May 9

450 Square Feet

We’re moving into a 450 square foot apartment! I know its a little crazy since there are four of us but it will only be for about a year so we are feeling up to the challenge. The good news is that it is perfect in every way except the size. It’s a a 1 bedroom apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, living room and a bonus sunroom that can fit a bed, so the layout will actually work well (none of us will sleep in a closet). It is a huge relief to find a place. The tech companies in the Bay Area are booming right now so the rental market is very competitive. Landlords are getting 30+ applications for empty apartments. The new apartment is in the perfect location, across the street from Tartine, near our large art studio on Valencia Street (where we hang out all day), and is near the new playground at Dolores Park. It has laundry, parking, a backyard, gets great light and is 1/3 cheaper than anything else we could find. With the money we save on rent we’re hoping to be able to save up for a house. It will be a tight fit but since we are only going to be there mostly in the evenings I think it will work.

The landlord lives far away and the apartment still needed to be painted and floors redone so we offered to manage the repairs so we could move in faster. It’s been fun to make decisions about the floors and paint colors since you usually don’t get to do that stuff as renters. It is small so it shouldn’t take too long to decorate. I’m hoping to share some good before and after pictures in the next month or so.

Have you ever lived in a small apartment? Any tips?

122 Comments

  • What a fun experiment!

    I’ve always loved the advice that when you’re in a tiny space, think like you’re living on a ship.

    Can’t wait to see you out and about!

  • Anni says:

    Our first apartment together was teeny tiny! The kitchen was the smallest part, and what saved up was maximizing every inch of space – we put up wall shelves and got pretty jars to store dry goods in. We got an Ikea kitchen that could double as counter space, and used a little West Elm Parsons dining table as a three-in-one desk, table, and cooking space depending on what it needed to be at that moment.

    I actually like living in small spaces for the most part. It means that you put so much thought into each piece of furniture, artwork, etc, and where they go. The one thing is it can drive you batty when someone you live with is being loud or using the bathroom!

  • Lindsey says:

    As someone who lives in an even tinier space in Paris (which you never got to see :( You’ll just have to come back for a visit!), it’s not easy but it will be about optimizing space and being inventive with storage. When we added a large mirror in our living, it made the space instantly feel larger. Painting a wall so that not everything is white helped too! You’ll get some fun photos out of the experience :)

  • Lindsay says:

    Congrats on the sweet (though small) find! Small isn’t always bad I will say… We live in Brooklyn with our 2.5 year old in a similar size apartment (w/o laundry and it’s on the 3rd floor too). While I wish it were bigger, we’re making it work. I love that no matter where I am I can hear or see what Juliette (my 2.5 year old) is up to. The downfall is the noise issues, we have to be very quiet once she goes to sleep!

    Here are some tips –

    Try not to let clutter build up, store what you can in storage (we store all old clothes, baby things we don’t use anymore and art work we aren’t hanging at my parents house to save space).

    Realize your space will be tight. accept it.

    Get rid of any furniture you don’t need, the dining table becomes the art table when needed, etc. you get the point… We got rid of our coffee table and bought a small “cafe” style table for Juliette to play on, it’s great for her and when she goes to bed we can sit our wine glasses on it!

    Mirrors and lots of art work to brighten up the small space, don’t do the white walls only thing, art and color are the life of a home!

    Oh, take off unnecessary doors (if landlord permits). We should really do this but haven’t yet.

    Enjoy decorating!
    Can’t wait to see it come together!

    Xx

  • Jessica says:

    Can’t wait to see what you do with the apartment! I live in a basement apartment and I love it! Of course, it’s only me but still it’s nice and cozy and very efficient. Good luck with the move!

  • Maryam says:

    I lived in a 190 sf apartment for a year. (I even threw a surprise birthday party for a friend and had 7 other guests!) It was the best. You learn to be organized, have multifunctional furniture…
    You are such an amazing artist that I’m sure your space will be exquisite! CAn’t wait to see the finished pictures.

  • NSH says:

    I live in a 400sqt studio in Brooklyn with my boyfriend — it’s a 20′ x 20′ box with a pillar in the middle. It’s not big (and there are no closets to speak of) but we LOVE it. We deal by having all furniture pressed against the walls to make maximum open space in the middle, and all our bookshelves go to the very top of the ceiling for better storage.

