Minimalist Confession: I’m an Empty Space Junkie

emptyspaceinterior(Photo: Stewart)

This week the New York Post ran an article about a couple that lives in the city’s smallest apartment. Their “microstudio” measures a wee 175 square feet—only 10 feet wide, and just under 15 feet long. The kitchen is equipped with a mini-fridge and hot plate, but the couple never cooks; they use their cupboards for clothes storage instead of pots and pans.

[See the photo gallery of the couple’s apartment here.]

Of course, such an extreme example of minimalism made me wonder if my husband and I could do the same. My first reaction was to laugh at the thought. But then I realized that this is exactly how we lived for six weeks last summer (see My Minimalist Story, Part 3: My Life in a Duffel Bag). Most of our hotel rooms were no larger than this, and we were perfectly comfortable.

Yet that begs the question…even though we could do it, would we want to?

And to that, I must answer: No.

Why not? Because I have a confession to make: I’m Miss Minimalist, and I’m an empty space junkie. I love empty space. Lots and lots and lots of it. The more, the better.

If you’d like to know what my dream home looks like, take a gander at this renovated cement factory. (Actually, I wouldn’t want the whole house, just the room with the blue carpet and white sofas–scroll down to see the pics.)

I know that many minimalists, and proponents of the voluntary simplicity movement, dream of tiny houses and cozy spaces. Do you know what I dream of? A living room the size of a gymnasium. With nothing but our mattress, two chairs, and coffee table—and tons of gorgeous, magnificent, empty space.

I look around at our 800 square foot apartment, and know it’s too big for the paltry amount of stuff we have in it. But if you offered me a 2000 square foot loft for the same rent, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

My empty space obsession isn’t new; I’ve been enamored with enormous rooms for as long as I can remember. When I was in college, I worked in a contemporary art gallery. Now I understand why I always felt so comfortable in that space. It wasn’t the cutting edge art to which I was attracted (as I thought at the time); it was the gallery space itself. High ceilings, white walls, more empty space than you could shake a stick at. And I particularly loved it between exhibitions, when the walls were completely blank.

In the UK, I’ve found a new way to feed my addiction: touring the majestic interiors of castles and estates. Last weekend, I visited Windsor Castle, which has some of the grandest rooms I’ve ever seen. Tragically, they were covered head to toe in paintings, tapestries, gold gilt decor, and furniture that looked as if it might come to life and attack (I have an irrational phobia of chairs and tables with animal feet). I couldn’t help but fantasize about how beautiful those rooms would look if they were stripped bare—and under what circumstances I might come to live in one.

I fear this disclosure may make me unpopular among other simple livers, as my penchant for oversized spaces seems antithetical to the movement’s values. But hey—we all have our quirks. And as of yet, I haven’t actually purchased a gigantic abandoned factory to renovate into a home (though I’m sure my husband fears that someday I might).

In reality, I try to live as lightly, simply, and “green-ly” as possible; I dream, however, on a much larger scale. So while I love a good tiny house site as much as the next person, I’m not really yearning for a pint-sized pad. Instead, I’m drooling over outsized lofts and warehouse conversions—and (no longer so secretly) plotting minimalist makeovers of certain royal palaces.

Related posts:

  1. Inspiration: Minimalist NYC Apartment
  2. Empty, White, and Beautiful
  3. Radical Downsizing

30 comments to Minimalist Confession: I’m an Empty Space Junkie

  • Meg

    I’m the same way. My house is a bit below average size-wise for the U.S., but I could live in much smaller. I just don’t want to. And my cats would HATE me if I moved us into a tiny house because they are NOT outdoor cats. They like their indoor space just as much as I do.

    It might be different if I spent more time outside the house, but I don’t. The weather here is hot and humid most of the year so I appreciate my climate controlled space.

  • Jessie

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to want to have big spaces. Obviously I can’t speak for all minimalists, but for me it is about reducing stuff which means I can have as much space as I want (within reason of course). I totally agree with you, I can’t think of anything more comfortable and relaxed than lying on a big soft chair with a good book in a huge empty room. Great post!

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by miss minimalist, m. e.. m. e. said: RT @missminimalist Minimalist confession: I'm an empty space junkie: http://bit.ly/5Ov7Zz #fb [...]

