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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?

  1. Rachel

    May 9, 2012

    Welcome back to San Francisco!
    I say smaller is better in the city, even with four people. It sounds like your little apartment is in an awesome location.

  2. Supal {chevrons and éclairs}

    May 9, 2012

    That is tight! To be honest, since you all are really active and all the things you can do outside… it should be fine. I lived in a 600 sq ft studio in DC and it actually wasn’t too bad when my parents and brother came to visit. My advice would be taking advantage of “double use furniture” use a chest for a coffee table and store something in the chest. Bed with drawers. Use your walls! If you can hang it, then do it. Ikea has some great ideas of course :)

  3. Carrie

    May 9, 2012

    Hey if you can turn a closet into a kid’s room, I think you guys will manage just fine in this great space. I can’t wait to see how it comes together! (P.S. Our 660 sq ft space works because we have a lofted bed; when you can go out — go up!)

  4. Amanda

    May 9, 2012

    So excited for you and your family! I can’t wait to see what you do with it; I know it will be beautiful!

  5. Kirsten

    May 9, 2012

    “across the street from Tartine” – what a thrillling prospect! I’m from Germany and a huge Tartine fan (only because I have purchased their cookbook recently). As you are from San Francisco, I wondered if you knew Tartine. Now this! ENJOY!

  6. sarah

    May 9, 2012

    Hi Jordan,
    you will make your best memories there!! Everyone thought my husband I were crazy to buy a 1bdrm house near downtown Denver, that we dubbed “the cottage,” but, we LOVED it!! we loved the location: near our favorite stores and coffee shops on tennyson, and right around the corner from a park. we had two kiddos who turned 3 & 5 shortly after we bought the cottage, and I miss the days of hearing everything, of being able to put on music or a little radio story and hearing it from every part of the tiny little place!! Of all of our 14 houses, the cottage was our favorite…we had parties there each weekend that the kids would sleep through (b/c it was so tiny they learned to become great sleepers through the noise), and it felt SO homey b/c of it’s quaintness!! i think it’s fabulous that you found such a darling little places in such a great location!!

  7. thecircleofit

    May 9, 2012


    i will always choose a matchbox in the right location over a mansion in the wrong one – so you are on the right track!

  8. Lauren

    May 9, 2012

    Hi Jordan,

    Congrats on finding a great place! I imagine the time will fly by, and you’ll learn how to make the space work for you. I live with my boyfriend in a TINY New York apartment (225 sq ft!) and I work from home, so it can be a little cramped at times.

    My advice would be to try to declutter as much as is humanly possible (this might seem hard at first, but it’s liberating to pare down some things) and make the outdoors your home! It’s so wonderful to come home to sleep and cook, but having a small apartment has pushed me to go out and explore daily.

    Enjoy your time!

  9. erika

    May 9, 2012

    what an adventure! we are a family of five plus a BIG dog and a cat- and we are currently in our largest house yet- 1300 square feet by the beach in Los Angeles. We are actually thinking of downsizing, though! We started out in 400 square feet with a big dog, a cat, and just one kid and it was great- but the neighborhood wasn’t right and it was a dark apartment. we have three bedrooms now, but i think we’d do just fine with two…hence the downsize. please post pics along the way- i am so excited to see what you do with the place!

  10. Michelle Glauser

    May 9, 2012

    I’m sure you’ll make it look lovely. Now we’re kind of neighbors. Yay! I look forward to running into you soon. :)

  11. Naomi Bulger

    May 9, 2012

    Congratulations! We rent a very small house (an old miner’s cottage) right now, and the main problem for us hasn’t been space but storage. A tip I learned while living in New York is to go up, not out. Utilise all that wall space right up to the ceiling. Not only can it be made to look good, it also frees up your floor space for actual living (just invest in a little stool or a ladder).

  12. Lucero

    May 9, 2012

    Congrats on finding a place, small though it may be :). At least you are living there with people you love in an area you enjoy.

  13. Meg

    May 9, 2012

    right next to birite!!! ahhh! i recommend shelving storage – that has saved us. I have a whole ikea cubby wall for my crafting supplies. make a nook for everything!

