huge place for the price of an efficiency so that idea will have to wait.

  4. I live in Paris, and every person I know under the age of 25 lives in that kind of surface. Main problem with renovating them that way is that more often than not, the wall height is a bit too small for that kind of projects (although I did live in a 64 sqft “studio” with 12ft walls…hmm). Also, no one ever owns that kind of studio – you rent until you make enough money to get the hell out of town.

  5. The storage of that second bike (up near the ceiling, which we see here reflected in a mirror) looks like an after thought to me, and if you read the article, you discover that the first bike (the handlebars you see on the lower right) would need to be moved somewhere if you wanted to take a bath. Designing a place like this isn’t that great a challenge, designing one with some room to “learn” is the tricky thing.

    The most interesting thing to me here is the loft construction of the “cafe area” over the “video lounge”: it appears to be largely metal, and I believe it’s largely suspended (his aircraft engineering comes through there, I suspect). I’m a plywood and 2x4s kind of guy myself, and my lofts while always strong and stable look considerably more clunky.

    Overall, I like the attempt, but myself I need space for around 300 feet of bookshelves (yes, I’ve heard of ebooks, those are okay, too).

  6. Then there is the reality of resale: I had a two and a half story, four bedroom, brick house (where, incidentally, Dr. Norman Bethune lived for a time) in a great neighbourhood near a world-class theatre. Almost every potential buyer walked through and declared it to be ‘too small’. It was 1700 sq. feet without the finished attic or partially finished basement! In the end, it sold to a single woman who thought it was just the right size for her retirement home.

    Good luck to this guy when he decides to unload his place.

  7. Interesting philosophical approach, though I wouldn´t be able to live in this surely nice “box”. At least Steve wouldn´t be able to deny his former job.

  8. My fraternity house at MIT started doing things like this in the Vietnam War, when its membership doubled, and we’re still going 3D in room design for the sheer love of it.

    Mostly 2x4s, naturally, but also there are more advanced materials in use.

    The main thing we learned is that “antilofts” – spaces built over a sleeping space, are not a good fit for most people. If you don’t climb up to your bed, you’re more likely to forget you’re in a tight space and bang your head when you get up. And, you’re where the dust is, and where it’s colder in winter. Better to loft the bed over the desk area than the other way around.

  9. Oh, wait, that’s not his bed. Still, that for a TV area? No room for inviting friends to watch stuff? Lame. Might as well go without a TV altogether.

  10. I’m beginning to see these spaces less as actual homes, and, rather, as the office cubicle of the future.
    It’s a home! It’s a workspace! It’s both! Perfect for the modern telecommuter! Or for those for whom work claims most of their waking time.

  11. “I want to be able to shop daily”

    I kind of like not having to shop every day.

    “eat really well”

    I find that in order for me to do this, I need an effective kitchen. I just recently made an excellent beef and turnip stew, which was quite cheap as well. Put it in a crock pot and let it simmer for 8+ hours. It also made 6 servings, which I put in containers and stored. But so I didn’t eat the same thing every day, the next day I fired up the charcoal grill. I suppose what qualifies as “eating really well” differs; perhaps Mr. Sauer simply prefers to eat out every night.

  12. This reminds me of the show “Small space – Big Style” which used to be on HGTV or DIY. Using things I learned from that show I managed to move from a 1300 sq ft apt to 550 Sq ft and the latter actually feels more comfortable – sort of man-cavey, not to mention much cheaper to heat and cool.

  13. These look great for young, temporarily able-bodied people. Wasn’t Heinlein’s idea of youth that you shove them in a barrel, nail on the lid, and feed them through the bunghole?

  14. To be positive… his apartment looks stunning; it’s a fun experiment to see how efficient one can get, and should be inspiring and helpful to people who live with limited space out of necessity. I think his design ideas could also be used to make a great attic in a home and a super fun play place for children.

    But, I’m not following much of this less options equals more options logic that has been so prevalent on boingboing lately.

    It seems to me that someone with a larger size apartment can choose to shop less, be out in the community more, etc. and emulate practically everything that is happening here, while the reverse of this is not true.

    “Extra space is only a problem”?
    Having the option to stock up on food is a downside?
    Feeling “compressed” so that you need to get out is a positive?
    And what would happen to Steve if someone brought an extra alarm clock into his space? =P

    I grew up in 1980s when more was better and the kid with the Power Glove was BAD. Is there some sort of joy in limitations that I am missing? Is it the discipline involved? The focus? Please help me out here…

  15. It’s a home for someone who is willing to make great sacrifices in order to avoid living with other people.

  16. I’m wondering where his tools are. If he built this place himself, then standing behind this tiny artwork of home is a miter saw, a tig welder, pipe wrench, a table saw or circular saw, a drill, a ladder, a router, all sort of electronics tools… you see what I’m saying. He needed a space bigger than this one in which to fashion this space.

    This whole small home thing is cute, but it’s a deception. A functioning home needs a fully operational “immune system” aka a good set of tools, somewhere nearby. I imagine that his apartment is like Bender’s in Futurama and you’ll open a little door into a 2000 sq ft woodshop. This is his apartment; the other 2000 sq ft are his “closet.”

    Tiny spaces are for those who can afford to hire others to do their work for them (as is actually the situation for all decent rentals) -or- there’s a big darn garage stuck somewhere just out of the frame (or a friend or employer who you hope isn’t getting tired of sharing).

    1. There are additional private and public work areas and there are storage units in the building for all residents. That’s not unusual for a condo or co-op building. The area shown is the living area only. (Note: I live in the same building.)

