East Village apartment makes amazing use of space

Design magazines are starting to pay more attention to the unique demands that smaller living spaces present. We were very pleased to see that the June 2009 issue of Dwell has a great cover story on homes under 1,000 square-feet.

One of the residences featured is a 640-square-foot East Village apartment that was recently renovated by Michael Finger and Joanne Kennedy. The design work, which was done by No Roof Architects, employs some brilliant space-saving techniques to make the small home livable for a family of four.

We particularly like the under-floor storage and the Murphy bed hiding behind the desk shown below:

44 Comments for “East Village apartment makes amazing use of space”

  1. posted by Dimitar Nikolov on

    That’s definitely a creative use of small space. But even as a supporter of minimalism, I wouldn’t choose such a tiny apartment to live in. I would feel like I had almost no air to breathe.

  2. posted by Peter (one of many ; ) on

    I’ve seen the article in Dwell and while the apartment is clever, they have no place to relax unless they want to lie in bed.

  3. posted by Michael Caputo on

    Looks like the kid is having a hard time changing his desk into a bed….
    He’s gonna be angry when he’s older and wants to have girls over, but can’t spare the extra mattress space :D

  4. posted by InfoMofo on

    That kid looks so unhappy.

  5. posted by Sheena on

    I love the storage space in the floor..just as much as a previous post where there was storage space in the stairs!

  6. posted by Mitchell73 on

    So I guess he _does_ have to finish his homework before he gos to bed.

  7. posted by PrairieGal on

    This space is “neat” but it’s not practical and I wouldn’t want to live in it. With the bed down you can’t open the drawers and access to the floor cubbies looks difficult. Plus I think that dust and dirt would get into the floor cubbies through the holes.

  8. posted by Jan D - Fibrowitch on

    Wow, all I can think is how bare that home looks. No pictures on the walls. every thing the exact same color.
    Even the long brick wall, which does not have built in storage has nothing on it.

    No family pictures, no clock. This might be a brilliant use of space in a small apartment. I doubt it is a home or at all livable.

  9. posted by gypsy packer on

    The bed looks like a great space-saver for single retirees. Anyone selling plans for it?

  10. posted by Celeste on

    I’d be miserable there. To me the whole point of living uncluttered is you get to enjoy the SPACE. There is none here.

    No WAY am I putting clean clothes in the floor and having to think about dirt/dust wafting in at the edges…much less crouching to get my stuff out. I hang almost everything anyway.

    I’m not cut out for such minimalist living.

  11. posted by Sky on

    I just saw this article in Dwell magazine. While defiantly uncluttered, there is no sofa or comfortable chair.
    Where do they sit?? There is a TV on the living room wall, guess they line up on the floor to watch it. No books, family pictures or signs of a “family”.
    Looks like uncomfortable living instead of declutterd living.

  12. posted by Jessica on

    I don’t know, 640 sq. ft. does seem pretty tight for 4 people. My fiance and I live in an 800 sq. ft apartment though and love it. Less space means less to clean.

  13. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    That’s really cool. Speaking as one who has lived in a small apartment (both in NY and in DC) I can vouch for how necessary some of these options are. That said, I’m glad that I now live in a house that allows me a little more breathing room.

  14. posted by Ruth on

    640 sq ft isn’t -that- small for 4, but they’ve managed to make it look it. This isn’t good design at all. And yeah, the picture of the frowning kid doesn’t help! :P

  15. posted by Susan on

    @Mitchell73 – The kid doesn’t have to finish his homework before going to bed – Dad does !! That is Dad’s home office that the kid’s bed folds down over. What if Dad has to work late one night????

  16. posted by Dave on

    All I can say is look at all the unused space up high, and 640sf – 184sf living room – 350 for the rest, where is the other 106sf? I have a basic 900 sf ranch, we had 6 living there last summer, we are three now with an extra room.

  17. posted by Sunny Paris on

    I agree with some others. Great ideas. Should be enough room with all the clever spaces. But it seems very, very clinical and not at all warm, even with that fabulous brick wall.

    I also think that since they have great vertical space, that a kid would much rather sleep lofted above the desk (with his own space up there to decorate) than to have to share his bed space with his Dad’s desk.

    I need to see a floor plan and a couch, or at least some comfy chairs.

  18. posted by Shalin on

    So clever and even inspiring…

  19. posted by infmom on

    We crammed a family of four into a 900-sq-ft townhouse for several years and believe me, that is not enough space. Everyone needs a place to just for pity’s sake get away from the rest of the family for a while and find a bit of sanctuary, and that apartment offers none of that.