  • kate says:

    I think the key to living in a tiny apartment is to either have some kind of awesome outdoor area, or live in a rad neighborhood. We lived in a 350 sqft 1 bedroom (how a bedroom was in that place is hilarious – it only fit a bed practically wall to wall!) in Manhattan and we were always leaving to go on adventures. The downside was that we’d always eat out, but it was a magical year I’ll always remember, even if my bank account remembers it the most :)

  • Kate says:

    Laundry, parking and a great location can make up for a huge number of faults in an apartment. (When I was looking for my last place, a real estate agent asked if I wanted a larger patio or a better view. I said: I need to be able to do laundry inside of my apartment.) I think your new place cute and I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  • Heidi says:

    Congrats on the appt. and the great location. We lived on Oakwood for 10+ years and I would move back in a heart beat. Such an amazing neighborhood. And the new playground at Dolores Park is amazing! Enjoy!

  • Sarah says:

    Yes I have lived in a place that small. It may have been smaller, but honestly it was some of the best years in our marriage. There’s something about living in a cozy place (knowing it’s temporary) and just enjoying the experience while it lasts. Very happy for you guys. I can’t wait to see more pics.

    – Sarah
    agirlintransit.blogspot.com

  • Crystal says:

    I agree with Anni about small spaces needing to be more intentional. I love that it forces one to edit and only bring in items that are loved. And vertical space becomes your best friend!

  • Susie says:

    Just moved from a super spacious LA loft to a teeny tiny SF apt., but am loving the coziness (and the yard!). I don’t think I could live across the street from Tartine, though ;p Can’t wait to see how the space turns out…and love the kitchen floors! Good luck!

  • I can’t WAIT to see before and afters! You’re going to make it look incredible. And bonus: you’ll never have to wait in line for morning buns again, because you can roll out of bed in your pajamas and pick them up first thing.

  • Aya says:

    AMAZING location! I’d live in a cardboard box if it meant heading down for a bi-rite cone everyday.

  • Gina says:

    I found that living with small kids, small space is fine. I actually didn’t feel the need for a larger space until our oldest was about 7 — until then, the kids are honestly often close by and you can really participate with one another… Congrats! Location counts… Although we not have a larger house, I still could use a studio… lucky you! Working from home, our house is often becoming my entire art space! I can imagine with two creatives! My husband is in SF as I write — loving this fantastic city!!

  • Holly says:

    Great location! I live in a tiny apartment too. We do a lot of wall storage with hooks & nails to compensate for lack of closets/storage space. It works wonders, especially in the kitchen (plus it sort of looks like you artistically placed them there haha)

  • I once had a 400 s.f. apartment in alameda in a victorian…I just wanted to live on a tree lined street. The key was to only add furniture that fit well – a few key pieces…and I stored alot of “things” until I moved to a larger space, and I appreciated this cozy spot for the time I had it. I think storage piece furniture is great, ottomons lift up tops – use for seating at the table or in the living room or at the computer…and using the walls for vertical storage or designing space. I saw Ikea display a small apartment that ran shelving around the top of each room, about 14″ from the top. It created great space, use boxes to store little things, its clean, organized and off the floor. Welcome Back!

  • Bunk beds! We live in a small two bedroom apartment right now and bunk beds, Ikea, and lots of organized storage bins like has made it possible. Good luck!

  • CiCi says:

    Never doubt the power of a fan for white noise with kids in a small space. We put one outside our son’s room at night blowing away from it and it makes such a difference, no whispering needed. : )

  • That’s impressive – the kiddos get 100 square feet each and the adults get 125 each :)

    P.S. Bi-Rite is AMAZING! Now I’m craving one of their ice cream sammies.

  • Ris says:

    Get rid of or store absolutely everything you don’t need or won’t use. Go vertical–hang as much as you can, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, to save space. I think you’ll find you actually really enjoy living in a small space. We sure do!

  • Hi Jordan,

    I live in 450 sq ft, and it’s wonderful, and challenging at the same time. Leaving the place as airy and open as possible is key. Plus creating distinct “areas” is important.

    I don’t technically have a bedroom, so we built a wooden pony wall, with shallow shelving to divide the space. It gives the apartment a built-in look, while being extremely functional.

    Smaller spaces also mean less cleaning!

    xoxo J

  • Damaris says:

    tiny homes are my favorite. you guys will make it cozy and perfect, no doubt.

  • We shall be neighbors! I’m walkable to Dolores Park too. And as someone who moved into the hood in December, I remember how crazy it was. We actually gave a bottle of champagne to the broker who chose us.

    So excited for you!

    You must try the kouign aman from Bi-Rite. Did they sell that there before you moved abroad?

  • mandy says:

    My tip is to USE ALL AVAILABLE WALL SPACE for storage!! As Ris said – go vertical and hang as much as you can.
    We periodically go through the apartment and look for new spaces to put things. Over the door hooks for the ironing board, coats, bags, etc. I have all my purses and totes hanging on the wall beside my bed. We installed shelves over all the doors and use the bathroom shelf for towels and the bedroom shelf for bedding. We also screwed a thin bar on the inside of our cupboard doors for me to hang all our cooking utensils, and another bar on the wall for our pots and pans. Container store has a lot of great inspiration ideas and also plastic zipper bags so you can store things under the bed or other out of the way spots without worrying about them getting dusty/dirty/etc.
    Also, get rid of anything that you don’t use often that takes up space. Be ruthless and you’ll feel good about having the added space.
    Good Luck!
    .

