400 Square Feet is the New Black

Last week, I wrote about my Housing Crisis – at the time of the post, my husband and I had four days to vacate our flat and no prospect of new accommodations.

Well, today I have some good news to report: I’m writing this post from our new apartment! With only hours to spare, we found a place, passed the reference check, and signed a lease. I still can’t believe that everything fell into place at the last minute.

What’s even more exciting: our new place will inspire us to continue to live minimally, and provide me with plenty of blog material. Why? It’s less than 400 square feet (390 to be exact).

In one year then, we’ve downsized from a 1000-square-foot 3-bedroom house, to an 800-square-foot 2-bedroom flat, to our current 390-square-foot 1-bedroom flat. Woo-hoo! I’m excited to explore the challenges of living in such a small space.

The wonderful thing is, it doesn’t feel small; in fact, it feels more spacious than some of the larger flats we looked at. The reason: it has white walls, ceilings over 10 feet tall, and enormous windows that take up the entire front wall of the flat. It’s amazing what a difference these features can make – the whole place seems so light and airy.

Here’s a few pics (one of the front windows, one of the open-plan kitchen in the corner of the living room):

newflat

Some of the challenges we’ll be facing (and I’ll certainly be writing about):

* the complete lack of storage space. This flat was a conversion, and has no built-in closets. We will have to fit all our stuff into three small wardrobes (I’ll take one, DH will take one, and the third will hold coats, shoes, tools, paperwork, luggage, iron, and all those miscellaneous household supplies that have to go somewhere).

* the tiny refrigerator. Having a small, dorm-sized fridge (with an itsy-bitsy freezer) will be wonderful inspiration to shop often and cook fresh. I plan to write more about our simple, healthy meals in the future.

* no parking. Last year, DH needed the car for work, and we found it convenient for exploring the English countryside. Since this flat does not include parking, we’re ready to go car-free! DH will commute by rail and foot (2 miles walking each day), and we’ll be relying on trains and buses to get out of the city and go on our weekend hikes.

So what’s the meaning of the title, “400 square feet is the new black”? Well, my good friend Tammy Strobel (Rowdy Kittens), her husband, and their 400-square-foot apartment were featured this week in a wonderful New York Times article on living a happy life with less. I’m thrilled to join the ranks of such inspiring, small-space dwellers, and hope to see a trend develop for mindful, “right-sized” living.

My husband and I haven’t lived in this small of a space since college, and we’re excited to come full circle (we always felt the 1000-square-foot house was much too big for us). Fortunately, our lack of stuff has enabled us to move into a lovely space in a great location (if we had more possessions, we’d probably still be looking).

I never expected to live in 400 square feet again, but I’m pretty confident we can make it work. How about you – how low could you go? Let me know in the Comments!

Related posts:

  1. Radical Downsizing
  2. My Tiny Apartment Tour: Minimalist Bedroom
  3. Inspiration: Minimalist NYC Apartment

130 comments to 400 Square Feet is the New Black

  • Christian

    Cool, congrats on getting an apartment!

    I live in a 400 sq ft apartment too, in Copenhagen, Denmark. I wouldn’t mind having a separate bedroom, but I can certainly live with it as is. :)

  • Joe

    I think it’s more to do with the configuration than size. The problem with British flats is, that they broken into very tiny, usually single bedrooms. Hence, if you need/want a bit more space, you need to look for 2 bed or more.

    I live in 3 bed at the moment in Surrey, but I’m planning to move to SW London next year and I’m in the process of downsizing and de-cluttering. Obviously I don’t need a 3 bed, but I had a lodger before, but came to a conclusion I don’t like to share my house really.

    I’m currently surveying the SW London flat market despite the move being so far away still, but that’s how I know what’s available and at what price when push comes to shove. I think 1 bed is really the minimum if you ever want to have friends visiting and staying overnight.

    Naturally I’d love a big loft apartment, but unfortunately they are few and far between in London, and even when available, many of them are hardly the lofts one would expect to find in centres of most US cities.

