I recently sat downwith
designer Tommy Smythe, whose 180-square-foot apartment is
featured on page 148 of this issue, with the intention of finding the
real story behind living in a space no bigger than some closets.
I prodded and pulled and peppered him with candid questions.
Don’t you ever get sick of looking at the same four walls? What if you
see something you love and want to buy it? What if you get the urge
to have a party (for more than two)?
Perhaps if I had done the interview over cocktails I would have
gotten more dirt, but the fact is he never once cracked. He loves his
little pied-à-terre and practically had me wanting to downsize by
the end! The best I could do was get his top five survival techniques
for living well in a little space:
1. Find a great storage facility. This is definitely key to Tommy’s
survival. It needs to be close to your home, have 24-hour access and be well-lit, clean, dry, climate-controlled and big enough. His costs $250 per month
and he factors that into his rental budget. This kind of organized and easily
accessible storage allows him to change things in his apartment (and wardrobe)
seasonally, rotate favourite items like books and dishes on a regular basis, and
hold onto pieces that he loves for when he buys his next house. The only thing
he doesn’t let himself do at the moment is accumulate large pieces of furniture.
2. Buy things you love and store them for the future. Once
again, the storage unit is essential. Tommy knows that one day he will move
on to a larger space, so he told me he doesn’t deprive himself of something
20 H&H SEPTEMBER ’07
he loves or needs to have, particularly in the
areas of art and books, because of his
temporary living arrangement. That takes a
lot of stress off his purchases and will allow
him to furnish a larger space with items
3. Be realistic about furniture. One
or two large-scale pieces will anchor a small
space, but Tommy has found that any more
than that will make it appear crowded and
awkward. Look for fine pieces with good
lines that will sit neatly and can work double-or triple-duty.
4. Invest in small luxuries. Tommy
allowed himself to purchase a beautiful
Cartier alarm clock for his bedside table
(which doubles as a writing desk and dining
table), some Kate Spade dinnerware and
Ralph Lauren crystal. He doesn’t need too
many pieces for this small space and he can
always add to them when he moves. It makes
the space feel special — like living in a luxury
hotel — and he’ll have them forever.
5. Learn to be a great guest and a
different kind of host. When he lived in a
house, Tommy threw parties a few times a
month. That isn’t in the cards with this
apartment, so he’s taking a breather from
hosting and instead is focusing on “learning the
art of being a good guest.” He enjoys picking
out fun hostess gifts and the perfect bottle of
wine for friends or just having a few people
over for a glass of wine before taking them out
to a restaurant for dinner when it’s his turn to
host. Sounds like fun to me!
Tommy is a walking testament to
living well in a small space. The last
thing he said to me was, “I feel as happy
living in 180 square feet as I did in my
five-bedroom house. Just for different
reasons and in a different way.” And
you know what? I believe him.
Photography by Ishi/Hair by Philosophy/Makeup by Victoria Dixon, Judy Inc./Styling by Trish Johnston