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July 6, 2016

A Small Survey of Small Dwellings I

John Sheehan

Petite apartments are nothing new – despite the recent buzz. Whether you call them a mini-flat or an efficiency, a bachelor apartment (Canada) a pied-a-terre or chambre-de-bonne (France) or micro unit – small one-room abodes have been around for a long time. What’s more   – they are not and have not been the last legitimate option for those just-getting-by at the edge of the economy – many notables have chosen to call these pint-sized pads their principal residence by choice rather than necessity.  Down-sized dwellers tend to have been incentivized by one of three motivations – Simplicity, Location or Thrift. This week we present 3 micro-units whose occupants were all about paring down and reveling in the essential.

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[1] The cabin at Walden Pond

Henry David Thoreau left the comforts of Boston (such as they were in 1845) and managed to squeeze himself and his few essential possessions into an 10’ x 15’ shed. It boasted a bed, a writing desk, a few chairs (he occasionally had visitors), a warm fire, a chest for clothes and sundries and wall pegs for everything else. His two year experiment in simple living inspired his famous reflection Walden: Life in the Woods. His stated goal was “…to live deliberately…to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life – to live deep.” Lofty stuff, right?  Learn more about this chaste little cabin here !


[2] The Maid’s Closet

Kitoko Studio architects transformed an 8-square-meter maid’s room into a very compact yet highly livable studio apartment with the addition of a large built-in cabinet that conceals a bed, stairs, storage, a closet and a dining table with chairs. The Paris based firm claims that this puzzle of a place was inspired by the Swiss Army knife – storage, stairs, tables and doors slip, slide, fold and deploy from a crafty storage wall along one side of the 5th floor walk-up. Clearly the inhabitant of such a studio would be obliged to make some difficult choices about what was “necessary”…and what could remain at mom’s house.  Learn more about this tiny nest here !

[3] The White Retreat

This is one of those living spaces that look like they were specifically designed to shame the rest of us. This is really pared down living. Stuff? Who needs it? Designed by Colombo and Serboli as a second “home” for an art historian/curator – the uber-chic studio is an essay on less is more. Floors, walls, ceilings  and furnishings are all part of the swirling white-out. The bathroom and kitchen are gathered at one end of the space – both can suddenly disappear in a wink behind folding/sliding panels…leaving one alone to again contemplate the meaning of white (See Chapter 42 of Moby Dick).  Learn more about the White Retreat here !