Big living in a small space

We continue to be fascinated with people who live big in incredibly small spaces. Thanks to reader Leah, we now know about Christian Schallert in Barcelona, Spain, who has fashioned a beautiful home in a mere 258 square feet.

Check out “Lego-style apartment transforms into infinite spaces” to see the adorable Schallert and his “Lego” home in action:

Personally, I love the shower storage areas as well as the bed being stored under the balcony. I never would have thought to use such non-traditional storage solutions. I also enjoyed in the video when he admitted his tiny space forces him “not to be chaotic” and every time he comes home “it’s nice and organized.”

40 Comments for “Big living in a small space”

  1. posted by mike crosby on

    Fun video. I like where he said he draws his inspiration from boats. I lived on a 26′ sailboat for a year. Not only was it my home, with guests many a weekend, but also my recreational and travel vessel.

    I went fishing, boating and took it to Catalina quite often.

    Then I moved to a 375 square ft apt which seemed huge in comparison. It’s amazing how creative we can be with small spaces if we have the time and money.

    I like his smile too. Imagine, he’s probably happier than people who live in home 10 to 50 times larger.

  2. posted by Rae on

    That is an incredible space; the design is fantastic. I just don’t find it that practical; having to shift everything around would drive me batty.

    I live in just under 200 square feet and three of my rules were 1) that I would not stuff every nook and cranny/turn every nook and cranny into a storage area, 2) no convertible furniture, 3) no living in one big room (I have four rooms plus the loft area where I sleep).

    What struck me the most was the before and after; I’m glad he included that in the video to illustrate how this guy sees potential in the roughest place!

  3. posted by Tweetie on

    I saw this yesterday and thought of sharing it with you, Erin, but I see you found it already. 🙂

    I love all the clever storage! I used to clean houses for a living (most were over 2000 s.f.), and people were always complaining that they needed more space. But what I noticed was that most houses just don’t have adequate storage. Spaces that are tiny like this, but account for where to store all your stuff, can be just as adequate for actual living space as a home that allows an extra 1000 s.f. per person just to “move around” in.

    I think more people (especially singles) could live quite comfortably and stylishly in places like this, if only so much effort didn’t have to go into building it in the first place–if builders started providing adequate and clever storage solutions so that the average person didn’t have to.

    The only drawback to this kind of place is it wouldn’t work for someone who has a hobby that takes up a lot of room (quilting, or playing a lot of musical instruments, for instance).

  4. posted by Gemmond on

    Clever design. And it would be cute for an overnight stay, like a hotel.

    But to live in it? Ugh. Just my opinion. (And for all those who view it and say: Oh, great. I dare you to really LIVE in that space. I wonder how much time he really spends IN his apartment.)

    Let’s not even talk about the narrow steps to get to the place (how do you get anything but custom made stuff up there given those dimensions in the entry? Really.)

    The open shower (AKA, glass cube). Ugh.

    To me, this would be an uber-sophisticated room for college kids. But really, this is not a place for adults to live realistically (I feel claustrophobic just watching the video.) and as others said, it gets really old/tired having to open/close stuff.

    There is so little space for people to sit, etc. without being on top of each other. Honestly, people’s closets are often bigger than this.

    As design pleasing as it may be, it doesn’t feel like a place I’d want to visit, let alone live. To each his own.

    (FYI: I live in a small space but it does not look like a design project or hotel room. And there is room for people to realistically come, sit, linger and eat without making them feel clausterphobic.)

  5. posted by Heidi Poe on

    That’s incredible! The hidden kitchen was the coolest thing for me.

  6. posted by Heather on

    I like that he uses the same metal chairs for his desk chair and patio chairs, and then recruits them for extra dining table seating for guests.

  7. posted by Re on

    So inspiring. The only things I would miss are a comfy chair, a washer, and a dryer. I am jealous that he has a dishwasher!

  8. posted by jbeany on

    I have to wonder about the table top. It looked to me like it was covering a window when it was up. I like all the sunshine I can get. Why not a clear glass or at least a frosted one, so the light comes through?

  9. posted by Alix on

    Incredible use of space, and elegant design. Not for me, though. While I can’t stand clutter and seem to get more minimalist with the years, I do love the luxury of SPACE. Not to fill up with junk, but simply to bask in.