  • Jes says:

    My husband and I LOVE Tartine so much! We don’t live in the City so we don’t get out often, but the fact that you live right across the street from such a wonderful bakery is almost all worth it :)

  • Leila says:

    That looks lovely! What a great remodeling job. :) I’m across the bay in Oakland, but I’ve dreamed of moving to San Francisco. Rent is pretty much the only thing keeping me away…maybe I’ll find a way to snatch up a must-have apartment for cheap!

  • mo d says:

    Congrats and welcome “home”!

  • AC says:

    If you’re near a park this is going to be easy. When the kids get slaphappy, just take them outside and let them run it off :)

  • Emily says:

    Glad you found a place and I can’t wait to see what you do with it! The light and flooring look gorgeous! We lived in a 300sf apartment and it was fine, knowing it was temporary. If we weren’t poor students, we would’ve rented a storage space for all unnecessary items and it would’ve felt a lot bigger! I do agree with maximizing storage by using behind doors, under beds, and a shelf or two to the ceiling but I think even small spaces need to have room to breathe (ie an empty corner, a plant, a not packed wall, etc).

  • Karen says:

    Congratulations on the awesome apartment find! We used to live at 17th and Church, so I know the neighborhood well. We checked out the playground at Dolores Park the day after it opened, and I never heard such squeals of delight from my kid as when we went down that 40-foot slide together. We live over in Oakland now, but we are thinking of moving back to SF because our job situation has changed, and we now work in SF (husband) and Palo Alto (me)! I would be curious about how you view the school situation for your kids. Our daughter just turned 2, and part of the reason we left is because we heard that the SF school lottery system is difficult to deal with.

    In the meantime, I’m looking forward to see how you design your space. Happy apartment living!

  • danielle says:

    I just moved out of an apartment that was less than 450 sq. feet! Yours looks like its laid out nicely (like mine was), which makes the space feel much bigger than it actually is. The best tips I can share are to keep everything really, really tidy (even when you don’t feel like putting your shoes in the closet because its been a long day at work), and to make sure most pieces of furniture can do double duty. Good luck with the decorating. I can’t wait to see it when its done!

  • Brandy says:

    Congratulations on finding a place for your family to start living a new adventure! Hearing that you are undertaking 450 sq ft. with four people has made me feel positively luxurious in my 700 sq. ft. shared only with my husband. In the nine years we have been apartment/condo dwellers here are the most important things we have learned about using space.
    1. shelves: walls have an amazing amount of often underutilized space. take the time to really make a detailed storage plan (we use the elfa system from container store), get appropriately sized boxes for files, necessities and such to keep things organized and clutter-free.
    2. away with clutter: when every inch counts clutter can become the thing that makes a space seem overwhelmingly small and uninviting. if we don’t have a place for something, we donate, re-gift, or toss it away. The small space experience has taught us to truly evaluate each item that comes into our home for purpose, suitability and necessity.
    3. multi-purpose furniture: we have a couch that turns into (the world’s most uncomfortable :( )bed, a coffee table that converts and unfolds into a 6-8 person dining table (calligaris) and wardrobes that do multi-function storage from clothers and sewing supplies, to tools and receipt filing
    4. over the door organizers: seriously 3 of these in our little home. One became my pantry, one fits on the washer/dryer closet door and holds all the cleaning stuff and another for shoes. (again, container store)
    5. to separate spaces without bulky screens and dividers, curtain track on the ceiling. When the divider isn’t needed simply pull the curtain aside and secure out of the way
    6. noise privacy: I completely agree with Cici about white noise being a sanity saver in a small space. we have an air purifier that does double duty covering the neighbor’s noises and cleansing the air of their second hand smoke!
    7. enjoying the forced closeness :)

  • How exciting! If it makes you feel any better your new kitchen is definitely bigger than mine: http://annabelvita.com/2012/04/29/teensy-kitchen/ ha!
    Can’t wait to see you work your magic on it.

  • Janice says:

    Lucky you for getting to live on my favorite street in SF! My husband and I lived in a 450 square foot apt in NYC for a year on the Upper West Side. We loved it! Out of the three apts we’ve lived in together (1 in NYC, 2 in SF), it still holds a special spot in my heart.