    It may look cool on the pages of a magazine but I bet that family doesn’t live there long.

  20. posted by Jasileet on

    It’s interesting but also complicated and cumbersome. It certainly makes the most of the space in terms of storage, but it doesn’t feel light imo. The pieces themselves, though mostly hidden, are large and strange. It really looks like a hassle.

    Very good article though.

  21. posted by Jeff on

    “We particularly like the under-floor storage and the Murphy bed hiding behind the desk shown below” – yeah, because… what else is there?

    This blog always seems to be confused over whether it’s about uncluttering, or minimalism – and they’re not the same thing.

    This apartment is absolutely horrifying, no matter how livable they think they made the space. I’d live in a motel before living here. I agree with most people above – it’s sterile, clinical, impersonal, boring, impractical and depressing. A bigger space filled with the detritus of real life would be far more inviting and realistic.

  22. posted by Khidr on

    It’s a space with a lot of clever ideas, but I don’t think it’s a clever space. As some of the other commenter’s have pointed out, the overall space seems very clinical, and there seems to be a lack of actual functional living area. The dining room table / drop down is a good idea, but where is the comfortable seating when not in use? Might also be how it was photographed.

  23. posted by Jessiejack on

    One of my favorite TV shows is Small Space Big Style on HGTV. I love seeing the creative use of every inch in those apartments from 400 to 1000 sq ft. Small space packed with personality and not stuff. It’s interesting how some are very minimalist and plain and others have alot of stuff but appear uncluttered.It reminds me of the post last year on the couple that lived in the RV (the odyssey) Now that couple really demonstrated some creative use of space!

  24. posted by knitwych on

    I think the utilization of space in the floor is genius, but this poor kid’s room looks pretty institutional to me. He obviously can’t have anyone over to play because there’s no space. If adults want to live in such a small space, great, but I think it’s kind of mean to cram the kid into what looks like tweaked out closet.

  25. posted by Robert on

    while it may be necessary to have a living room if you live in the suburbs where the choice of entertainment is either the cineplex or the strip mall, this family lives in NYC. it’s a completely different way of life in here in manhattan. if you are only comparing room square feet, the kid’s life is poor, but then again, growing up in NYC, the kids’ horizon and identities are likely to be MUCH broader than the confines of their bedroom. I’m not saying it would be an easy co-existence, but i’d pick living as a family of four in that apartment in NYC than living in a 3,000 square foot house as a family of four in the middle of nowhere any day.

    also, i’d like to point out that there are many people in the world who exist in spaces much more cramped than the family featured in dwell magazine.

  26. posted by Shana on

    Looks cramped, boring, and institutional. As someone who tends toward depression, just looking at that place makes my skin crawl. I’m filing this under “just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” There’s no warmth. If living were about cramming ourselves into the smallest spaces possible, with no eye toward utility or beauty, I suppose it’d be great, but…that’s not the point at all. If this is the kind of thing they feature as impressive and clever and droolworthy or whatever, I’m going to take a permanent pass on Dwell.

  27. posted by GG Allin on

    That stuff looks great. Next time I have a spare $1 million for insanely expensive furniture concepts I’ll subscribe to Dwell. For now, I’d rather waste my money on the poop-freeze spray!

  28. posted by Wellington Grey on

    The floor storage space looks cool, but I’d bet it’s a real pain to actually use. I don’t really want to have to get down on my hands and knees every time I need to access something.

  29. posted by Karen on

    I’m concerned about where the baby’s bedroom will be eventually, when she’s old enough to need her own room. The master bedroom is small, the son doesn’t have his own room–his bed is in Dad’s office. However, in the article, the family says that they’re thinking of moving to another country, so I guess that point is moot.

  30. posted by Catherine on

    I would really, really, hate to live under this person’s apartment. hearing the rattle of the loose floorboards/box lids as two children scamper across them must be deafening, especially as the architect kindly removed any of the insulation between the joists and filled it with storage space, which must bang nicely everytime the poor sods try to get anything in or out of thier floor.

    creative? yes. practical? no. perhaps as a bottom floor dweller I’m oversenstive to the noise issue (we have a family of four above us too) but… wow!

  31. posted by Marie on

    How on earth would you mop the floor without it dripping down and ruining your clothes?