  14. Amber - Daisy Chain

    May 9, 2012

    I just know you will make it amazing – and small spaces are so cozy and great, we love them!
    Hope you are well! Amber

  15. Becky

    May 9, 2012

    450 sq feet sounds small, but you will make it work! I recently had to brave the rental market in SF, and I can attest to the obscene amounts of money some landlords are charging! Stay focused on really functional pieces – an ottoman that doubles to store the kids toys in the living room, and baskets to contain any clutter that just happens. There are full wall storage options that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional. You have such awesome ideas, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!


  16. Sarah

    May 9, 2012

    My family (mom, brother, sister, me) lived in a one-bedroom until my brother and I were 14! We swore by loft beds because there were three of us after all! We also used our wall space for shelves and other such things. Best of luck!

  17. Sarah

    May 9, 2012

    Brightly colored walls are also a must! (we had a sky blue bedroom and an orange kitchen- quite a daring move, but a family friend insisted and it was so wonderful!)

  18. Betsy

    May 9, 2012

    I live in a 500 sq foot guest cottage with my husband and son. It can be a challenge at times to have an active toddler running around the space. The best advice I can give is simplify your life and your belongings. Its quite liberating actually and gets you outside with your kids a whole lot more!

  19. FT

    May 9, 2012

    I don’t know what your budget is, and I don’t know if this company can even deliver to SF, but this is a cool site:

    I’m thinking of investigating it for my daughter’s tiny room.

  20. Amelia

    May 9, 2012

    I’ve lived in small spaces since moving to NYC when I was 18. I recently started a small spaces feature on my blog if you want to check in to get inspi. The first post was on our dining nook – I was just thinking yesterday how easily it could become a nursery:)

  21. Brittan

    May 9, 2012

    Loft beds! Loft beds are the answer.

  22. churyl

    May 9, 2012

    we live in a 500 sq foot place with our 6 year old in hayes valley, sf. i love that we are close to each other all the time. i have the same advice as many others:

    1) white noise and ear plugs really really make it easy to be so close to each other and still be in peace.

    2) murphy bed. all the way. it’s the biggest space stealer. sell inexpensive ones that work great. if you don’t want to do that, then make the bed your sofa during the day.

    3) ikea armoires. we have five of them with mirrors on them. all our belongings disappear into custom organized storage solutions. the mirrors bring lots of light, space, and are surprisingly fun for kids.

    4) storage up to the ceiling wherever possible.

    5) monthly trips to goodwill. purge, purge, purge. if it’s something i wouldn’t buy today, i get rid of it.

  23. Natalie

    May 9, 2012

    Aww I used to live in SF two years ago and thought competition was fierce then – sounds like it’s just getting worse though!

    So glad you found a place at least. From the looks of it, many other people are in your same shoes

    best of luck!

  24. shotgun adventures

    May 9, 2012

    We currently live in 400sq. feet with our 9 month old son, I’m going to repeat what everyone else has said: go vertical and use the walls for storage. Also, make a designated play corner for the boys that can easily be picked up at night, and use a trunk as a coffee table. We also use those fabric over-the-door shoe holder thingies to hold bathroom supplies (hairspray, bandaids, brushes etc.) on the bathroom door because there’s barely enough room to turn around in our bathroom, and we needed more storage. Have fun and good luck in your new place!

  25. tiffany of camp1899

    May 9, 2012

    ohhh! dolores park is wonderful, lucky you to have found a little nook (; my husband and i just downsized (well upsized in a way.. last year we were in our vintage airstream for a year in only 150 sq. ft) permanently into a tiny 528 sq ft. 100+ year old bungalow we’re renovating top to bottom. i think you’ll find that you love the coziness and fast! cleaning (; congrats on the find… xo, t.

  26. Rae Veda

    May 9, 2012

    I’m living in 500 square feet right now. It’s a lot of fun to be thrifty. You really understand the meaning of things when you move into seomthing so tiny. I can’t wait to see what you make of it. xo, rv

  27. Kacie

    May 9, 2012

    I’m so excited to see how you make it work. It’s going to be great! What a fun new adventure… all good adventures have a few challenges.


