December 24, 2012

"See? You can be messy on the inside, and no one knows."

Step inside a 400-square-foot apartment space, transformed by elaborate built-ins:



The quote I've used for the post title appears about midway and marks the spot where my mood began to shift from delight to despair. What do we think of this man, who is promoting what seems to be a simplified, de-cluttered way of life, but who is, himself, in a business, promoting expensive merchandise, the machinery of compression. Do we want to be compressed thusly? It's one thing to live like this on board a cruise ship, but permanently? For a certain type of person — perhaps this man, or the man he pretends to be — it's a fine, joyful existence. Would he ever really have a dinner party for 10 in this space, as we see enacted at the end? It's not a real party, because it's an on-camera demonstration of the space. Watch closely and notice how the women are responding. There is something they do not love, and it is visible even in this crisply edited production. I felt empathy with these women and resistance to the man's sales pitch. And I remembered the gutted space shown at the beginning of the video, and thought that I could be happy, living in SoHo, in that 400-square-foot space as it looks right then. Just do the kitchen and the bathroom, nice and modern and constrained into a modest space, and let me put in some normal furniture — a good-sized table near the window for my work and eating space (that can be cleared off if anyone needs to come over for dinner) and I'll order a sleeper sofa from Design Within Reach. Spare me all those insane, ever-encroaching built-ins, and those crazy pop-up extra beds for guests. Guests to the city can get a hotel room or sleep on the floor or I'll add sleeper chair. By the end of the video, I felt paranoid that the government had a plan to shift us into smaller and smaller pods with evil corporations getting rich fitting them out with soul crushing storage bins. Mayor Bloomberg! Who fixed your ducts? Huh? Fixed your ducts, all right. I told you before - they fixed themselves. Oh, yeah? Then where did this come from, eh? Out of your nostril? Eh? Nostrils, eh? Central Services. They don't take kindly to sabotage. Sabotage, huh? Jesus, this place is in a terrible state. Just a minute! You're not gonna leave it like this, are you? Why not? All you gotta do is blow your nose and it's fixed, innit?

33 comments:

traditionalguy said...

The pop culture of Jail Cells carries an ambivalent message to me.

Having armed guards at the entry/exits and sign-ins also feels ambivalent.

Pogo said...

The Art of Sefdom, the new national magazine.

Subscription mandatory.

m stone said...

Agreed, Ann. Manipulative living.

Joe said...

Things like this last about a week until the occupant realizes that to change the room takes longer and longer as they have to move everything into the hallway and back again.

Then comes the day that something gets caught in the rollers and all the pushing and pulling and swearing don't help.

Of course, the millionaire politicians, who very likely live in spaces far exceeding what they need, will applaud this as a great innovation, as they do with everything that doesn't include them.

Irene said...

When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, one of the first things the administrators did was set a number for how many square feet of living space a person could have. That number was roughly 300 squRe feet. As a result, four Red Army families moved ino my Mom's single- family home.

The next thing they did was to apply a similar "need"-based rule to savings accounts.

Lem said...

All that pulling and pushing is not lazy.

To boldly lie like that you need to be in sales.

YoungHegelian said...

At least the Catholic Church asks you to take a vow of poverty, and then gives you years to mull over the wisdom of that choice before having one take final vows.

I rather doubt that many of our would-be future overlords are going to be loosey-goosey about that vow of obedience, either.

We probably will be able to keep some semblance of our sex lives, however. At least what we can manage with no space & privacy.

wyo sis said...

If this floats your boat go for it. I know people who would love to live like this. On the other hand, many/most people want more space and they want to be able to leave things out sometimes.
I admire the ingenuity, but I don't want to live that way.
It's telling that we see this and assume the time will come when this kind of living will be mandated. It shows just how much we expect government to direct our lives. Instead of celebrating innovation we have the instinctive feeling it's more of a warning of what we will be forced into in the future.

EDH said...

And I remembered the gutted space shown at the beginning of the video, and thought that I could be happy, living in SoHo, in that 400-square-foot space as it looks right then.

You knew the transformation was totally cool because that's when you heard the jazz bass start playing in the background.

Yet, I kind of liked it. I thought of it as a transition domicile for younger singles or a way of having a place in the city but also being able to afford a bigger place outside the city.

I could see that as a good base for that kind of lifestyle transition over time.

Joan said...

My brother & his wife had a studio apartment in the North End in Boston. (They still live there, but they were able to buy more space and make it into a 1-bedroom.) I'd say their place is not much bigger than this one, and they've been there for nearly 25 years. For most of that time they've had a full size grand piano (about 7 and a half feet, I think -- not a "baby" grand, but not a concert grand, either). Up until their expansion, they had a Murphy bed and a sliding wall. They have lots of built-in storage. My kids love visiting their place. It seems like magic.

In this video, it seems obvious that the guy hasn't lived there very long or doesn't live there full-time. My flash plug-in crashed before the actually dinner party, but I can see that it theoretically could work. I've been at great parties at my brother's place. They also have a gate-leg table for nearly-instant seating.

