I Lived in a 280-Square-Foot Apartment for a Year—This Is What I Learned

Gabrielle Savoie

"Let's get real," I challenged my real estate broker as I was moving out of my first New York apartment. "How big is this place, really?" When I settled in a year prior, the square footage of my apartment was never advertised in the real estate listing, and the last agent kept it vague. But since my apartment was being put on the market for an absurdly high price, I knew this broker had to have the exact square footage.

I initially had estimated it no bigger than 350 square feet—just big enough for one bright-eyed Canadian moving to New York to feel at home in one of the world's most expensive cities. "How big?" I asked again. He flinched: "280 square feet." Was that even legal? I had flashbacks of reading an article about people living in cages in Chinatown—below the legal space requirement.

A 280-square-foot apartment isn't exactly what you'd write down your list of prerequisites when looking for housing—but despite my initial aversion to the space, I somehow grew to love this glorified hotel room so much that I tried really hard not to move out when my building decided to sell. Somewhere along the way, I had become attached to my tiny studio apartment—or, as the realtors called it: "a beautifully renovated pre-war corner penthouse." Ha.

My love affair with this tiny space wasn't love at first sight. If a relationship takes work, this one felt more like a 30-year marriage. But with a jigsaw puzzle of small-space solutions, Marie Kondo–style editing, and ruthless design decisions, I learned to love living in a tiny space. If you're pondering a downsizing, looking for tips to make your own small space work, or looking to live a little more sustainable, here's how you, too, can learn to love living in a tiny space. 

Next up: Designers never use these bright colors in small spaces—here's why.

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