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 makeĀ decisionsĀ 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

  • Luna says:

    to cull the clutter, for every new item you bring into your space, take one (or two) item out. goodluck, can’t wait to see the progress and results.

  • Rachel says:

    This makes my heart sing. :)

    Less stuff. That’s my only tip.

    Excited to come back and see how living small is treating you.

  • ann says:

    good for you. love to see realistic approaches to situations, instead of over-extending one’s self.

    apartments in many countries are not much larger, and they seem to cope well.

    it does help one appreciate other things.

  • Bonnie says:

    I dont live in a place quite that small but I do live in a 1000 sq ft condo with my husband and two children, and where we live most people dont live in such a small space. I personally really enjoy a small space. It forces you to keep things minimal and to not collect too much junk. Our two kids share a room which works well since they are still really young. I think part of the trick is using space wisely and having storage space within alot of your furniture, lots of drawers, shelves, containers above cabinets, containers under beds. A bonus for us is my parents live close and we have a corner of their basement stacked with lg rubbermaids. :)

  • Michelle says:

    We live in a small place as a family of three. We went from 1200sqft to 800sqft. Go vertical. Getting things off the ground and on the wall with storage pockets, shelves, magnets (in the bathroom), and hanging from the ceiling. Everything must serve two + functions. Finally there’s a few things we really wanted to keep but just didn’t have room for so we lent them to friends who would take good care of them. Enjoy the confines of a small space bring out a great creativity.

  • Melanie B says:

    I would seriously freak out if I had to live in 450 sq ft with 3 other people. I’m glad it works for you all for now :)

  • lauren says:

    i literally just wrote a post on my blog about small living space! i work for zappos, and we had a guest speaker this week, graham hill, come talk about his simple way of living. here is his site with great resources of small living and simple lifestyle http://www.lifeedited.com/. he is starting a movement of editing how you live, which is great!

    http://www.resourcefurniture.com/ is smart furniture made for small spaces.

    http://ohisthatsoideas.blogspot.com/2012/05/creativity-should-never-be-stored-away.html

    Good Luck! im excited to see your results!!

  • Lane says:

    The rental market in the Bay Area is terrible. Three months ago we gave up our apartment in Alameda to move to Savannah, GA. for a few years while my husband worked a new job. For a bit more than what we paid in Alameda, we were able to get a 3200 sq foot house in Savannah with a yard and screened sun porch. Totally beautiful house, hardwood floors throughout, a massive master bedroom and room enough to each have an office and a guest room. But the job wasn’t what was promised and we never took to Savannah like we thought we would so we decided to cut our losses and head back to California, which we missed like crazy anyhow. After spending a few days online looking for apartments back in Alameda that would take pets, we were in a panic…maybe one out of every 10 rentals is pet friendly. So we decided to see if our old apartment was available, which we weren’t entirely crazy about doing because the landlord is kind of nuts and hard to deal with. After several weeks of negotiations with her, we managed to get our old place back but she’s charging us 450. more a month than what we paid before! It’s on the top floor of an old victorian and has one bedroom and sort of a bonus room that we always used as an office. Since I have been in Savannah I have been finding some great mid century furniture at crazy prices, so we’ve sold anything we can replace back home and are hauling back our vintage finds. We’re also getting rid of books and dishes and other items just so we can not overload our new, old apartment. I’m actually looking forward to starting over with less stuff…it’s amazing what seems useless after two cross country moves totaling 6000 miles!

  • I have always lived in small spaces–at least over the past 15 or so years. The trick is to make it your own and not to worry about “what about when we want to move?” Painting the walls can help to define the space without breaking it up too much and carpets can do the same. Having wood floors helps with that but I’ve also put 3×5 and 5×8 area rugs over the cheap apartment grade wall to wall for a very nice effect.

    The biggest challenge will be to keep the space neat and tidy… an absolute MUST for living in a small space. Think vertical..use storage options that go up to the ceiling and down to the floor (a’la IKEA ) and you’ll do great.
    I could say more but I think everyone has contributed plenty. Have fun and I’ll look for your before and after posts soon

  • PS I know exactly where your apartment is,..it is a fantastic neighborhood…But I don’t even want to think about how much you must be paying for the tiny bit of square footage you have. I moved to the Midwest almost three years ago (cheaper rent) and I’m paying $900/month less than my sister is for a similar one bedroom in Pleasanton (not even the city!). I miss the West coast terribly, but unless I win the lottery I will never be able to-or want to-go back.

  • Anne says:

    PS: You can use the space on top of you kitchen cabinets by putting things you use less often in big, bright boxes (like IKEA’s Kassett-series). I have them up on my cabinets and on top of a couple of shelves. They guarantee a fun look if you go with different colours, and it really is amazing how much stuff fits up there!

