While most people dream of having more space and complain about being overwhelmed by clutter, one Brooklyn couple has found a way to live comfortably in just 240 square feet -- a space smaller than a one-car garage.
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Writer and photographer Erin Boyle, 28, and her fiance, biologist James Casey, 30, share a 240-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn Heights, which they described to the New York Post as "dungeon-esque."
"Our last apartment was in Providence, Rhode Island," Boyle told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. "It was probably around 1,000 square feet, though I admit, I never took a tape measure to it."
They moved to Brooklyn in June 2011, and their main living space -- which includes their kitchen, dining table, and living room -- is a mere 140 square feet. The $1,500-a-month studio also has tiny bathroom off to one side, a 4-square-foot closet in the hallway, and a sleeping loft built over the kitchen; a curtained-off closet is tucked beneath the steep staircase to the 10-by-6-and-a-half-foot loft, which is barely big enough for a double bed and a single dresser and impossible to stand upright in.
"I grew up in an 18th-century Connecticut farmhouse and James grew up in Western New York," Boyle says. "James and I have always lived in apartments, so apartment living wasn't anything new, but having only 240 square feet is!"
The couple had to get rid of a few things before moving in, Boyle confesses, but they're creative about finding ways to store what they still have, and they are very careful about curating what they keep. "I say the rule of thumb is to only accumulate things that you really love," she says. "James and I think really carefully before buying new things. We save our pennies for special and handcrafted products that we know we'll want forever. We've also had incredibly good luck buying things like furniture on Craigslist and we've always been pretty good about giving something away if we find something new that's a better fit. It's definitely more important to us to have a space that feels livable than to be surrounded by lots of stuff!"
The result is that their little place is clean, bright, and comfortable -- and there's still plenty of room for guests. "One afternoon, we had cousins in town and there were eight of us in the apartment," Boyle says. "It was cozy, but workable!"
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Despite the small size, the apartment offers a few great perks. "I love the hours in the afternoon when the sun shines in," Boyle says. "And I really love the neighborhood it's in. Walks in Brooklyn Bridge Park are a near nightly habit for us, and it'd be super tough to leave that ritual behind."
On her blog, Reading My Tea Leaves, Boyle has an ongoing series of tips for living in a tiny apartment. Here are 10 ways to make the most of a small space:
1. Hide your clutter. "In a tiny apartment, an errant hair elastic can feel like it's encroaching on your living space," Boyle points out on her blog. "In our case, a simple wine crate tucked under the couch does the trick to keep the peace. No one needs to see the pile of papers tucked messily within."
2. Go small. A little green can go a long way toward making a home feel fresh and lively, and tiny plants in tiny pots are a great way to do it. Also: Seek out smaller versions of things you use often -- like dish-drying racks, bath mats, and other necessities -- so you can leave them out in the open (and, if they're pretty, they can be decorative as well).
3. Be creative about storage. Investing in furniture that doubles as storage is smart, no matter what size your living space. But when it comes to extra-big or extra-bulky items, you really have to think outside the box. When Casey wanted to keep his surfboard in the apartment, the couple stashed it in the bathtub for a while ("It's made to withstand water, right?" Boyle quips) before deciding to prop it artfully in a corner of the living room.
4. Buy beautiful versions of everyday items. "In a tiny apartment with limited space, the beauty and utility of even everyday cleaning supplies is important," Boyle points out. Added bonus: They're often sturdier and longer-lasting that their flimsy plastic counterparts.
5. Be selective about art. Boyle has hung pretty antique bottles filled dried flowers off the edge of their sleeping loft in order to liven up a difficult-to-decorate space. Consider taking out only a few gorgeous pictures at a time and rotating your display to keep things interesting.
6. Cut back on garbage. Reducing, reusing, and recycling is a must in small spaces, but those who feel really green can take things a step further by composting. Some cities offer composting services or community gardens that can put your food-related scraps to good use.
7. Keep the windows clean. Boyle and Casey have just two windows in their tiny apartment. One is in a hard-to-see spot in the bathroom, but the other is right in the living area, and .keeping the window sparklingly clean turns it into a focal point for the room. The couple also chose not to block off part of the window with an air-conditioning unit, instead relying on a small, retro-looking fan to get through the hot summer months.
8. Put things away right away. A sink full of dishes or a still-not-unpacked suitcase can make any home look cluttered, but when your home is tiny those things also take up precious space.
9. Limit what you buy. Instead of stocking up at a warehouse store, make your purchases in the bulk-food (that is, non pre-packaged) section of your local grocery store, or remove products from their packaging and pour them into pretty, reusable containers at home. In the bathroom, streamline your beauty routine to just the products you use and love most, and then use them up completely before you buy more.
10. Make the city part of your living space. "Apartments are small. Summers are hot," Boyle writes on her blog. "Don't feel the need to stay cramped inside." She says that she and Casey picnic in public parks and have weekend lunches on the church steps across the street. "We like our tiny apartment," she writes. "But we're not crazy."
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