  10. posted by Karen on

    I think this space works great for this guy. He admits to not being a ‘homey” person, so he’s probably not home all that much. He pointed out the flaw with the bed filling up the space–admitted that it got “a little annoying”.

    The one thing I’d miss would be a comfortable arm chair for reading. You could always pull the bed out, but as he said, that left little room for walking around. Still, a very ingenious use of space.

  11. posted by Leonie on

    Fantastic. It’s a disciplined life style for sure! He doesn’t buy more stuff than he needs or more than he has room for. Inspirational..

  12. posted by lucy1965 on

    For what he’s doing in it — sleeping, bathing, storing clothing and a few personal items, occasionally having people over and cooking a bit — it’s perfect. As he said, he travels a great deal, he’s not into “nesting”, and his focus isn’t being “at home”. Having spent time in Barcelona (and missing being in Europe at the moment), I can’t blame him.

  13. posted by Chris N. on

    I see this as a perfect alternative ‘vacation home’. It would seem to be an affordable way to have a place in Europe, Asia, etc. for those who regularly travel there.

  14. posted by TMichelle on

    I love it. I would add some color and as jbeany suggested, I would make the table translucent.

  15. posted by Sky on

    Ingenious use of space!

  16. posted by Zen friend on

    Visionary, clever, and thought-provoking. I can’t help noticing, however, that most extreme minimalist dwellings seem to be designed by/for men. I’m not sure many single women would chose to live in a home like this.

  17. posted by Amy on

    @jbeany & @TMichelle,
    I looked at the video several times before I realized the “window” behind the table was a painting or a photo of a window. Great use of space. Thanks for posting Erin.

  18. posted by Leone on

    This looks like a wonderful use of space for a single person who doesn’t spend tons of time at home. Very smart use of space. The endless stairs leading up to the apt., well I guess it’s one way to stay fit. Plus, it’s not like he’s bringing in furniture, etc. Hopefully he’s saving money by living in a tiny walk-up.

  19. posted by klutzgrrl on

    interesting space. Like others have commented, there’s much here that totally wouldn’t work for me, but as a solution for an urban person who isn’t homey, it’s fantastic.

    I think ‘extreme’ approaches like this can also offer a lot of inspiration even when we don’t want to actually live in this kind of space – it’s basically an extended application of the ‘closet office’ idea.

    One of the big keys is they way he talks about being active and organized – so rather than the hobby stuff taking over the home 24/7, we store it in a suitable space and put it away when we’re done.

    This reminds me of the caravan/mobile home that was posted quite some time ago – I loved the way all the storage had integrated catches/handles so that there were no protruding handles or edges into the small work space. (I’d do myself an injury on that kitchen door… I’d need one that rolls up like a roll-top desk.)

  20. posted by Katy on

    I love the comments from Americans about space and how much room they believe they need. This kind of size apartment is pretty common in Europe and the rest of the world. I’ve had American friends in the UK who all seem to feel that a terraced house for a family of four is too small for one or two people! Perhaps some Americans could comment on why exactly they need sooooo much more space?

  21. posted by ecuadoriana on

    @ Gemmond: Several people already commented on this, but I have to throw my 2 cents in as well. He stressed the fact that he is a single guy who lives alone & travels a lot. Right there is the reason he doesn’t need a lot of space. A lot of people have big overstuffed houses but realistically- unless one works from home & has designed their home to accommodate that- how much time to people really spend in their houses and how much time does one really spent in each individual room?

    Most people spend well over a third of their day at work/commuting/running errands and about a third of their day sleeping. The remaining third is divided up with cooking, eating, bathroom needs, surfing the internet, flopped on the couch watching television, various other activities… So, why are we spending so much time & money on spaces that get so little attention?!

    There is no problem with a glass shower if one lives alone- who will see him showering anyway?! I do agree with him that a normal size refrigerator is very important- he said he didn’t want a cubic foot size. So he does have his priorities & what is important for HIS lifestyle.

    And he is obviously a LOT fitter & healthier than most Americans in that he is not afraid of exercise- walking, lifting, pulling. He even joked about getting pushups from lifting the table, his only lazy concession being that he can grab things from the fridge from the comfort of his bed!!!

