New Yorkers who love to lament tiny living spaces at astronomical prices need not apply
by COLIN BERTRAM / BLOOMBERG
Graham Hill is at it again. The eco-entrepreneur and founder of LifeEdited and TreeHugger became a guiding light for pared-down living with his 2011 “Less Stuff, More Happiness” TED Talk, now topping five million views, and a 420-sq-ft micro-apartment in Manhattan’s SoHo called LifeEdited1 (LE1). It generated headlines, think pieces, and no small amount of both awe and ire not just for its size, but also for its adaptability and functionality.
But he wasn’t done cutting back.
In 2014, he sold it for US$790,000 (RM3.21 million) and downsized from that comparably expansive property to an even more reduced-footprint 350-sq-ft apartment in the same prewar co-op building at 150 Sullivan Street. Dubbed LE2, the second iteration of his micro-living experiment hit the market recently, listed with Corcoran at an asking price of US$750,000.
“LE1 was amazing, but it was very much a white box, very modernist and clean,” Hill tells Bloomberg. “I liked it, but a lot of the female opinion was that it was a little cold.”
“So with LE2, I wanted to try something with a little more patina, a little more texture,” he says. “Hence, the felt wall, the velvet couch system, the herringbone wood flooring and the marble for the various counters.” Brass and walnut touches complete the luxe and tactile feel.
According to the listing, LE2 is a “prototype for apartments in future LifeEdited buildings”, allowing dwellers to “live a big, happy, smart, green and simplified life” in reduced square footage that functions like an apartment twice its size.
It can seat 10 for dinner, has adaptable sleeping quarters — the ability to provide additional arrangements for two guests — and was created to be extremely energy-efficient. The custom and standard furnishings throughout come as part of the list-price package.
Hill purchased the dwelling in 2010 for US$280,000, completing the gut renovation that features a Hufcor accordion wall to add more privacy, both visual and acoustic.
“We had a moving wall in the first apartment, but you don’t typically get a good acoustic seal,” he says. “These Hufcor accordion walls are great because each foot stores down to an inch. It’s very compact, so you have a wall that is 8 ft to 10 ft, and it stores down to eight inches to 10 inches in a little pocket in the cabinetry. This gives you a more defined secondary space. When it is used as a guest bedroom, there is that much more privacy.”
The fit-out also includes water-saving Kohler fixtures, a built-in Smeg oven and dishwasher, as well as security and environment monitors and controls from Nest and Blueair. The sixstorey walkup was built in 1900 and comprises 40 units, plus it has a flexible sublet policy in case Lilliputian-scale living proves too tight a fit.
But storage, assures Hill, will not be an issue. Having vacated the dwelling only seven weeks ago, he was surprised at “how much stuff” he’d accumulated. (Just remember, though: This is a guy who could make Marie Kondo weep.)
“It has a tremendous amount of storage,” he says. “The whole wall in the living room — minus the bed itself — but there is storage above it, and the other wall is all storage. There is storage in the kitchen and the corridor to the kitchen. And the office space has a big cabinet and then the storage couches. There is almost too much storage.”
Still, this is city living — New York living on Hong Kong scale. “It’s a smaller apartment, but it is by no means sacrificial. Plenty of room for everything,” adds Hill, who has expanded his building interests to also focus on accessory dwelling units, secondary small dwellings built on existing grounds adjacent to an original house.
Does living small actually engender tidiness?
Yes, according to Hill. “It at least allows you to feel tidy, which I think is important,” he says of LE2. “You can be a mess behind closed doors if you want. But it’s so small. If you set it up right, it is really easy to be clean and organised.”
“But listen,” he continues, “if you’re a messy person, you’re going to be messy no matter what size your living space.” — Bloomberg