Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Small space living in California

I came across this YouTube video of a 160 sq. ft. apartment prototype on the Apartment Therapy website a little while ago, and I thought it was brilliant!

As someone living in a small space right now (215 sq. ft.), I can’t imagine living in 160 sq. ft. But you know what? The apartment totally works. And the space is presented much better than the apartment that we’re living in right now, creating more usable space and functionality. 160 sq. ft. is the smallest apartment size allowed by California code, and the developer (Patrick Kennedy) was inspired by living in a 78 sq. ft. Airstream with his family for a period of time, which I think is really cool.

Here are the features that I loved most:

  • ‘Smart bench’ where the centre lifts up and transforms into a dining banquette. When lowered, it can act as additional seating or a guest bed.
  • Couch that transforms into a very comfortable looking queen sized bed.
  • Kitchen appliances are in a closet, away from sight.
  • Luggage storage

I personally could see myself living in a space like with my boyfriend that as a temporary solution (like I’m doing now), or maybe longer-term as a single person. But not as a permanent place to live. I think the perfect size place for 2 people to live comfortably is between 600-800 sq. ft.

Could you live in that apartment?

[youtube Uwz0xewTS0I 560 315]

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Savvy Scot says:

    No way! I just couldn’t do it. Im too big at 6ft 4 and I like to have enough room to have guests over!

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Haha well I’m 5’2″ so I can see how such a small space could affect us so differently. :) My ex-BF was 6’7″ and everywhere he went felt cramped to him. This apartment would definitely not be that comfortable in the long-term for anyone over 6 ft. tall!

  2. Jeffrey says:

    I think he nails it in the video with the comment about your life existing primarily outside your living space.

    It’s true: you don’t need such a large space if you’re really just using the space to sleep and cook a few meals. I can see that being the case in a city like New York or San Francisco.

    78 sq ft is a little extreme (especially for multiple people!) but it can make sense.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Totally agree with you – if you spend most of your time outside, it really doesn’t matter much how big your indoor living space is. Right now, I’m completely comfortable in our 215 sq. ft. apartment because we’re rarely ever home! :) I would definitely trade space for the big city experience of NYC – just as long as it was a temporary solution. I couldn’t imagine actually purchasing a home that was less than 500 sq. ft.

  3. Modest Money says:

    I think I’d go crazy in such a small apartment. I’m pretty tall too and I just need some space to stretch out and walk around. It would really only work for someone who spends minimal time there. Even then, the space constraints would just be too inconvenient. When I look at apartments, if it’s below about 550 square feet I don’t really take it seriously.

  4. Frugal Fries says:

    Did you ever read Felice Cohen’s story? She lives in a 90sq ft. home in Manhattan. She pays ~$700 rent per month, while her neighbours are shelling out close to $3000.

    I am a minimalist, but even I am struggling with the 700 sq ft place I have now. I think mainly because I am in a suburb just outside of Toronto, so I don’t even get the benefit of living in the city.

    I could totally shrink my lifestyle if it meant I was in the heart of somewhere great and happening.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I live in the suburbs in Vancouver, and have a 680 sq. ft. apartment. It’s too big for me right now, but I think it’s the perfect size for 2 people. And I totally agree that I would shrink my lifestyle if it meant living in the heart of a big city. I’d do it for NYC definitely… and if I ever end up moving to Toronto.

  5. Renee says:

    I think that is the new trendy thing— to live in a small space. It goes along with the whole minimalist movement. The smallest place I’ve had is a two bedroom house for my husband and I, two kids, and three dogs :) It wasn’t bad, but when we got pregnant with our third child we *had* to upgrade.

  6. I think this is perfect!
    I would have to pair it with a cheap storage unit though as I do have a lot of big items that I need on a regular basis. It would also force me to clean up after myself on a regular basis. Right now I could totally forgot about a mess I made because I only go into certain rooms once every few days. Its pretty bad.

  7. Marianne says:

    I love the idea of small space living but am not sure if I could actually do it. Our current home feels perfect for just the three of us (1200 sq. ft.) but it is cramped now that we have a fourth person temporarily living with us. We do at least have the added benefit of an unfinished basement and attic for storage.

  8. Michelle says:

    I love how efficiently the space is being used, but I don’t think I could do it. I live in the Midwest, so I’m used to big houses. And I have 2 dogs, so a small space would be miserable.

  9. This type of apartment should certainly help the budget because you can’t fill it with much “stuff.” You would have to think carefully about every purchase.

    I liked the overall design and all of the smart features, but the shower as part of the bathroom grosses me out. I have used those when abroad, and I just don’t care for them.

  10. Wow. I am a fan of small spaces (mostly because I hate cleaning), but this about 200 sq. ft. too small for me. Unless it’s free and it’s for a limited time… I think I’d be way too claustrophic in there. Have you seen the tiny Manhattan apartment in the news a while back? I think it’s under 100 sq. ft.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Yes, I did see that Manhattan apartment. Now that I absolutely couldn’t do. Especially because he didn’t even have a washroom/shower in his place, and no stove! I mean, we don’t have an oven on the apartment we live in right now, but at least we have two burners. I think the guy in that Manhattan apartment just used a microwave!

  11. I would absolutely love to live in a small place like that. And I *love* that quote by da Vinci… I’m going to have to remember that one.

  12. Bridget says:

    ok I LOVE that place. The smart bench is awesome!!!

  13. Vicky says:

    I’m in a condo around 700 sq ft and I know what you mean when you say it feels a bit big just for one person! I do love the design and functionality of everything though. But ditto on the shower/bathroom thing; it will be interesting to see what they do in the 2.0 version!

  14. It’s not the space that matters – it’s what you do with it. I’m inspired by these teeny tiny places!

  15. Linney says:

    Great how poor people have banded together! Makes each other feel better about themselves!

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Hey Lin/Cyril/Tiffany – whoever you are. Don’t you think it’s kind of pathetic not only to troll on someone’s blog, but to also use multiple e-mail addresses and user names while registering under the same IP address? Grow up and do something productive with your life.

  16. money tips says:

    I’ve always thought I don’t need much living space but this place makes me rethink what ‘much’ is! The most surprising is that such a small place is LEGAL – I doubt anybody but a dwarf can feel comfortably in it.

  17. Melissa says:

    Wow that smart bench is a nifty idea!

    It’s interesting to read other peoples comments about 600-700 sq feet being a bit too large for one person. I have just put a deposit on a 540 sq foot one bedroom apartment and I think it’ll be a great size for me (with a balcony the total comes to about 650). My family thinks otherwise but hey, like Jeffrey said, I’m not going to be spending all of my time inside my apartment anyway. The area is just outside downtown and within walking distance to a ton of places.

    As for that 160 sq. foot apartment, I think it’s a great concept to effectively make use of your space. It helps you come up with great ideas to save room and helps with controlling clutter – since there won’t be much room to keep it. =P

  18. Courtney says:

    I think it would be a great design for a dorm. I’ts about the same size as your standard dorm room anyway, but it’s a more efficient use of the space.

  19. Two thoughts:
    – It is made to look bigger, by having large windows to open space with nice views.
    – I need to see where Patrick’s family lives.

    The other thought that in spite below ground level standards, it will not be cheap. As soon as it got accepted by the public, they start selling it for $100,000 plus….

    Now you acquainted with “european living standards”, I think I can live in 600 sq.ft apartment with two us, but than I still want to have a nice garden around me. If you work from home 600 is not enough.

  20. ecogreen4us says:

    I think for students, the apartment is more than enough. For couple without kids also is good.

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