  32. posted by Armário no chão! « A_R_Q_U_I_T_O on

    […] 23/05/2009 por Arquito via Unclutterer […]

  33. posted by Per Wiklander on

    @Marie Why on earth would you mop the floor? :-) If really nescessary I guess you just use less water, wooden floors shouldn’t have a lot of water on them anyway.

    But it has to suck to spill a drink on that floor.

  34. posted by Catherine on

    Which of course children **never** do :)

  35. posted by Cate on

    I like the way my folding chair legs would slip into the finger slots every time I tried to reposition myself at my desk.

  36. posted by hello world.. war on

    I’d rather go to prison than live in that bedroom!

  37. posted by Andrea Kay Bloom Smith on

    I must admit that I’m a little disappointed with some of the other comments.

    A family of four can live in 600sf if they want to be close and interact through out the day. Sitting on beds when a child wants to hang out is perfectly fine… I’ve yet to have any kid object. Also, it’s fine if there aren’t any books- I thought the idea of this website is creative uncluttering & a great alternative to owning books is borrowing them and returning them or reading them on your laptop or Kindle. And people can sit on the floor; that’s common in much of the world.

    I propose that if people wish to further explore creativity in small spaces, they read the book: Little House on a Small Planet.

    Cozy and close to the ones you love is the way to go. I like to feel that I have open space in the center of my front room, but I don’t like to have my family members 200 ft away via a “waste of space” hallway, hiding in giant bedrooms.

    A house may seem bare without the numerous stuff that fills most houses, but a small house creates an environment that encourages a family to be rich in experiences, not rich in stuff.

    Thank you Unclutterer for including a look at one of the possibilities for a small home. Of course, I’m into a more cozy, yet open design, such as one that encourages people to extend their livable space into the outdoors, but minimalism is a great too.

  38. posted by Brandon on

    I’m afraid I just don’t “get” this apartment. How can you truly live with a living space like this? I think this apartment is evidence that you can be overzealous in BOTH directions — excess and reduction.

    Whatever happened to happy mediums? Do we need EVERY breath we breathe and EVERY step we take to be partnered with worry about our carbon footprint? Can’t an uncluttered life also mean one free from worry?

  39. posted by disconnect on

    That kid’s room looks like a really nice supermax cell. Is the one-piece stainless toilet/sink around the corner?

    “Why on earth would you mop the floor?”

    I don’t know, maybe because it gets DIRTY?

  40. posted by Carla | Green and Chic on

    This is a little too crammed for me. But I guess if I lived in NYC, worked OUTSIDE the home (no home office), didn’t sew, or do much cooking, it would be perfect.

  41. posted by Amanda on

    With all the money spent to hire designers and customize the tiny space… couldn’t you just pay for a bigger space? It looks good and it sure doesn’t look cheap.

    Agree with posters who say kid looks miserable.

  42. posted by Des on

    I really wonder if the commenters who are so against this idea and convinced the family must be miserable are projecting – it’s entirely possible for someone to like living in a space like that. People design them, pay for them, and then live in them – someone has to actually like it, or feel the benefits are compelling, or why would they!

    There are plenty of countries where living in very small spaces are the norm and not fodder for a magazine. I’ve lived in one room with my partner before and we were amazed to find out how much space *we* didn’t really need – it was our stuff that dictated it.

    It’s certainly just as valid to live in a four bedroom beautifully appointed house, and you can absolutely be uncluttered or even minimalist by doing so – but it’s not the only way to live.

  43. posted by Carolyn on

    I like seeing how other people live in such small spaces. It’s inspiring to see how space can be used creatively. However, I do feel it’s a shame that children who live in apartments, don’t have a backyard to play in. I think it’s important that they have space to run around in, get dirty, kick a ball around etc. That boy’s bedroom/study does look a little bit cramped!

  44. posted by WilliamB on

    According to the article, the boy likes the new space. Maybe he doesn’t like having his pix taken.

    This is a small for 4 by NYC standards but not impossibly so. Much of NYC life takes place outside of the home – parks, street life, restaurants, etc.

    I agree with the comments that this is a small place for four, although babies don’t need much space till the start pulling up.

    I also agree with the comments that this is large by the norms of many other countries. Do you remember the Unclutterer column on the highly customized apt in Hong Kong? It was a 2-3 BR apt for the family of 4(?), and one BR was rented out so the boy slept in the hallway. It’s all in what we’re used to. As US’ans, we’re used to more space.

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