  • Michelle

    I totally agree with your sentiments about Windsor Castle – although I’ve never been there I visited the palace at Versailles and was *horrified* at how cluttered and over-decorated it was. Yeah, I know that was the style back then, but it was really claustrophobic.

  • Mia

    I love high ceilings too. My dream place is a loft, but if we can’t find one, maybe something like a renovated “old building” (or Altbau, as they’re called in German-speaking countries) would do as well. With white walls, white doors, white tiles, white furniture, white sheets and so on. :)

  • miss minimalist

    Meg, Jessie, Michelle and Mia, thanks for the great comments! So glad to hear I’m not alone in my love of empty space. :-)

    Those living stones are *very* cool–and would look fabulous in a big white loft!

  • Mia, I love those living stones!! Thank you for the link.

  • [...] Minimalist Confession: I’m an empty space junkie [...]

  • There are a lot of reasons to live in a tiny home. One of our main ones is that it will be 4 painful steps to the bathroom rather than 22 painful steps. And there just isn’t enough accessible, usable housing. You can see our commitment and struggles (we are moving into a 350 sf house) at http://www.accessahut.wordpress.com

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks, Deena–I will certainly check out your blog!

  • Mneiae

    I really admire their microstudio. It’s the size of my dorm room with an added bathroom and sink, which would explain the extra 20 sq ft or so. I would seriously consider living in a place like that long term, but not with 2 cats. I doubt that I could find a comparable place in anywhere but NYC or LA. Maybe DC, but that’s up for grabs.

  • miss minimalist

    Hi Mneiae! I get the feeling that these teeny places are few and far between (except maybe in Tokyo!). I think they’re a great option for city living, especially for singles and students.

  • [...] has a lot to do with aesthetics. Getting rid of stuff, means that there is less clutter and  more space, which in my view, is more aesthetically pleasing. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful [...]

  • [...] a previous post, I confessed my love of grand, empty spaces (Minimalist Confession: I’m an Empty Space Junkie). Unfortunately, while visiting European castles over the last few months, I’ve discovered [...]

  • You are not alone. My dream place to live is a big loft too, or a renovated barn would be nice too if I live in the country side…
    I’d like it with one side for painting, the other for living. Spare furniture, just lots of light and space. Yup, quite un-ecological and costly, especially up here, which is why we are currently living in 600 square feet, the three of us.

  • Annie

    Over the years I’ve pared down from an overflowing huge home to 500 square feet of living. I am on my last major jettisoning now. When I read about the love of open space that sang a song of freedom in my heart. I love seeing space in my closets, cabinets, cupboards, files. I have very few decorations in my home – enough to soften the feel of the place so it is a bit cozy. In fact, I keep most deco’s (very few) on a closet shelf and bring them out when I’m expecting guests. Saves me a lot of time between guests — no moving and dusting.
    I’m in praise of clean lines and open spaces. It is so peaceful to me.

  • susanna eve

    For me, the reasons for a smaller living space are: not paying for heating a larger space, not paying higher taxes (if you own the place) and also not having to spend a lot of time cleaning a bigger space. We currently live in a house that had an extension built on to it to give more room to our 5 children, 4 of whom were boys and who all shared one bedroom (2 sets of bunkbeds) until the oldest was 17. Now we are just 3 and are not using most of our big house. My daughter who is 13 is not comfortable having strangers live with us so renting out rooms on an ongoing or regular basis is not really an option although we have done this a couple of times on a very short term basis (3 weeks was the longest so far). We are currently paring down our belongings in anticipation of a move sometime in the next 5 years to a smaller space. I aspire to be a minimalist:) I am doing the 10 things a week challenge, I find that easier than the 1 a day.

  • karmin

    I started being a Minimalist when I saw a home decorating book that had lofts very similar to the one on the website you liked. I was hooked. Too much stuff overwhelms me. I watch the show Hoarders and totally freak out. I always have a box in my condo ready to put stuff into that will go to goodwill . I have gathered 5-6 items I have listed on ebay. I may have a few more items than you but I don’t travel that much. I believe that the only items that should be in your home are useful and beautiful. I would like to share a few photos of my bedroom and my sewing closet. My room only has a mattress and box springs and a plant in the corner. I have a long table that serves as a headboard (the kind you see behind a couch) that I put my lamp on and it also serves as storage (underneath the table) I put my alarm clock and few extra storage boxes there. I made the curtains and duvet cover.

