September 29, 2005

Is A 400 SF Apartment Big Enough For A Baby?

As part of their "Good Questions" series, a New York parent-to-be asked Apartment Therapy's readers: Can you survive living with a kid in a 400-sf East Village apartment?

A lot of comments are all Therapy and no Apartment, and there's a bunch of Sally Struthers fans, who point out that most of the world's children live in cardboard boxes. Blake straightens them out:

To tell people living in Manhattan "many people around the world live in worse conditions" is completely besides the point. People living in Manhattan are priveliged to a certain degree, and they make choices about space and economics that would be absurd anywhere else in the world...

After my daughter was born two years ago we moved from a large one-room loft in Chinatown to an entire Brownstone in Harlem. Best choice I ever made. Sure I have to get on the subway to go to the movies, but if we were still in one room I would have gone insane. And I never get to go to the movies anymore anyway!

There's some other good advice about paring down on the gear, co-sleeping, the usable lifespan of a Pack-n-Play...

Remember, though, it's the East Village, so actual small space-dwelling parents with useful tips should hurry up and visit now; the place'll be crawling with trustafarians and McMansion-dwelling ex-frat boy daytrippers in no time.

Good Questions: How Small An Apartment Can You Have a Baby In? [apartmenttherapy]


I'm a consultant living between NY and Chicago. Though we own in Chicago, I've been working in NY for the past 2 years. When my daughter was born, 6 months ago, my wife switched careers (to a full time mom). She and my daughter moved out with me to NY - and are now staying in our ~400 sq ft corporate apartment.

It's tough and a tight fit (tougher for my wife who spends more time there), but it's worth it for us to be able to spend time together.

We've sectioned off our living space - "living area" "Dining area" "Baby play area" - and limit purchases to live more sparsely. What makes it harder is that our place doesn't have a real kitchen - only 2 burners, a sink, and a beer fridge. We bought a bakers rack for cooking space, a toaster oven, and we only buy groceries for a 1-2 day span.

It helps to know that we could leave this if we want to. Unlike the Sally Struther kids, we've made a choice - I can easily find another job (perhaps not as good) back in Chicago - and we could move back to our 1500 square foot 3 bedroom out there. In some ways the knowledge that it's our choice and that we have alternatives make it more tolerable.

I've lived in a few small apartments in NYC. But 400 sf? With a wife? And a kid? I'm never complaining about my apartment again.

Downtown Vancouver here is supposed to be the second or third highest population density in North America, after Manhattan and possibly the SF Bay Area... so as you can imagine, most of the apartments here aren't exactly spacious. (It helps that we lived in Yokohama in a 7'x14' shoebox for a while, though...)

Our place right now is a 560 sq.ft (I don't know how they calculate it, but I kind of assume that includes the balcony) corner suite. It's the biggest one-bedroom I've lived in here, but it's still a little tight with a crib in the bedroom and a pile of toys in the living room. Compound that by the fact that I work from home and have a fairly packed computer desk (IKEA's "Mikael" with the hutch... vertical storage is the way to go!) in the living room as well.

Having said that, I don't feel boxed in here; it's a corner suite, as I said, and an entire wall of the living room/office/play room is floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the Pacific... we're also 10 minutes on foot from a Safeway, another two supermarkets, a large urban market, several greengrocers, and a couple major shopping thoroughfares. I'd take a 15 minute walk to the beach over a back yard any day, as well.

Until we have a second kid, the benefits of living downtown far outweigh any upside to having a huge place in the burbs... so I say go for it! :)

Well, if anyone wants to live in the most ridiculously affordable place in the states, come on down to Houston. The four of us (baby, wife, mutt/lab) moved from our "smallish" 1250 sf condo just outside of downtown to a Victorian/Craftsman new build home. We are still only a 10-minute drive from downtown (and the Angelica Theater for the CryBaby matinee) and even managed to have a small stream in front of our home that actually has animals and birds in it that are alive. I know, I know its Houston (heat, humidity, occasional evacuations). But with something like 600 square miles there are more than enough nice places to offset the Mogadishu like landscape that most of the city resembles. We even scored a nice little yard and I will not mention what we paid for it (I think in NYC dollars it would be about $375.00).

My wife and I lived in a 344 square foot (yes, we measured it) studio apartment in Savannah while our loft was being built out. No kid, but we did have a dog. It was snug to say the least. It had built in twin beds against one wall, so we felt like Ricky and Lucy.
However, the price was right and it was completely furnished (down to the towels and dishes) so that was convenient.
Could we have lived there with a kid? Briefly, perhaps, if the kid was in the 12 mos- 2 yrs range. We probably could have fit a small crib in the corner, and the kid would have to be a fairly good sleeper, since we would all be living in one room.
Still, if you go visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in NYC, you can see how our immigrant forefathers lived in apartments like this with many kids, four-story walkups, one bathroom per four apartments, and maybe a bathtub in the kitchen, if you were lucky.
That always makes me quit whining.

I believe my 1BR was even smaller than 400sqft. I never measured it, though. Anyway, we stayed there for the first year of the kid's life. After that we were happy to move to a bigger place. It worked out pretty well, though. Sure, we had to sacrifice a lot (kid got the bedroom, we slept on the sleeper couch in the livingroom). Toys were all over the floors and the stroller took up most of the entrance of the apartment.

I'm living in a 500 sq ft loft in downtown LA with 7 month twins. I've never noticed it being small here. I even work from home most of the time. The 12ft ceilings and large windows must make it feel bigger.

Jason- Ha! 7 months? You ain't seen nothing yet. Just wait until they are scampering around like our little twin monkeys (18 months), you'll wish you could bungie them to the ceiling to keep them from making coordinated assaults on the Cheerio storage.
I estimate one large box of Cheerios should cover 500 sq. ft. nicely, thanks. Just turn your back on them for a couple of minutes while you are on a conference call or something.

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