  28. Pien

    May 10, 2012

    I lived in a very small room, to save floorspace (when you see more floor, it looks bigger and neater) work your way up! Make shelves al the way arround the door, hang extra chairs on the wall, make one big closet and buy a big couch. A lot of small stuff only makes a room look messy…

  29. notsurebut

    May 10, 2012

    Take a look at the remodelista blog lots of tips for small space living latest post especially relevant
    to your new home which sounds so exciting.

  30. JesR

    May 10, 2012

    Two words: vertical space!

  31. Mary-My Life in Scotland

    May 10, 2012

    I know several people who live this way here in Scotland. We’re not a big city like Paris though, so rent is a bit more forgiveable. the important thing to remember is to use the wall space. Think shelves. Get everything high. There is more space up there than you realize!

    Some of my friends give the kids the bedroom and they sleep in the living room. They use a murphy bed or a pull out couch. That way the kids still get a good nights sleep and the parents still have a place to sleep. This way you also get your living space too. You’ll need to downsize clothes, toys etc. You’d be surprised what you really don’t need and can get rid of. You need the space to live not house your stuff.

    What a fun adventure!

  32. lindseybee

    May 10, 2012

    I would have to say, living in a nice studio in Philly, to be super organized (which you seem to be from following your blog posts!), & when organizing, I’ve learned a trick to “move up”… organize things in hidden shelving units that you can either build or luckily have in your space so your stuff is off the floor & out of sight. I’d also say that if you have a storage closet in your basement to swap out seasonal clothing/seasonal decorations/etc. to help keep your space simple for the time being. I sometimes get rid of something if ever I get something newer–helps simplify your little apartment life & we really don’t need all that “stuff” anyways :) Can’t wait to see how you put it all together! That’s the fun part!

  33. Veronique Vaillancourt

    May 10, 2012

    I was just reading through the US 2012 Ikea catalog which has a focus on small spaces. In reading that your space is going to be so compact, check out pages 8-9 and 22-23 in the virtual catalog…great ideas that include loft beds…

    I like the tag line on the catalog cover: A home doesn’t need to be big, just smart.

    Fun adventure ahead.

  34. Sarah

    May 10, 2012

    Dude, you are in the BEST spot in the city for food. Anything else about the location is secondary to this.

  35. Natalie

    May 10, 2012

    My husband and I lived in a tiny (maybe 300 sqft) carriage house when we first moved in together. We referred to it as “the love shack.” Sometimes I miss it when I look at the basement of junk we’ve accumulated now that we’re in a bigger space.

  36. ana {bluebirdkisses}

    May 10, 2012

    I used to live in a 500sft apt with my husband and 2 cats. never with kids too. It was ok though, we just got rid of most of the non-essentials like TV, dining table and chairs etc. Also IKEA was great for small space storage. And we spent alot of time outdoors. :)

  37. Amanda | Little Door On The Sound

    May 10, 2012

    Add built-ins/shelves wherever you can! Even if you can do floor to ceiling built-ins along a long wall, paint it a cool color (I like shiny red), and then get a cute, rolling ladder – it will add so much space. When I lived in a 100 sq-ft studio in NYC (not kidding!), there was one really tall window in the kitchen that faced a brick wall – I turned it into floor-to-ceiling shelves and it helped SO much. Also, hang up all your pots and pans in the kitchen on a ceiling rack – will save a lot of space, too.

  38. Polly

    May 10, 2012

    Hmmmm, don’t know if I can help as my place is soooo much bigger at 950 SQ! I’m also in SF and have 2 kids and live in a 1 bedroom. What we did is have my brother in law install french doors to separate the living room from dining room and now we call it a 2 bedroom :)

    If you can store anything you don’t need into bins (Jackets, clothes, books, toys, extra kitchen stuff) at someone’s place nearby, then it makes it easier. sometimes the jackets seem like extra people in my house and it’s gets annoying and cramped. Use the space under the beds for sheets, blankets in flat containers if you can. Someone did some cool, rustic corner shelves in their place that held their books and pictures.