    In addition to the configuration of the space, the height is also an issue. If the flat has s high ceiling, it can be smaller, and in return flat with ceiling lower than normal needs to have more floorspace to compensate.

    Other factors that affect the spaciousness of the flat are a garden, terrace, balcony or even French balcony. Opening doors to outdoors increases the perception of the space quite a bit. If outdoor space is not available, big windows and a view with minimal obstructions has also an impact. If the view is overseeing a park or water, better. A view to a brick wall has the opposite effect. This is one of the reasons I’m looking for a flat close to Thames. I feel that despite the desire to live in the city, the river element lessens the effect of mild claustrophobia of living in a small flat in a city can have.

  • hi francine,

    yes,yes,yes. i love it. i love all the white walls, windows, beautiful flooring, small kitchen and small refrig. it proves that living minimally/simply can be so very beautiful. and i love that you are returning to your young adult years of few responsibilities. love it all!

    ~janet

  • Mia

    So happy to hear you’ve found a flat! I love your huge windows! :) And the white walls and high ceilings of course.

    Would love to hear about your experiences living in a 36 m2 flat (sorry I can’t think in sq ft :)). Also looking forward to your posts about simple meals as I’ve been working on this myself the past few weeks. We’ve tried some recipes from Jules Clancy’s free e-cookbook at thestonesoup.com but we still need more ideas for easy-to-prepare vegan meals.

  • Milly

    Congrats on the new place! I was wondering how you were getting along.
    I lived with my boyfriend in a place that small for several years when I was in grad school.
    It would be fun to try it out again someday.

    The pictures are lovely. I’m guessing you took them after you moved in! ;-)

  • I don’t know how low I (we) can go, but I’m on my way. Can’t see where it will lead :)

  • Kim

    What a beautiful space!!! (Once again proving that living light makes adapting to unforseen circumstances much easier).

    P.S. I loved the NY Times story and am so glad to see it has started a media buzz.

  • hestden

    SO COOL! I’m really looking forward to hearing about how you will modify, alter, and manage within this beautiful space. When I look at your pictures I see freedom, mindfulness, and creativity on the horizon. Keep going strong!

  • Thanks for the mention! You’re so sweet.

    I love this space! The windows are incredible. I’m so happy for you. :)

    Sending you hugs from Portland…

  • tess

    What an exciting adventure! Really looking forward to see the things you do with this lovely space!

  • ML

    You are an inspiration and we’ll be so lucky to follow your journey in this tiny home. For me, a larger freezer would be a money-saver as I only buy meats on sale.

  • I moved out of a 488-square-foot apartment in January and I’m now living in just 171-square-feet. The building has six other tiny apartments like mine and a shared kitchen/laundry area. Living this tight is forcing me to look at all my items and determine if I really need them. At some point I’ll move back into a studio with about 400 square feet of space, or maybe even a small houseboat. When I do make that move, however, I hope to do so with as little stuff as possible.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people in this city are suspicious of minimalists. They figure anyone who would live in such conditions is likely a criminal or troublemaker:
    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/thinking-small/Content?oid=1635067

  • Hi Francine,
    Congratulations on your new place!!! I so admire you!
    As soon as my lease is up in 6 months I am going to look for a 350-400 sq foot studio apt but I am just one person! I so respect you and your husband and Tammy and her husband for being able to do this. I love the wood floors, the big windows and the lovely white kitchen in your new space! I look forward to reading about your simple healthy meals and want to see more pics of your new place as you settle in!

  • I’ve lived in 400-600 square feet apartments for about 2 years

    Now that I’m in a hotel room, it’s 300 square feet, but still livable. I think it’s all in your head in terms of how much space you really need.

  • I’ve gone from a 1900 square foot apt, to 1200, and now living in a 750 1 bedroom. Next year I will be going on a 9 month bike tour in south america just living in a tent and hostels! This is far different than the 3 bedroom house I envisioned owning by my age and I couldn’t be more happier.

  • Jealous! I nearly broke down into tears last night with my husband over our house and how big it feels… all I kept saying was ‘I miss our little apartment’ over and over. :(

  • Wendy

    Congratulations on your new apartment! It looks beautiful! It’s so cool that everything worked out–whew!

