Why is the idea of downsizing such a common daydream? Perhaps we equate paring down belongings and reducing domestic square footage with having a simpler, happier life. After all, being unencumbered by the unnecessary certainly sounds good.
That’s not to say that the decision to live with less is a simple one—it requires more than a fascination with so-called tiny-house movements or a sudden appreciation for transformable furnishings. Changing one’s lifestyle to accommodate a drastic reduction in livable space dictates a slew of compromises, and, often, an escalating series of challenges that are only revealed over time.
In the pages that follow, we share projects that explore many of the hurdles connected with smaller-space living which, for this issue, we define as under 1,000 square feet. It’s worth noting that we highlight stories of people at different stages in their lives, who are operating under a wide variety of circumstances: a young designer fresh out of architecture school who created a customized trailer in which to roam Colorado; a Manhattan-based couple building their own Berkshires weekend retreat; and an Australian duo who, looking to unplug from urban life, constructed an escape on the untamed island of Tasmania. Different budgets and different priorities, to be sure, yet similar woes related to storage and privacy unfold within each of these stories.
Experimentation is the key to success, and two stories in particular stand out as exercises in careful calibration. The first is our cover story—the tale of a diminutive Brooklyn outbuilding constructed from spare materials and spare weekends by a young architect just starting out. Less a full-time domicile and more a laboratory for material tinkering, the structure is an exhibition of thoughtful details and stripped-down elegance. The second story revolves around a father and son, both architects interested in building with affordability and sustainability in mind. The pair put their heads together to create not one but two off-the-grid family retreats in the woods of Wisconsin. The resulting designs, called EDGE and Nest, are case studies in efficiency (not to mention familial collaboration).
Speaking of family, don’t miss the tiny and imaginative Warsaw, Poland, apartment created for a young father and his six-year-old son. Playful ideas, from skateboard-inspired swings hanging from the ceiling to an entire dry-erase wall dedicated to sketches, complement clever design moves that enhance spatial dimensions while addressing acoustic issues. In Switzerland, designer Jonathan Tuckey lent his singular, sophisticated vision to his family’s bifurcated mountain chalet. Moody interior finishes enrich an unusual architectural program, resulting in a winsome space that’s both cozy and modern.
More standouts in the issue include a handsomely renovated kitchen in Boston that packs a wallop—in the form of elegant material choices and confident universal-design principles—into 90 square feet; a charming cottage in Rhode Island with a faceted cedar-clad exterior and a gracefully nuanced interior; a Manhattan designer’s own apartment where big-budget design theatrics manifest on a much smaller stage; and an airy, enticing home in Island Bay, New Zealand, that celebrates the region’s temperate environment as well as its inhabitants’ zest for living within non-traditional spaces.
After a lifetime of acquisition and consumption, having fewer items to maintain and less square footage to manage becomes a tantalizing proposition. We hope you’ll enjoy these stories about creative people using architecture and design to help them live smaller without sacrifice.
Amanda Dameron, Editor-in-Chief
Follow me on Twitter: @AmandaDameron