    I love this whole concept! Not for everyone, I admit. And even several things I wouldn’t be able to live with. A bed as low as his wouldn’t work for me. Because of a back problem I need my bed to be very high off the floor to aid my rising, my mattress is 30″ off the floor. However I utilize the vast amount of space under the bed for storage.

    I am always inspired with how people make the best use of their spaces, even if I can’t use the ideas directly, I am inspired to look at what could work for me.

  22. posted by Michael on

    Washing machine?

  23. posted by PaulT00 on

    This is really clever and very nicely executed. I had a second home for several years in central London – was working there and staying during the week, and coming home at weekends, for a total of about 8 years. My studio in London was about that size, albeit not as well designed, but also with lots of builtin storage and everything pretty well integrated – most of the furniture was recognisably IKEA as it was a furnished studio I was renting in Bloomsbury. The people I rented from owned half a Georgian terrace and had converted its insides to hundreds of nicely done small studios and 1-bedroom flats. The interesting bit is that I was living very comfortably in that space – folding bed, small scale integrated kitchen, tiny shower/toilet – and had everything I needed. There was a communal laundry room with a couple of Maytag washer/dryers in the basement. Then at weekends I would come home to a 2000 sq ft 5-bedroom house. Living in such a small space for a long period puts a really different spin on how much room you feel you actually need, and how much stuff you need. When it was time to move out, because I had arranged to work from home full time, the entire contents of the place, crated up, fit in the back of a small estate car. Packing and deep cleaning the whole place from top to bottom took two people about 4 hours. When I got home, I actually had trouble finding places to store the stuff coming back from London, because the big house didn’t have as much or as well organised storage as the tiny studio!

  24. posted by Elaine on

    This is awesome, but I would NEVER be able to live there– I’d spend all my time playing with my apartment, and I’d never get anything done!

  25. posted by Lizzie on

    No, I wouldn’t want to live there but I LOVED that place! I once had a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan that was maybe 600 square feet (two sleeping lofts, a tiny closet kitchen) and my husband and I both worked at home.

    I’m currently in a fairly large house in the country. (Not crazy big! And uncluttered except for the basement.) I’m wanting to build a house in the next few years and I find the comments to postings like this one so interesting. It’s all about your own personal priorities, isn’t it?

    By the way–my favorite part of the Barcelona apartment is the lighted magazine rack in the WC!

  26. posted by Deb on

    Like Re and Michael, I would have thought the addition of a washer/dryer would be a benefit – and even if he didn’t want to use the dryer function on the unit, a retractable washing line would work well on that balcony.

    The other thing I’d have required is some form of dumbwaiter system, even if it ran outside the building. Have you ever tried to carry a week’s worth of groceries up 100 steps? No wonder he’s so fit!!

  27. posted by John on

    I wonder if people are living below his apartment and what they think of the bed rolling across the floor multiple times a day.

  28. posted by Anna on

    I love the use of space. Makes me think my “little” 1200 sq foot home is HUGE. I wish my space was so organized like his. But then, I have 3 young kids and although they are learning, they don’t always clean the best.

  29. posted by Emilie on

    As a single person, I would happily live in this place (although I would hope my 2 cats would fit–they might get stuck in a drawer). I like that this guy is really owning the “studio” concept. Around here (San Francisco), studios are seen as a last resort for people who can’t afford 1-bedrooms (and they’re often very badly laid-out and in a state of disrepair). Again, in this area, there is a great need for more affordable, high-density housing, and apartments like this might help to accomplish that. I would be a little scared of the mechanisms on the cabinets breaking, though! And I agree with people’s concerns about laundry and groceries. He probably has to give massive tips to any delivery people 😉

    Why do Americans “need” so much space? Maybe one reason is that we don’t have a lot of positive role models for living well in small spaces. When Americans think of “small spaces” I feel like we often associate them with kids sharing a room, or college dorms, or trailer parks, or depressing studios…places that wouldn’t be your first choice to live. People also want to maintain the illusion of being far away from their neighbors. And of course, we’ve been inculcated with the idea that we need all this space to store all our “stuff”.

  30. posted by ecuadoriana on

    @ Deb: my guess is that, because he isn’t there much, he doesn’t need to purchase “a week’s worth of groceries [to carry] up 100 steps”. Also, unlike Americans who fill their carts to overflowing, Europeans (and South Americans, like myself) tend to shop every day only for their daily needs so that everything is fresh for tonight’s dinner- not stock piled frozen entrees & bog box store size cans of vegetables.

