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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Pleasures of Tiny Urban Space

Posted by on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 8:08 AM

This is an inhabitant of Madrid...

Her story:
For one very lucky tiny home resident in Madrid, Elii Architects fit her home with some amazing space saving features you won't find at IKEA. The quirky 620 square foot attic loft has an impressive variety of hidden compartments, trap doors and even a retractable dining room set that not only create a sense of expansiveness, but also lend the home an eccentric spirit."

Again, those beams.


Comments (27) RSS

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Europe appreciates old houses..
Posted by pupuguru on January 28, 2014 at 8:22 AM · Report this
chinaski 2
still pimpimg small spaces from the comfort of your single family home
Posted by chinaski on January 28, 2014 at 8:26 AM · Report this
Charles Mudede 3
yes, but at least the neighborhood is diverse. in this city, you have to make tough choices.
Posted by Charles Mudede on January 28, 2014 at 8:44 AM · Report this
Living in tiny spaces sucks but I've made that trade off to live in a city I loved. The option should be available.
Posted by wxPDX on January 28, 2014 at 8:52 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 5
Splinters from those beams would be embedded in my scalp on an almost daily basis.

My only problem with the clever trap door compartments is that they are incompatible with my primary method of storage, aka "strewing crap on the floor."
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 28, 2014 at 8:53 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 6
I don't see a stove or oven in any of the photographs. If so, she doesn't have a "kitchen" so much as a "breakfast nook." Charles would celebrate this, but sustainable food requires real cooking (no instant or microwave crap), and it would be classist to suggest that we all just eat out all the time. The poor would be stuck with the unhealthy and unsustainable food of McDonald's.

Anyway, as with just about every person depicted in these urban microliving stories, this woman appears to be young and there's no evidence that she is in a relationship with a live-in partner. As always, it will be interesting to see if she's still living this way if she decides to get married and have or adopt children. Can we check back in ten years?
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 28, 2014 at 9:06 AM · Report this
Wouldn't dormitories full of bunk beds w/ communal bathrooms and cafeterias be more efficient? Living like that would force people to rethink their attitudes about privacy and personal space, but so would the very small apartments Mudede likes so much.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 28, 2014 at 9:10 AM · Report this
lark 8
That's a very good observation. Micro living/spaces aren't for everybody. I can't imagine someone over 70 y/o wanting to live that way. Also, children or lack thereof will make a HUGE difference. They need space inside & outside. Finally, I like to cook. A stove and refrigerator are absolutely essential in any quarters that I dwell in.
Posted by lark on January 28, 2014 at 9:17 AM · Report this
@8 You'll never reduce your carbon footprint w/ that attitude.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 28, 2014 at 9:28 AM · Report this
Because nothing says home like hunching over on my knees in a hole in the floor to shave!
Posted by Seattleblues on January 28, 2014 at 9:35 AM · Report this
I could live in a tiny house, but it would have to have a kitchen, and an outdoor summer kitchen. I would design my tiny house quite a bit differently than any I have seen so far.
Posted by silverelf on January 28, 2014 at 9:45 AM · Report this
As a single person I lived in less than 620 square feet, and did so happily. But aside from having no spouse and kids, this woman apparently has no hobbies. I saw no books, sewing machine, musical instruments, computers, sound equipment, pets, houseplants, or artwork. I didn't even see a television. It's possible they were all out of sight in well designed storage, but I find it more likely that all she does there is bathe, sleep, dress, and occasionally eat.
Posted by Clayton on January 28, 2014 at 10:07 AM · Report this
Dr. Z 14
@6, 8: This past weekend I attended an open house for Caravan, the tiny house hotel in Portland's Albina district. It was packed - there must have been 500 people waiting in line, easy. Contrary to the cliche they weren't all young - a sizable proportion were people at or close to retirement age, looking to downsize into a granny flat; or people like me who were considering converting our existing freestanding garage into a tiny house that we could either rent out or live in ourselves, thus bringing the day of retirement closer. I did see a couple of floorplans with a bed on the main floor and no stairs/ladders, so it's a viable option. However we're going to stay the night in one to see if this is really something we could do. We gave up our car for ten years and survived - I think we could do this too, under the right conditions.

There is definitely an emerging market for tiny house rentals. But during the recent cold snap they all had frozen pipes, so some problems are yet to be solved.
Posted by Dr. Z on January 28, 2014 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 15
That's true, 620 sq ft isn't like the 100-200 sq ft places usually designated as such. But since it's in an attic it probably feels a lot more cramped than apartments that size.

Also, being on the top floor of any building is better. No noises coming through the ceiling. And it's possible she's not sharing walls with any neighbors either. They don't really say, though.

