Tiny Home Test Drive – The New York Times

The best part of the evening, to my mind, was being alone again, after whisking away the pizza boxes and the bottles, shrinking the table back to its slim desk size, and unfolding my namesake bed. I killed the lights, slid open the window and raised the opaque shade, so I could see a linden tree from my nest. As I drifted off to sleep, I imagined a life swept clean of my grubby, needy possessions and instead envisioned a new, improved one that was sparely accessorized by Ms. Schmidt’s resilient and independent succulents, neutral art prints and soft baskets. So lightly encumbered, I would spring easily from my tasteful and tidy micro unit into the cultural soup of the city. Which is the point, of course.


A dinner party in the tiny space.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

I thought, too, of the canon of the studio apartment — from the dreary bed-sitters housing the heroines of Anita Brookner and Barbara Pym novels to Laurie Colwin’s cozy nest in the West Village, where she hunkered down happily, alone with an eggplant and a chipped Meissen dish; and Quentin Crisp’s gothic and lordly squalor on East Third Street. And I worried.

Perhaps this apartment is too good, too soft, for the demographic it purports to address. How will they mature in a friction-free environment? It irritated me that a 25-year-old would soon be lolling in my bed, or in the lounge chairs on the roof deck, after having fired up the commercial grill there, and after a long day of networking in some shared work space, or returning home from a day’s surfing in the Rockaways, tucking his surfboard into the space Mr. Bunge and Ms. Hoang designed for it.

Carmel Place’s rent includes not just internet and Wi-Fi, but a weekly tidying service and a monthly deep clean, along with dog walking, dry cleaning pickup and any number of customized errands through an app called Hello Alfred, all organized by Ollie.

Ms. Schmidt said her company is about to announce more building alliances that will allow Carmel Place residents to avail themselves of more and more thermal pools, yoga studios and barbecue pits all over town. “You will meet with your home manager to say what you want for your home experience,” Ms. Schmidt said. “Maybe you want your slippers by the door, or your towels folded a certain way.”

As it happens, it’s not just the market-rate tenants who will be coddled. Ollie has donated its services to the veterans, and offered them at cost to those in the affordable units.


Washing dishes after dinner in the 84-square-foot kitchen.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

It was her intent, Ms. Schmidt said, to think aspirationally about micro living. (She and her husband, David Friedlander, sold all their belongings a few years ago and moved with their two young sons from a 1,200-square- foot loft to a light and lean 675-square-foot apartment Ms. Schmidt gutted and redesigned with sliding panels instead of doors, convertible beds and a few choice pieces of furniture.)

The single state itself is also now aspirational, with boosters like Sasha Cagen, the author behind the quirkyalone blog and book; Rebecca Traister, a writer at large at New York Magazine and the author of “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation”; and Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology and the director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University.

A decade ago, Mr. Klinenberg set out to write a book tentatively called “Alone in America” that would chronicle the rise of single adults in the United States — according to a Pew study published in 2011, only 51 percent of adults 18 and older are married (compared with 72 percent in 1960) — and explore themes of isolation and loneliness. What he found instead was that for the overwhelming majority of single people, living alone meant being social.

His 2012 book, “Going Solo,” examined the ways contemporary urban singletons, as he called them, were finding community and generally having a blast. “People live alone together in neighborhoods that are full of people just like them,” he said recently. “You can name those neighborhoods, in cities like Chicago or San Francisco or New York,” he added, “because those are the places you visit to have the best time. It’s where the bars and restaurants and galleries are. It’s where you want to be.”

In his book, Mr. Klinenberg traces the history of single living in bohemian enclaves like Greenwich Village, where at the turn of the 20th century, you could live alone without stigma. The male pioneers were followed by single women, who had been liberated by work and evolving social norms; some were buoyed by the ideals of the free and independent republic of Washington Square,” as Marcel Duchamp and friends famously proclaimed from the arch. Developers were already building so-called bachelor apartments there.


A bed is hidden in the wall behind the sofa.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

“New York has long been a leader in social innovation,” Mr. Klinenberg said. “The trend of living alone happened here before anywhere else.”

My first single-person’s apartment in New York City was a studio on Christopher Street, in a prewar tenement building with a hallway that smelled of cat and scorched garlic. There was a kitchen of sorts in a cubby space with a tiny Royal Rose stove, a sink and a mini fridge — but I never cooked there.

I was no Laurie Colwin (I don’t recall owning a pot) and anyway, the Korean market on Bleecker Street was my cafeteria. It was 1984; on weekends, the young men who came downtown to showboat kept me awake until 5 a.m., but I didn’t care. When I wasn’t cursing them, I loved watching the performance.

The kitchen and bathroom windows looked out onto a grimy air shaft, and right into my neighbors’ apartments, so at night I did a lot of ducking, being too slack to install a shade or even tack up a sheet. If you closed the bathroom door, you’d be stuck until a PATH train rumbled past and shook it free. (My first night in the apartment, I spent two hours trapped in there, having closed the door firmly to clean the black and white herringbone tile floor.)

Mostly, my tiny apartment was a launching pad, and I was thrilled to be living alone.

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