    Whatever you do, do not buy extra stuff anytime unless you have a spot for it. Then it becomes like living in an episode of Hoarders real quick! You will be shifting things around and stepping over piles. Also, take the kids out every day for 2 hours so they get tired and are not bouncing off the walls.

  39. Margaret

    May 10, 2012

    I love this post and look forward to following your updates.

    We started out in a tiny studio in the Tendernob! Granted we’re in kind of “a deluxe apartment in the sky,” right now. But I can still appreciate the challenge and creativity that renting in this city requires.

  40. meg@thisweekendlife

    May 10, 2012

    Everyone has such good advice and all I can say is I’m loving the maxidress and cardigan combo you’re sporting in your studio pic. And, i’ve always wanted a loft bed! Industrious readers you have!

  41. Kristy

    May 10, 2012

    You are definitely brave. We lived in a 550 sq ft (and somehow 2 bedrooms!) apt for 2 years; only 6 of those months with a child. It was a tight squeeze, but without mobile kids it didn’t bother us. However, since you live in a city that is never too cold/too hot, you can be outside plenty, so I’m sure it will be survivable. And certainly easy to decorate!

  42. Vicki

    May 10, 2012

    You can do it…our family of four lived in a motor home for a year… Respecting each others space, regardless of size, is key! Enjoy!

  43. Annette

    May 10, 2012

    Welcome back to SF! Originally from Los Angeles, where space is in abundance, I moved to SF five years ago and never, EVER thought I’d survive in a studio. Well, it’s true what they say, never say never. I’ve been living in a studio for about 4.5 years and I love it. I find that I don’t need much more space (although I miss being able to entertain with a large group of friends). I agree with the other comments. You’re going to have to spring clean year round! Good luck and can’t wait to see how your apartment comes together! All the best. -Annette

  44. Trish

    May 10, 2012

    I think it will be a fantastic experiment! Americans are so obsessed with big places – I’ve been asked more than once how the four of us cope in a 1200 sq foot home! I actually think the closeness will be positive and your location is amazing! Love Tartine! Good luck!

  45. Ruth

    May 10, 2012

    We live in a similarly-sized apartment in Manhattan with our two year old. Maximize your vertical space. We bought some shelves that we could stack all the way to the ceiling, and they are the envy of all our fellow city dwellers who come to visit. Also, measure, measure, measure before you buy furniture. In a small space, you often only have cm’s to spare, so things have to fit exactly. My husband and I also have a loft bed, which has been one of the best purchases ever. We have a desk underneath and bookshelves along the sides.

  46. laura

    May 10, 2012

    i lived in a 300 sq foot apartment for 2 years in college- and it definitely demanded creative, space saving ideas. IKEA floating shelves (@wine racks) came in handy!

  47. Sarah

    May 10, 2012

    Welcome back! There are two apts available in my building in Cole Valley and I thought of you (though one is a whopping 300 sq ft – yikes!!). Hope to bump into you in the city!

  48. Alison

    May 10, 2012

    Use the walls for storage…everyday items become museum installations when hung. Hang extra dining chairs on the wall, and use the seats as shelves. Also, storage in and under furniture is key. Tiny spaces are great because they enable constant interaction with your family. : )

  49. Katrin

    May 11, 2012

    You´ll be fine. It looks like a dream apartment exept for the size… and I think it´s good that you have separate rooms vs. one open space, especially with the kids. We´ve lived in a tiny house for a few years and loved it. We also had several tiny rooms which was great, because at one point you´ll want to close a door behind you… especially in a small place.

  50. Cecilia N. Rodriguez

    May 11, 2012

    The apartment looks great! I have been living in a 450 sq-ft apartment for the past 8 months with my husband, our 5 month old baby and our small dog. It’s not that hard and the best advice I can give is space-managment. Look up the Small Cool Contest on Apartment Therapy, they have the BEST ideas, and creative ways to make sure you can make it your own and not cluster phobic. But then again, with a baby it is always harder because you have to make sure everything will be baby-friendly and also making good use of all your space. Good luck and can’t wait to see any updates you post on journey small-living journey! =)

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