    The sewing closet has a wooden TV table in there for the machine and the top shelves hold material and patterns and my serger and I have a thread holder that hangs on the wall behind my sewing machine. I also have a fold up stool to sit on. I also bought one of those clip on lights that clips to the top shelf. I have to use and extension cord but that is the only inconvenience. Let me know how I can post my pics so I can share. Thank you for the great website.

  • [...] Minimalist Confession: I’m an Empty Space Junkie: This week the New York Post ran an article about a couple that lives in the city’s smallest apartment. Their “microstudio” measures a wee 175 square feet—only 10 feet wide, and just under 15 feet long. The kitchen is equipped with a mini-fridge and hot plate, but the couple never cooks; they use their cupboards for clothes storage instead of pots and pans. Of course, such an extreme example of minimalism made me wonder if my husband and I could do the same… {read more} [...]

  • My first place was well under 400 sq feet. My son had his own room (a closet with his own tv), and I had a queen size bed with a 48″ TV.

    Not having to pay any bills, payed cash for the place, I was able to parlay that into the Mcmansion I’m living in now.

    There’s no question, being frugal has its rewards.

  • Maarten

    I totally agree with you (but am not sure about the 100% white, that is the color scheme of mental institutions over here).
    Check this out: an episode of the TV-series Grand Designs:
    The Chesterfield Water Works Plant conversion.

    http://www.channel4.com/4homes/on-tv/grand-designs/episode-guides/chesterfield-the-water-works-08-06-11_p_1.html

    Now, that’s a place I would like to call my home!

    I used to live in a 2-room, 250sqft (28m2) appartment and am now sharing a 3-room, 576 sqft (64m2) appartment with my wife.
    I really like the houses that Jay Shafer designs (www.tumbleweedhouses.com), but we both are 6ft3 tall and we -like you- enjoy the large spaces that converted factories offer.

    Maarten
    (the Netherlands)

  • Just so you know, I lived in a house of over 2000 sq feet recently (we just relocated) and barely had anything in it! It was glorious! The oversized rooms and ceilings and halls and closets were all perfectly beautiful without even a single picture hanging and hardly any belongings or furniture (we don’t even own dressers!). :) You would have been in love. Oh how I miss it so! <3 (Oh, but I will admit that we have a large couch that made it even more wonderful. ;))

  • Julie

    We have a five year plan to get out of our mortgage (and 1600 sq. ft. house) and into an RV and be location independent.

    I am NOT into tiny living though (it’s too claustrophobic)…so we are researching fifth wheels and toyhaulers with popouts that have lots of windows and a floor plan that has most of the built in stuff around the edges (so that I still get a nice open area in the middle of the main room in any case)!!

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks for all your wonderful comments!

    @Maarten, that house is spectacular — thanks so much for the link!

  • clm

    The renovated cement factory is lovely! After looking a bit closer at some of the photos, I don’t think they are truly minimalist. The have a normal amount of stuff (plus a lot of seating and a huge piano); they just happen to live in an old factory(huge) and therefore have more space than most people could ever fill.

    I do love the factory. I’m not a minimalist, but I can get on board with the space junky!

  • Kristina

    My jaw is dropping at the notion of spending $150,000 to live in a closet and store half of your wardrobe at the dry cleaners. I can see renting a space like that for a while, but owning? It would drive me crazy not being able to wash my clothes or make anything decent to eat at home–to say nothing of having to cook next to a litterbox. Ugh.

  • [...] has a lot to do with aesthetics. Getting rid of stuff, means that there is less clutter and  more space, which in my view, is more aesthetically pleasing. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful [...]

  • I love these comments about being a space junkie…finally, I have a definition for my philosophy for living. I know I am a minimalist. I abhor clutter. I just came to the realization that I am a space junkie. I love space….between every object in my house, in my closet in my kitchen cabinets. I feel so free when I am getting rid of stuff. Other people don’t understand my obsession with living with fewer possessions. I only wish I had to courage to live exactly as I would prefer. Thanks to all of you for expressing just what I am feeling.

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