via I News : Live in a small home? There are plenty of benefits – here’s how to make the most of yours
Thanks to rising rents and overcrowded cities, more people are living in smaller places. Emily Jupp finds out how to make the most of petite properties.
When searching for a place to live, we quickly learn the real-estate lingo: for “cosy”, “quaint” and “bijou”, read cramped, poky and claustrophobic. But with the threat of rising rents, house price rises and increased population, a tiny bolthole carved out of someone else’s house or a mini-bedsit might be the only way for many young people to own a place of their own.
Mimi Zeiger is an architecture critic and columnist at architecture and design magazine Dezeen. Rather than wringing her hands, she sees the challenge of cramped cities as a an opportunity to explore new options.
“In cities like London and New York, where housing stock is in short supply and real estate prices and rents keep climbing higher, city governments have an opportunity to experiment with new housing types,” she says. “Adaptive reuse of existing buildings into small homes could also be a solution.”
One suggestion for unlocking space in our cities is to loosen planning rules for pre-existing property. According to a study carried out by crowdfunding platform Property Partner, 41 per cent of the lock-up garages owned by local authorities are currently empty, idle or in disrepair. If these were sold, they could potentially be converted into little homes – at least 16,000 of them.
“Living small but well is popular,” says Fiona Kirkwood, director at Kirkwood McCarthy, a London-based architecture and design studio. She is seeing increased requests for functional homes within a small footprint, “as pressures on our cities for more housing increase”.
Small homes mean small bills
Living in an old garage might not seem like the most enticing prospect, but elsewhere in the world, homeowners are making a virtue of cramped spaces with clever designs. Ryan Mitchell, who writes The Tiny Life blog, is based in North Carolina, where land is plentiful, and has fully embraced living in a tiny space. His home is the size of a garden shed but he is an evangelist of the cause.
“The day I moved into my tiny house, my bills went from around $2,000 (£1,600) a month to $15,” he tells me. “I had control over my finances, which meant I could shift employment to my terms. I started a business, to work the way I wanted and soon was earning a good living… all on my terms.”
Mark Burton, who runs tinyhouseuk.co.uk, is bringing the US trend to these shores. His Tardis-like Tiny Homes look like sheds from the outside, but on the inside they have all the features of a normal flat. “Tiny houses are a huge hit in the United States, Canada and Australia, and it’s gradually catching on here in the UK,” he writes on his blog.
Kirkwood’s first-ever project was on her own home. She came across a small dilapidated workshop in London’s East End and saw an opportunity to get a tiny place of her own. “My husband and I purchased an old workshop measuring only 3.7m by 12m and transformed this tiny strip of land into a three-storey, two-bedroom home,” she says.
Architects in the UK are increasingly being asked to design for small flats and mini houses, finding virtue in the tiny footprint.
Tristan Wigfall, director at architecture firm Alma-nac, was challenged to adapt a tiny house to accommodate four bedrooms. At just 2.3m wide, the Slim House is one of the narrowest in London. The property is at the side of a pub and used to be a covered alleyway where horses were left to feed.
Located in Clapham, the house demonstrates that less really can be more. It is packed full of clever storage, using every scrap of space. One nifty feature is a headboard at the end of one of the beds, which also opens up for storage. It’s at the lowest ceiling height, and makes use of what would otherwise be dead space.
“In a normal Victorian terrace, people have lofts where they shove their rubbish in, but in this instance we didn’t have that so we used every inch of awkward space for storage,” says Wigfall.
Clever storage does the work
Olga Alexeeva, of interior design firm Black & Milk Residential, has designed an apartment that is a tiny 25 sq m. She agrees storage is the key. “Storage is always an issue and it doesn’t matter how big your flat is – you never have enough of it!” she says. “We covered a wall with storage and then covered it with mirrors, so visually, it doubles the size of the room.”
Even though her place is half the size of a typical one-bed flat, Alexeeva refused to compromise on comfort, so all the furniture is full-size. The main room is a dining room, bedroom and living room. It has a desk hidden behind a cupboard and a bed that locks into the wall, plus a pull-out dining table that can fit up to eight people.
“The main idea of working with a small space is to make rooms multifunctional, so that you don’t compromise on your standard of living,” she says. “Usually these tiny places benefit from a central location, so you have that – but also you can have eight people to dine and have a big bed.”
Mitchell agrees that having a small space can also mean a more bespoke space, tailored to the individual: because of the limitations, you are forced to think about what you do and don’t need.
“I’ve never lived in a space that was so well-designed and suited to me,” he says. “It’s like a custom-tailored suit – it fits really well and it feels great to be in.”
Alexeeva loved her tiny bolthole. “For me, it is perfect,” she says. “As soon as you put the bed down, it is like a five-star hotel.”
So next time you read those estate agent listings, take a moment to consider whether that place called “cosy” really could be cosy – with a bit of work and imagination. It might not be for everyone, but whether you want a pied-a-terre or a pied-on-the-ladder, a tiny shoebox could be the solution.