Sometimes it feels like we've all been talking about tiny apartments for a long, long time. This is only reasonable. Who doesn't love to ogle the strange spaces that people adapt as suitable for living, places that the rest of us might never consider attempting to reside within? I myself am fascinated by tiny apartments, not only because I live in a relatively tiny space, but because tiny spaces and the way we live in them are interesting! Combine the inherently compelling aspects of looking into someone else's home with the even more intriguing aspects of that place being, perhaps, largely unlivable, at least by any outside-of-the-city standards. Gazing upon impossibly small apartments is a kind of real estate train wreck we can't help watching. And sometimes it manages to end well — check Apartment Living's annual Smallest Coolest Home Contest for some really small, really cool homes.
Given the can't-help-but-look level of interest, it's no surprise that media organizations including The New York Times (and my own) have often covered tiny apartments in some way or another. Today, there's a piece in the Times again about tiny apartments. This time it's a kind of meta take, albeit with a kind of weird headline — "The Newfound Fascination with Tiny Dwellings," It's weird considering how many times various articles about small apartments have already appeared in the Times.
In this new piece, Elizabeth A. Harris traces the Internet popularity of tiny apartments (at least in New York City) back to a notably tiny place I remember well. It's the now-former abode of Luke Clark Tyler, and it's an apartment that went rather viral (all 78 square feet of it) after a video tour of it conducted by Kirsten Dirksen of faircompanies.com was posted on YouTube. "Mr. Tyler’s little room has been viewed nearly 1.7 million times over the past year and a half," writes Harris. "A similar video, about a 90-square-foot apartment on the Upper West Side, has been viewed even more times."
Yes, tiny apartments are fascinating. Why are we so fascinated? Harris attempts to explain: "Perhaps this voracious interest is mere curiosity about how living so small can be comfortably done. Maybe it is just voyeurism. More often, it seems, it is something else: schadenfreude, the pleasure one takes in the misfortune of others. Because, finally, somebody has an apartment smaller than yours." Well, obviously, right?
It's simpler than that, too. It's because there's a universal at work. We can all relate; we all have to live somewhere, and so we do. A stranger's minuscule apartment is appealing to just about everyone for what it shows about our own life choices. It's a kind of entertainment, and maybe therapy, that we don't have to pay for. It's no surprise that we're obsessed with tiny apartments. The only surprise is that anyone would consider this obsession "newfound."
Tiny apartment frenzy has been going on since apartments have been tiny, since long before anything was going viral. There are peaks and valleys of hype, yes, including the recent surge in interest when Mayor Bloomberg set architects to work creating new "micro" apartments, to measure 275 to 300 square feet, for a building in Murray Hill. But as I wrote recently when the Internet was going mad for a Tumblr featuring terrible, tiny rooms in New York City, tiny apartment talk will never be over. Until, perhaps, each and every one of us lives in a tiny apartments. Then we'll have to find something else to talk about ... maybe. It's like the old aphorism. There's always someone smarter, prettier, more successful, and so on than you are. But there's also always someone with a smaller apartment.
Image via Shutterstock by a40757.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.