      Some of the commenters sound like they’ve never lived in an apartment building, or in a city, or been in a boat with a cabin, or camped. Being surrounded by excess living space never made anybody more sociable. The opposite is true — just look at suburbia.

      Just look at it.

      1. Do you know Mr. Sauer? Yes, it is a sensual space.

        The communal work area sounds really nice. I live in an urban area, but in a detached home. It’s still very social, but less communal. Our city doesn’t have a tool library or public work space and the amount of equipment, space and knowledge required to maintain a normal structure is extreme (so most aren’t maintained). We’re hoping to start a space/tool sharing program when we finish the bulk of our own home renovation.

        I’m now curious to hear about how your co-op functions. Is this is a very large building? Are all the apartments owned, even the tiny tiny ones? Do you share your tools? Do you pay a fee for these public spaces or somehow portion out time in them?

        1. [Signed in now.]

          The building is a co-op, so it’s like condos. There are maybe 40 units, mostly owner-occupied, with a limited number of rentals allowed. Each regular unit has a storage closet associated with it. Some people buy or rent extra basement units for studios, workshops, etc. There’s a big room in the basement that is used as a workshop on and off, with quite a few tools in it. There’s no formal system for sharing things, so you just ask around. Since the room isn’t in much demand, we’ve never had to schedule it. There’s no fee.

  17. So inviting people into your home is going to be a lost art? I feel that hyper-minimalism is akin to being self absorbed. You’ve tweaked every little thing down to your personal preference without any thought of how other people would deal with it. What’s this guy going to do when a love interest wants to move in or even leave a toothbrush there?

  18. I also want to add that I live in a pretty small place myself. My teenage son, my wife and I share 850 square feet. But the point is that we share it. And somehow, all find our own space when we need that. It is certainly and exercise in minimalism but not at the expense of having a home life, or having tools and space to work on projects or having people over for dinner or storing sentimental items.

  19. Looks like a cool place to live? Are you serious? Live in it for five days and then see how cool it is.

    I’m all for efficient living and have a distaste for McMansions, but this is taking it to the extreme. I would hate to live in a world where this was the norm. THX 1138 anyone?

    Not to mention the ergonomic nightmare that is the TV viewing area. Hope his insurance is good because he is going to have back problems.

  20. You know you’ve hit upon some truths (we don’t actually need all the stuff we are telling ourselves we do) when people get all judgmental on your ass. This guy never said everyone should live in his house, it’s just his place, the way he wants it. If looking at it makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to look within yourself for the reasons why.

    1. “If looking at it makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to look within yourself for the reasons why.”

      The place doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I would actually love something like that as a man-cave but..

      It’s called youthful self-absorption. I agree with Miss Cellania that it’s a home for someone who is willing to make great sacrifices in order to avoid living with other people.

      It’s funny how I see these articles and how they laud young people who have the time and money to pimp out a small living space in the tiniest way they can and then they are considered something special.

      I’ve seen homeless people living out of 10 sq. ft. cardboard boxes. Why isn’t anyone doing articles on them? How about the family of 8 in a decrepit flat in India?

      As soon as life starts to get around to him, he gets older, and he has a wife and child that stuff isn’t going to fly and he knows it.

      Except for very, VERY few exceptions, (like the poster above that #33 whe I give kudos) seeing this kind of thing is really just showing McMansions in reverse.

  21. I love that he still makes room for *more than one* bicycle.

    I have 2 hanging on a “bike pole” in my bed room.
    Looks great and keeps them out of the way.

  22. My ground floor appartment is almost 78 square meters (839 sqft if I did the conversion correctly?) but I have a large garden of almost equal size so it doesn’t feel small.

    If I had to make due with just 182 square feet I think I’d go nuts. As in bell tower high powered rifle nuts. O_o

  23. He did a wonderful job, has a great eye for design and organization. But this isn’t your average ‘simple minimalist living’. Despite the less is more message, you’d have to be wealthy to create and maintain it this beautifully. It would be interesting to see a counter-article about how an average joe could achieve comfortable, practical and dignified urban ‘tiny living’ on a $2000 a month income.

    For one, everything in this tiny apartment is gorgeous and refined. It’s a bit more tricky to get this spiffy look with your two hand-me-down unmatched lamps, the coffee table you got at the salvation army and the bathroom’s decrepit 60’s ivory-beige tiles (and your anti-dandruff shampoo bottle and razor propped on the odd edge of the water damaged wall because there are no countertops). That’s what people living a bona fide ‘simple minimalist life’ usually have to work with.

    Another problem with tiny apartments is that unless it’s spic-and-span with absolutely everything in its place (and the bed made) at all times, it looks squalid. In the picture, the only ‘clutter’ is a coffee mug on the little table and a couple of strategically-placed books. I don’t know how much storage space he has cleverly hidden in there, but I wonder where the realistic ‘uncool’ clutter is stashed (ironing board/iron, dishes, cleaning products and vacuum, dirty laundry basket/pile, random basic tools, extra books…). Tiny places are truly welcoming only when they have that clean, not-lived-in, IKEA brochure look.

    It would be nice to get more ideas to make ‘tiny living’ more accessible and inviting for the average person.

  24. I think a lot of the people protesting the fact that he spent some money setting this place up, might have trouble selling it, etc ought to consider just how cheap a 182 sq foot basement condo probably was compared to the more traditional 800 or so (it’s Seattle not Manhattan or Tokyo).

    I looked at a probably 500 sq foot studio condo in Seattle a few years ago that was $130k. The 800 sq foot ones in the neighborhood were $300k and up. He probably saved him self a couple hundred thousand bucks at least by taking the tiny option. Vastly more than building that place and many years of hanging out in bars if that is his inclination.

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