  • Abbigail says:

    I am sure your new space will work great close to your fantastic studio. Congratulations and welcome home.

  • Maria says:

    This is my first time commenting – but I’ve been following your blog for almost a year. From little glimpses here and there – I love how you handle interior spaces. I can’t wait to see the transformation you come up with!

  • Alli says:

    Welcome to the neighborhood! I work at Bi-Rite and live on Cumberland so we’ll be seeing a lot of each other I’m sure. I’ll say hi if I see you in the market (also, FYI we’ve sold the kouign amann for only a few months, so I am sure we didn’t have it before you moved. They’re traditional Breton pastries made with salted butter- delicious)!

  • Rosalind says:

    Cool! Sounds like looking for a rental in January in Canberra (Australia)… I once went to an apartment viewing with 50 other people!!!!!!! I counted them! Congrats on finding a new home, although I will miss ‘living in Paris’ vicariously through you :-)

  • Rhonda says:

    Love it! My husband and I moved into a 300 foot space for two years to save money. It was great to live so simply. We lofted our bed and made the space work. I loved decorating the place. Best of luck with your new diggs. Can’t wait to see how you use the space! R

  • jenniferL says:

    yay for finding an apartment!! and the location is awesome! i can’t wait to see what you guys do with the space. i met you a couple of days after you arrived back in SF, i was at dolores park with my daughter and introduced myself. just thought i’d say hi!

  • Ess says:

    Hi Jordan. I love your site and pop by every once in a while. This is particularly a post I can relate to, given that my husband and I share 400sf in Boston. Charming and well-located apartments aren’t always the most accommodating to our silly modern lives, but who’s not up for a challenge? I agree with other commenters to eliminate clutter. Visual clutter to me drives me mad in this place…but I also don’t like to throw all my stuff into drawers and closets. Thoughtful organization, both visible and concealed, is paramount. We pay $15 a month for a basement storage unit and keep anything not needed, or seasonal (a/c u
    Window unit and winter/summer clothes), etc. We also constantly purge our closets and donate what we don’t wear or use. Hooks on the back of all doors is a great help for bags, purses, coats, umbrellas, grocery/market bags, and all the stuff that you use on a daily basis but don’t want lying around. Like our kitchen, your upper cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling, and this is excellent hidden storage. We have a great and well-stocked pantry hovering near our kitchen ceiling, and bought a folding step-ladder to easily reach things, and that lives in the narrow gap next to fridge where nothing else fits anyhow. Last thing: light colors, light/white walls, and maximize every bit of natural sunlight to make the rooms feel giant, airy, and bright. Enjoy the continuation of your adventure!

  • Ess says:

    One more thing…what Lane wrote above really resonated with me. We’ve always lived in tiny places and have made three giant moves in the last decade; another looms on the horizon in a few years. However, while we’ve always dreamt of more room, or another bedroom (oh! What luxury!), I cannot imagine actually having the space. In fact, even if we had a whopping 1000sf (very small by the American standard), I laugh imagining that we would always end up in the same room anyhow, or that we would never have the furniture to fill the many rooms. The stuff…it’s just stuff. What a neat time for you, especially to live in a small place while your boys are still so small. I bet that when they are older, they’ll reminisce About those years when they lived in Paris and then moved into a perfectly-sized place in SF with their minimalist and adventurous parents. Again, enjoy!!

  • [...] Dirty right here on Facebook. Get $2 off on Thursdays!I wanted to share some after pictures of our tiny apartment today. It’s funny because I’ve spent years wanting to paint my rented apartment and now that [...]

  • Dee says:

    My favorite small home was on a 37′ houseboat. Everything had at least 2 uses. The bench seats lifted to reveal vast storage. The two rocking chairs were Pier 1 folding ones. The berth was a mattresses atop low dressers (we built them in). The table was a large steamer trunk. I cooked in a wok that nested in the top of a kerosine heater during the winter. I used to lie on the berth and watch the white heron fish off the stern – about 3 feet away. This was blissful living.

  • Emma says:

    WOW! I have just come from looking at your now pictures what a huge difference the floors and white walls made! it looks fantastic now! My husband and I live in a teeny-tiny studio apartment and the biggest thing we have learnt is to cut the clutter and pick furniture that serves acts as a storage space as well :) the bathroom is very cramped but has a bath tub, neither of us take baths so we tucked all the things we very very rarely use in the tub and put a flat board cut to size over the top now we have room for a laundry hamper and to store vacuum cleaner etc

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