Some things you wouldn't want to have to do every day, but making the bed isn't that big a deal. The built-ins just make sense, and that expanding table is pretty awesome. I guess that guy doesn't mind living in an art-free space -- that would be hard for me. No paintings or photographs up anywhere? That's what makes the place look un-lived in, and my brother & his wife solved by figuring out how to put art up on all those cabinet doors.

Lem said...

Living in a phone booth will all hinge on a service contract.

iCare

AprilApple said...

My initial response -- I am impressed with the thorough details that make such a tiny space usable. Yes, a small space like that is claustrophobic and no matter how clever and thoughtful the space-planning, 400 sq feet it is still claustrophobic.
I agree with you Ann, If I had to live there, I'd use the 400 sq ft size as an excuse to NOT encourage stay-the-night visitors. Get a hotel room, please.

AprilApple said...

Option 2: Save money with the human sized drawers.
(think Seinfeld episode)
You can house up to 12 of your friends!

Lem said...

OMG

Its an Apple store.

Lem said...

store storage...

john said...

Would the hard part be having in live in 400 sq ft or having to live in proximity to Mr Slacker/Sales who runs "virtual companies" from his bedroom?

john said...

Do virtual companies make virtual profits?

jr565 said...

Ugh, and I bet they're paying good money for that 400 square foot closet.
I hate living in NYC.

FleetUSA said...

Irene encapsulated my thoughts exactly.

I didn't hear about a washer or dryer.

When all the storage spaces are filled it might get more difficult to shift walls.

Lastly, it is obvious he isn't married...for a good reason.

Rabel said...

The toilet.

Unless he has a fold down wall for elbow room, front entry cleaning would be required. Maybe New York hipsters don't have to wipe their bottoms since they seem to think that their shit don't stink. Or maybe that's what the composter is for. Just skip the toilet and use the composter. It has elbow room.


And sporks. If we all just convert to sporks, the world will be a better place.

Phil 3:14 said...

Its a good thing the mayor outlawed Big Gulps.

Lewke said...

A big issue with that arrangement is that you can't really hang anything on the walls since they all double as storage or have to allow for a wall to slide pass them. That and his color scheme is bleh.

It does give me a few ideas for storage in my office though since I like having a large open space.

rehajm said...

You're young and have a shitty job because the state keeps getting in the way of the 'good' job creators. So the state would prefer you just lower your expectations a bit (or preferably, a bunch). Hey! remember as a kid when you built that cool fort under the crawl space beneath the stairs? You had a place for everything! What if you could recreate that feeling.... as a 'grown up'!?..

Meanwhile, the young women in your life are trying you on for size...and you are several sizes too small. They are looking at your fort house and see no place for their things...like their future. They do not approve of your fort...

EDH said...

john said...
Do virtual companies make virtual profits?

We need to overturn Citizens United so that they're no longer virtual persons!

Paco Wové said...

I wonder if the original inspiration came from this guy.

jimbino said...

I loved his project. Those who are criticizing him must have no concept of traveling throughout Europe or South America living in a VW Van, no concept of affordable housing that much of the world needs, and no architectural design or home construction experience.

If nothing else, it is a "proof of concept" project. The argument about expensive materials is bogus. Every engineering prototype costs a fortune, including telescopes, airplanes, cars, light bulbs and cameras.

I'm glad the critics here are the type who don't know how to use a compass and square. I'm about to design and build chalets of about that size for my property in Rio de Janeiro, though I might put in community showers and laundry room. Remind me not to invite any imagination-challenged types to stay during the World Cup of 2014 or the Olympics of 2016.

jeff said...

Jimbino, there is a huge difference between spending a couple weeks in a space like that and living full time in that space. It looks pretty cool if you're just starting out or don't have much. I seriously doubt it's cheap considering where it is.

jimbino said...

That's right Jeff: I like the whole idea of continuing to just start out and not having much.

Dante said...

If it's good enough for workers, certainly it is good enough for those on welfare.

Think of it. Packing all those people together will mean it will be easier to enforce the laws. Medical care can arrive more quickly.

Oh, tried that in the projects. Didn't work out to well. Then the answer became spread the cancer around with low income housing.

I wonder what the next great idea will be?

MarkD said...

I'll bounce around in my 2000 square feet plus basement and garage, thank you. My rented house in Japan was larger.

There has to be something in NYC that gets people to do this to themselves. I believe I'm immune.

KJE said...

I've had a fairly standard sized home and a smaller apartment. I've found charm in both. However, I do find the tiny house movement to be very interesting. It's not something I could do with my 6 year old, he needs more room, but I think it would be really interesting to try out for a week or two, to see what is, and what isn't important to you in terms of possessions. Additionally, I'd like to see what I'd do with my free time, the time I don't spend maintaining a residence, because there is so little to have to tidy or keep clean.

KJE said...

http://tinyhouseblog.com/

Matt Dart said...

I have seen small spaces turned into a full fledged apartments on TV and online. I like it that the designer and architect are both able to maximize the space and that are able to have ample storage for household items. I am just amazed on the kind of thought and planning process on what the living space should be.