Judging from the money invested in this place's remodeling, I'm guessing it's not a cheap place to live. More classism in the microliving lifestyle.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 28, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Report this
guerre 16
620 square feet? Some of us in our 580 sqft apartments consider that palatial. Man I could have a dining room table!
Posted by guerre on January 28, 2014 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Nobody actually wants to live in something the size of a couple of refrigerator boxes.
Posted by The CHZA on January 28, 2014 at 10:30 AM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 18
I thought they drug Anne Frank out of that attic years ago. Good to see she made it through! Someone should tell her it’s safe to come down now though…
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on January 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM · Report this
For someone seriously looking to downsize, may I recommend the book, "In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats" by Michael Litchfield (Taunton Press 2011). It features many living spaces smaller and more livable than this Madrid apartment. Taunton has published several good books about living in smaller spaces.
Posted by Clayton on January 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this
Dr. Z 20
Actually the tiny house we are considering is 180 square feet. 650 square feet isn't a tiny house, it's a studio apartment. An attic room isn't a house.

To make it work requires a very different attitude about material possessions. There's more to it than trying to cram all your existing stuff into a compressed space because you have no choice, or because that's all you can afford. You have to want to own less stuff and be open to downsizing your footprint. It has to be framed as a gain rather than a loss.
Posted by Dr. Z on January 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this
@20 I took an oath of poverty preventing me from owning more than my Honda Civic can carry years ago. So I'm fine with that. However, most people still want the three bedroom house in the suburbs w/ the white picket fence. How do you propose to change that?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 28, 2014 at 11:32 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 22
So much plywood. Even in the bathroom. Ugh.


It looks like she has a range, but not an oven. Also, Europeans often have much smaller kitchens than Americans. They'll make do with a half-size refrigerator, for example, and the urbanites in particular tend to shop for groceries on an almost daily basis. Considering how much better they eat on average, it seems to work for them.


650 square feet is a pretty normal one bedroom, not a studio. I lived in a 500 sq. ft. apartment on Capitol Hill, and I didn't have any of that creative space saving stuff. I didn't even use the area under my bed as storage, and I have a lot of crap.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 28, 2014 at 11:56 AM · Report this
@15 - It looks like she actually has two stories, a regular main floor and a pitched-ceiling upper floor bedroom area. Otherwise, I agree that 650 square feet isn't really all that small. And as someone else noted, I don't see any indications that she actually spends much leisure time at home -- no books, television, musical instrument(s), knitting bag, or any provision for creative hobbies -- so I'm thinking she probably does most of her socializing and much of her living in public spaces and isn't at home all that much.
Posted by Calpete on January 28, 2014 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Dr. Z 24
@21: I'm not proposing to change anybody. If others want the white picket suburbia thing, more power to them. I don't consider myself part of a movement, and the only mission I'm on is to retire as early as possible. Having to keep working just to maintain a house full of stuff is unhelpful to that goal.

A tiny house isn't comparable to a small apartment. A tiny house is designed to be as compact as possible without skimping on quality. They cost double per square foot than a full sized house and there are starting to be appliances furniture etc that is specifically geared towards these. For instance, I recently saw a combination two-burner grilltop, small oven, and dishwasher unit - it stacks.

For me, it's about simplicity. Having fewer "things" means you make a greater investment in the quality of each of those possessions. But, it still has to mesh with what gives you enjoyment and satisfaction in life. We like to cook, read books, and watch movies - our space must be configured accordingly. I'll give up stuff, but I won't give up the activities that make life enjoyable. Your mileage may vary.
Posted by Dr. Z on January 28, 2014 at 12:41 PM · Report this
south downtown 25
620sqft could hold 4 or more of the micro-units that we are seeing in Seattle...
Posted by south downtown on January 28, 2014 at 1:07 PM · Report this
@20, 24. My husband and I like to cook, too. But we also like to have family over to share it. Depending upon the design, we might be able to to that in 600 square feet. In 180? Not so much.
Posted by Clayton on January 28, 2014 at 1:44 PM · Report this
Dr. Z 27
@26: that's why God created outdoor grills.

Not much help in the winter or in rain, though, I agree. Entertaining at home is problematic. Restaurants work for that, sort of, but I get what you're saying.
Posted by Dr. Z on January 28, 2014 at 2:54 PM · Report this
620 sf is a palace. I had a lovely little cottage in Capitol Hill in the '80s that was 420 sf. It was built in the 1920s but I gutted and reworked the interior. It had a proper kitchen, dining room, bathroom, living room and loft bedroom, and none of this silliness of hunkering into holes in the floor and tables coming down from the ceiling.
I sold it about 24 years ago, but it's still occupied and apparently loved by its current owners.
I couldn't live there now though--no way I could go up and down a ladder to&from my bedroom.
Posted by crone on January 28, 2014 at 9:34 PM · Report this

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