    I just bought and read your book and I’ve been recommending to just about everyone I run across. My kitchen is decluttered now, and I credit your inspiring writing!

  • amiddl

    Congrats on your apartment! I lived in a 450 sq ft apt after downsizing from a 1250 sq ft condo. It took some getting used to but once I got organized, I actually liked having less to clean and take care of. You don’t know how little you actually need to exist. I’m not sure if I can do that car thing but…whatever works, work it!!!

  • I’m practically drooling over those pictures! I live in about 500 square feet (counting the bathroom), and I could probably do 300, maybe 250. I’d have to give up my bed and sleep on my futon, but I never have guests anyway. And the only other thing (aside from wall art and closet contents that can go elsewhere) in the room is a dog crate. Unfortunately, my place is as amall as apartments go in this area, smile. I’m sure your posts will give all of us great inspiration.

  • Julia

    Congratulations and welcome to your new home! I live in 513 square feet in Manchester city centre, but a quarter of that is corridor/hallway too narrow to use. I also have white walls, big windows and a high ceiling and it feels like a palace to me. I have never lived anywhere so wonderful. My kitchen is tiny – fewer cupboards than yours – but with the shops so near they are my store cupboards. I just shop whenever I need rather than storing lots of food/toiletries/whatever.

    Be happy and carry on enjoying your time in the UK – which is still wonderful in spite of the Dave’n'Nick show (the new UK coalition government)!

  • JLouise

    Congratulations on finding a new apartment I hope you and your husband will enjoy yourselves in this new home.

    I love the windows and would be appreciating the light they bring in during the winter, you’ll be able to not only look out but up as well and expand your world. Is that a small balcony?

    I lived in a 200 ft studio apartment as part of a house that had been broken up into 4 units. The space was perfectly enough for me at the time but I admit to liking a little more open space these days. When I lived in this studio I had a dorm-room refrigerator, a toaster oven and a two-spot hot plate. I just kept eating pretty simple and didn’t have a lot of spare food sitting around. It certainly was easy to keep clean.

    I’m living in a 1200 foot house now and really, it is way too much for me. I would love to sell and find something smaller but feel I have to stay put because the market is so stagnant right now. To keep my spirits up (and my plan to only have a few boxes to pack when I’m ready to go) I am continuing to let go of items and am happily awaiting my copy of “the joy of less” to encourage and cheer me on.

    Thanks for sharing the pictures and best wishes.

  • Absolutely LOVE your new space! I’m headed into a search for something small, getting rid of almost everything I own (I own way too much STUFF) and starting down the minimalist pathway. Thank you for being an inspiration!

  • Kathryn Fenner

    You have a lot of “borrowed space” with those great windows. I read that ceilings higher than 9′ are better for creativity, too. Way to go!

    I have been cooped up in a very small, badly-designed loft apartment for the past three weeks while my husband is doing research at a university. It’s awfully hot to go out after midmorning, and I don’t know anyone. The view is of a trashy back alley, and the sun pours in the windows int he afternoon so I have to pull the shades. I actually could live in half of this space if I had a decent view! I think the windows are what really matter.

  • carriekris

    Your apartment looks beautiful. My husband and I thought about buying a smaller townhome (1800 square feet) but we settled on a 3250 square foot home (I guess we aren’t minimalists yet and argue that we need our space since we are recently retired). I have ordered your book and hope that our home will be less cluttered than our current home.

    We lived in Kew Richmond (greater london) for six years without a car. We walked the entire Thames weekend by weekend by public transportation. In London, you can drive to your destination faster but then there is no place to park. Everything we did seemed to take a lot of time by public transportation but we were forced to be healthy! I always said walking to the tube was exercise and I read on the tube instead of on my couch. Now we are back in Houston where you need to drive everywhere.

    I look forward to your posts about your new lifestyle in <400 square feet.