    Also, judging by the small amount of clothes he keeps in his closet, the cost & installation of a washer/dryer unit wouldn’t be worth it. There is most likely a nearby laundry facility. Not everyone NEEDS the cost/maintenance/space requirement for laundry room. I only need to do 2 loads a month. Why spend all that money on a washer/dryer? It’s cheaper for me to spend one hour in the launderette (I make good use of wait time- read, catch up on paper work, etc.) than it is for me to purchase a washer/dryer & pay the utility bills! When people have a washer/dryer they tend to feel like they MUST use them all the time, even to wash only a few items. When I have things that need to be washed in between trips to the launderette I just wash them by hand while I’m in the shower. Saves on water! Then I hang them up to dry.

    This young man, obviously a busy professional, most likely drops his small amount of dirty laundry off at a nearby cleaners & picks them up on his way home.

  31. posted by Laureen Diephof on

    Very nice, compact and beautiful. I, too lived on a sail boat for awhile and found it quite nice not having so much ‘STUFF’. Aren’t we hunters and gatherers, though?

  32. posted by JC on

    Very clever use of the space that meshes well with his lifestyle. I am one of “those people” that don’t do well in closed up small spaces. I managed to make it through college by spending the occasional weekend in the local canyons. Moving from the woods at the end of a dirt road where our nearest neighbor was over 1/4 mile away to a large college city was truly a shock.

    People can make do with a lot less space, but that doesn’t mean they are going to enjoy life. People who spend the majority of their days away from their home can do with a lot less space than people who spend a lot of time at home or have lifestyles or hobbies that require a bit more space.

    The fold up kitchen is perfect for him, or for urban folks who eat out a lot. I cannot imagine even attempting to bottle jams, fish, or moose there, let alone bake bread or prepare full meals for my family.

  33. posted by Raquel on

    This came originaly from a spanish TV Show called ¿Quién vive ahí? (Who lives there?) it features “diferent” homes, from the luxuries ones to the originals (a real working lighthouse) to the tiny ones…

    The lift, this part of the city is quite old.. from 500 to 100 years 500 it’s not a mistake.

    Other important thing, the outside… in Barcelona you can spend a lot of time outside, this space also has a roof that is used, in the video you can see it around the 6 min. mark.

  34. posted by Chaotic on

    Very clever, very inspiring.

  35. posted by Sarah S. on

    This reminds me very much of Corbin’s apartment in “The Fifth Element.” Go figure, he was single, too 😀

  36. posted by Laurazz on

    Great use of a small space!

  37. posted by Furnish 123 San Antonio on

    With Christian’s space he proves that organization and storage is the most important part of small space living. His “Lego” home is inspiring.

  38. posted by Margo on

    @Katy, another reason Americans like more space is because, compared to many Spanish and Italian folks, we’re just bigger people. I’m only 5’7″ and I bang my elbows into walls of the shower stalls in Italy when I try to shampoo my hair, cuz some are just that tiny.

    We also don’t have the density to support outsourcing all repairs, food, etc. So when you house your own shoe polish, sewing kit, sports equipment (if no rentals), etc, it starts to add up. I’m all for cutting down on the size of rooms and adding more storage, but not for making everything so tiny.

  39. posted by Analia on

    Simply awesome.

  40. posted by Troy Howard on

    One quick note to all those questioning the lack of clothes washer/dryer…

    You can use a dishwasher to wash clothes also. It’s not exactly awesome, but does work. Then you can hang them to dry… or as many said, just use a laundromat. I have a washer/dryer at home, but honestly, it’s not *that* much more convenient than going to the laundromat, and the cost of the washer/dryer combo (roughly 1000USD) plus utilities for water/electricity is about what we would spend in *two years* of laundromat service. We’re hoping that the machines will last longer than two years, but who knows.

    In the end, the expense isn’t really an issue. Time is a more important factor… Laundry takes less time at a laundromat than at home. If I have 2-3 loads to do (typical for our household, 2-3 loads a week), I can do them all at the same time, in 3 different washers and dryers, instead of doing them one after the other in my single washer/dryer. The only downside is transporting the clothes to and from the place, but that’s also, really freaking easy.

    I think most homes could do without a washer/dryer.

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