    Best tips: 1) organize and buy wisely; 2) de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter; 3) try to pack away seasonal clothes (though in SF, there aren’t really seasons); 4) use proportional/trick furniture. We had a CB2 lucite style coffee table that really made the space feel open and airy. At least you’ll be able to shop every day at Bi-Rite to keep your kitchen tidy too. Enjoy your new space!

  • Check out Walk Slowly Live Wildly– especially her Flickr photostream (I think her flickr name is Delight). They did 300ish square feet….fabulously.

  • Heather says:

    Are you kidding! It looks amazing! I’m dying to try it and my 2 girls are 10 and 16. We stayed in a tiny one bedroom apt. in Nice (we were living in London- or otherwise never would have gotten there) and I totally dreamed of living there full time and where I’d put everything. I love minimalism and trying to live with less, but our current house lets us keep a bit more than necessary. Have fun! The location sounds amazing!

  • Jen says:

    Finding an apt. in SF is incredibly hard and sometimes depressing. I remember waiting on streets with 10 other couples to see a place, or seeing other couples bring resumes that had pictures of them together! Luckily you found the perfect location :)

    I live in a smallish place now, and spent a full month checking out storage options at Target, Walmart (eek!), and The Container Store. All in all, we decided to pack away things on shelves and boxes in all hidden areas (like closets and the hutch), and so far it’s worked out well. It’s been easier for us because it’s just us two and a dog, but I’m sure you’ve got a million brilliant ideas. Good luck!

  • Heidi G. says:

    I have lived in several teeny tiny places. First, I got rid of or stored everything I could. This meant fewer dishes and clothes and having to wash both with more frequency. Next, I created storage/display areas that went floor to ceiling. In one place I put individual shelves (about 4 feet wide) on the wall from about a foot and a half below the ceiling to two feet above the floor. I put bins under the bottom shelf. I spaced the shelves about a foot and a half apart and used that space for books and the bins for all my accessories. I utilized under bed storage and tried to maximize any and all closet space with excellent organization and accessibility of its contents. (What good is it if you can cram everything in there if you can never find it when you need it?)

    Good luck and have fun!

  • what a lucky landlord to have you move in and redo the place in such good taste!

  • Kate says:

    Take it from someone that did sleep in a room the size of a closet all through college, theres a lot you can do with a small space. IKEA has great storage solutions, and your also forced to be very selective with wht you keep and what you toss. It’s an adventure!

    Kate
    http://www.theforgetfulwife.com

  • Andrea says:

    Hooks up high to hang out-of-season coats. Oh. wait. you live in SAN FRANCISCO! Well, hooks up high to hang something you need less often!

  • Holy cow what an adventure! Congrats on finding a place in SF, I had gone to over 10 open houses when I was looking to rent in the city some years back. I ended up settling in a 600 sq. ft. Studio in Oakland instead and it was my favorite place in the world! I had a futon as my sofa/guestbed and often ate meals in bed while watching the tv in the “livingroom”

  • Stephanie says:

    How fun! First Paris, now SF. I’m hoping to follow you out there in the next year and a half. With any luck, I’ll be able to score a good apartment too. Happy settling in!

  • Alice says:

    Storage, storage, storage! Make the most of the wall space as well. I have been living with my fiancé in a 30 m2 flat for almost 2 years now and it requires a lot of IKEA catalog studying for storage ideas

    Good luck! I’m sure you’ll make it look very pretty though with your taste :) x

  • Igor says:

    I am living on 345 sf and I learned to be very organized and established one important rule for myself – whenever I buy something new for my home (furniture, decoration etc.) I get rid of something else. I either give it away or sell it on a flea market. And I am totally curious to see how you’ll furnish and decorate your home!! What a pity we won’t cross our ‘digital ways’ in Paris:-)

  • Thuy (Twee) Phelps says:

    Maybe you should consider a Murphy Bed….the ones that pull down from the wall and it can be concealed within bookshelves on each side of the bed. Small means less to clean and it sounds like its in a perfect location. Have you heard of Jay Shafer in the tiny house movement (Tumbleweed Tiny House). I believe he lives in Sonoma County. He lived in 89 sf of space for 10 yrs. Now that’s freedom. I’m planning on doing some serious downsizing the next time we move.

  • Jenny says:

    Ha! I know the exact apartment you are talking about. I am also looking for something in SF and that was the ONLY one under $2500 that seemed even remotely appropriate! Congrats and good luck with the decorating, can’t wait to see before/after photos (please include some of the renos/painting too!)

  • Melissa says:

    This is my first time commenting, so first, I must say that I love your blog! My husband and I just moved into 500 square feet this weekend, with our big dog and baby-on-the-way. We are outside LA, just two blocks fom the ocean. We grew up in the Midwest, so it is a huge change, but I am happy to get rid of all the extra stuff that we had accumulated, in exchange for this experience! Best of luck to you!

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