  • Jessie

    All through college I lived in a 300 sq ft apartment that had been converted from a storage unit. I paid less than half the rent of any of my classmates ($250 a month! And this was 2004-2008!) and paid less utilities. At the time I was afraid of “needing” things so had a terrible hoarding problem, but eventually gave up everything I owned except two suitcases so I could move to Los Angeles. I could have never afforded to move all of my stuff across the country. I now live in a 480 sq ft studio, and it actually feel too big! I’m questing right now for a smaller apartment that is in a better location or a guest house with a yard.

    I think really the key is how the apartment is designed. My current apartment has an entryway and a huge kitchen that just waste space. My old, smaller apartment actually felt the same size because it had an open kitchen design and a walk in closet and bathroom that maximized the space.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • dianon

    well done!
    having always lived in studios i couldn’t imagine dh and i living any other way.
    my kitchen are is a room in itself, much smaller than yours, but i do have a full size fridge.
    hmm, an overhead light in your main area-very rare for some reason in studios-i’m jealous!

  • Red

    I love those windows! The kitchen is sleek-looking too. :)

    My husband and I live in a 460 square foot apartment right now. We’re not busting at the seams, but I will admit that we’d have to have storage space. Without it, our (really, his) junk would take over the apartment.

  • Chandra

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL place!!! Those windows would have sold me too!

    Would love to see more pics once you’ve settled in. :)

    I live in about 940 sq ft and there is WAY too much empty wasted space. I really wish I could convince my husband to downsize to 400-500 sq ft… Maybe someday.

    Been a fan of your site for a long time, keep up the great posts! ^_^-b (Thumbs Up)

  • Congratulations on finding such a cute apartment with hours to spare! Can’t wait to read more about how you fix it up and also about the simple meals.

    I live in a 900 s.f. apartment with high ceilings but it’s too much space for me. After reading your post, I am going to start planning to move to a smaller place when my lease is up in February.

  • Sarah

    OMG I luv this apartment! It’s gorgeous! I also luv the clean simple lines of the kitchen! How about laundry facilities? Seems like the perfect size for 2 minimalists! My family thinks I am insane in a 700 sq ft apt. (DINKs) I feel like I’ve accumulated alot of junk that I’d luv to get rid of and downsize! I look forward to reading about how much you have to move into the apt (ie. furniature, boxes, luggage…), how do you manage to move without a car… I luv living in a small space…when I travel it reminds me to not bring back a bunch of junky souveneirs!

  • Isabel

    Do I also detect no dishwasher? My small kitchen does not have room for a dishwasher, and I have managed just fine without one for a few years, with a husband and a toddler. I also refused to get a microwave, and have never missed it.

  • Anne

    Congratulations! I have to admit to feeling a bit jealous, but our family of six plus a dog wouldn’t be able to manage with such a small space. I’m working on minimizing as much as possible, and my husband and I have discussed how much we’ll downsize when it’s just the 2 of us again. It’s nice to have something to dream about.

  • Love the title of your post! So glad you have found a new living space, and it looks cute!

    Congrats on potentially going car free (I’m not that brave yet, but look to you for inspiration).

  • I love that instead of wanting more, all of these commenters want LESS! (me included)

    Your new space is beautiful. Congrats!

  • My husband and I have been living in about 440 square feet for about 6 months now and we love it! I think when you both have the same body clocks and interestes it makes living in a small space a breeze. We actually have been thinking about going into a studio. We live in a very expensive area and would love to save more money and yes, to shed more stuff. Congratulations on your small space it is very beautiful, Enjoy!

  • HK

    Way to go Francine! I’m so glad things worked out (I told you they would!) I love the new place; it is beautiful and I’ve love to have a place like that of my own.

    I’m excited to hear about the new cooking experience you’ll have (and please share recipes- I LOVE to cook), as well as hearing how you get all your “stuff” situated.

    Congrats again!

  • Just found your blog, and right now going minimalist is sounding like a great idea. I’m in the process of moving into a studio apartment and I’m going insane. You never know how much stuff you have until you have to cram it into boxes!

  • Oh my goodness I love your blog! Just found it through Simple Dollar and I’m officially hooked.

