The SF Housing Action Coalition talked with Luke and Georgy about their compact Tenderloin apartment. Walkers, bicyclists, transit riders (and occasional car-sharers), they have lived together car-free in their downtown studio since 2010. Here are their tips and tricks for living in tiny spaces.
How did you two decide on a studio apartment?
Luke: This wasn’t the original plan. I’d lived in the apartment for a few years already when we decided to move in together. We assumed that we’d share this tiny studio for a few months, and we’d just take our time looking for a larger apartment.
Georgy: But by the time we were ready to move, rents were skyrocketing and a move didn’t make economic sense anymore. If we were to move now, we’d be paying 3-4 times as much for a tiny junior 1BR. It’s just not worth it.
What do you love about your living situation?
Georgy: We have great views out over downtown, and the light is fantastic any time of day. I love the way it feels in here. People say it’s “cozy”, but I tend to collect things, so this apartment has also been a great lesson in restraint. The space limitations require me to stay organized, and we are always dreaming up better ways to find efficiencies by design.
Luke: This building is great too. A classic SF Edwardian, 5 floors, 20 units, mostly studios just like this one. And a 0:1 parking ratio! Even after some recent turnover, most of the tenants still know each other. There’s a tiny cafe on the ground floor and an awesome parklet out front built with neighborhood support. Both occasionally serve as informal dining and living rooms for us.
What do you miss the most about a larger living space?
Luke: I thought I would miss all of my old “stuff”. Before I moved, I had to sell off a much-too-long sofa, a smoking hot mid-century dining table, a dozen chairs, and some awesome old floor lamps. But I haven’t missed those things at all. What I do miss is the luxury of having a spare room, like an office or a guest room. It’s hard to be hospitable with just a couple hundred square feet. When we have family or friends visit from out of town, I hate that we send them to a hotel.
Georgy: I miss having a large kitchen. This kitchen is serviceable and we use it for small stuff, but it’s not so fun to prepare a proper meal here. On the other hand, what we lack in space, I think we’ve made up for in our creative community. The cafe downstairs let me host a “pop-up” restaurant which lasted for several months this spring. They were closed on Mondays anyway, so in their off hours they allowed us to use their space to make my favorite meals for friends and neighbors.
5-steps in how others can make it happen
- Downsize: Before you move, get rid of everything you don’t absolutely love or need. This is by far the hardest step, but the most important one.
- Start small: Move in incrementally. Take time to find what works in your new space. If your old stuff doesn’t work, don’t force it. Get rid of it and find something more appropriate.
- The best furniture is a Transformer: Multi-functional furniture is your best friend. A bed that folds up to a sofa, a rolling table that slides open for storage, etc.
- Keep it clean: A small apartment can go from ‘clean’ to ‘cluttered’ to ‘hoarder’ surprisingly fast. Don’t let piles form on the floor (or anywhere). Always keep a few shelves free so you can temporarily accommodate unexpected arrivals.
- Remember the Law of Conservation of Small Spaces: Don’t bring in anything new without moving something else out. You can afford to be very thoughtful about what you choose to bring in.
Final insights on living in tiny spaces?
If you must share your tiny space, at least live with someone you get along with. Even after 3 years of living together in this space, we haven’t killed each other yet. Still going strong. Something about this is working.
Photo credit: Audrey Rotermund