    I live in a small house with my husband (and soon to expand with a baby on the way in a couple weeks!) and I love it. Not only is it easy to manage but also refreshing to have less things.

    I always feel like we still have too much stuff but lately we’ve really been clearing out everything and it’s awesome.

    My only qualm is that it’s not super easy to entertain. I need to work on making our yard work more for us.

  • Shari

    Congratulations on finding a great new space! I am hoping to follow in your footsteps. I am thoroughly enjoying my endeavor to downsize our possessions and to inspire my DH, one item at a time, that we too can live with less and ultimately in a smaller space. All my best wishes on your new apartment!

  • I love your white wall, huge windows and all that counter space, and those cabinets. I thought my apartment was tiny, but I’d much rather have yours. our kitchen sucks b/c there isn’t much cabinet space or counter space, but it’s way bigger than yours. I wish it was designed better, and I wish we had less stuff filling it up. Awesome apartment!

  • Juliet

    I bought your decluttering book shortly after it became available and find it very inspiring! Your new apartment seems perfect for you and I hope you’ll be posting more pictures of it soon. I’d really love to see exactly how you organize the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom (inside cabinets, drawers, armoires). That seems nosey but it’s a key element in living in such a compact space. Best wishes on your new home!

  • I love your new place! It’s so light and airy and those windows are fabulous. NRP recently did a story on the Japanese Micro home that I think you would enjoy:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128953596

  • Michelle

    Fabulous news! I’m glad to see it all worked out.

    I have no idea how big my apartment is but there was some discussion about it being “a square” or not for the purposes of the mortgage… Hmm, will have to take a look. “A square” is traditionally 10 ft x 10 ft, but my place is bigger than that so maybe 10 x 10 metres square? But that sounds too big. Ugh, sorry about the rambling!

    I love your windows too, and I have to confess that when my current fridge dies I am going to get a tiny one.

  • Hello! So glad to find your blog! We are living in 308 square feet (a motorhome), but we’re still cheating. Our 720 square foot house is next door until we sell and wander around the Southwest.

    Your flat looks lovely and charming.

  • Jaime

    My girlfriend and I just moved from a 3-bedroom, 980 sq. ft. apartment (with two other roommates) into our own 1-bedroom, 432 sq. ft. apartment here in Minnesota. Since I recently whittled my belongings down to 70-odd items and my girlfriend isn’t big on possessions to begin with, the space is just perfect. :) (Here’s the layout for anyone interested: http://i35.tinypic.com/30jtnqt.jpg .)

  • Michelle

    Jaime, that’s a great layout!

    Ok, just obsessively measured my place – 440 ft? And (the shame!) I still haven’t followed Miss M’s fabulous plans in her book, so it’s cluttered. The best spin I can put on it is it makes a great “before” picture!

  • lisa

    Hi! I like your new place’s size. I don’t like white anything. I like color . The high ceilings are pretty , but would be a good source of high heating bills, so I would rather have lower ceilings. Over all it’s a pretty place& I like ity.

  • Meg

    That place was certainly worth waiting for! Windows, height, white, and sleek kitchen–simply perfect :)
    Congratulations and much happiness in the months ahead.

  • Esther

    After years of living large, now in a small 1 br. guest house with a dorm size mini-fridge. You’ll love having a small fridge – everything fresh and nothing wasted. Another benefit – my latest electric bill? $12!

    Congratulations on your extraordinary find.

  • Emerald

    I love what you are doing!

    I currently live in 240 square feet, with the DH and two wonderful dogs. It is a 33 ft motorhome, our little apartment on wheels.

    I grew up as a full time traveler, being home schooled and traveling all over North America with my parents. When we first moved into the 5th wheel, it was straight from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 3 car garage suburbanite home. While it took some adjustment, I would never trade the experiences that living in a smaller space afforded us.

    While not for everyone, to be sure, RVs can be a wonderful housing option, because they combine housing, furnishing, and in many cases your utilities (at least temporarily) in one neat, pre-engineered package.

    Good luck with the new place!

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