Caterina talks about the Microflats for sale in London for something like $200,000 CDN each. All this for a tiny (344 sq.ft.), yet very slick urban living space for young professionals. I have to admit that like Caterina, I love small spaces. This may seem ironic given the 1000 sq.ft. minimum requirement I imposed when I went condo hunting a month ago, but that was for practical reasons–it needs to be big enough for me, Spiff, and all my stuff, of which I seem to have acquired quite a bit in the almost 20 years since I left home. However, being the Gemini that I am, I have no problem with the idea of being attracted to both big open places and small intimate ones.
My first non-shared apartment would certainly qualify as tiny and intimate. It had only two rooms–a kitchen with just enough room for a small table, and a bed-sitting room with enough space for an armchair, a single bed, a desk, and a small bookshelf. It was on the second floor of a large woodframe Victorian house on College Street in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The limited floorspace was hemmed-in even more by the small headspace. I didn’t have a gable–the apartment was the gable. The highest point was along the wall that bisected the apartment, with the ceiling sloping down on either side. Where my bed was tucked into the corner the ceiling began about four-and-a-half feet up from the floor. If I sat bolt upright in bed my head would hit the ceiling on a glancing blow and hurl me out of bed and onto the floor. Fortunately this was just a theoretical possibility as it never actually happened.
God, how I loved that place!
You can see the front of the building in this scan from my university yearbook (pardon the crease in the middle). See the large gable in the midde with two small square windows? The same gable occured on the back of the house, and that was the apartment.
When I first saw the place it was a disgusting mess, with moss growning in the oven, bags of garbage all around, and nails sticking out of the broken tiles on the floor. Walls and ceiling in the bed-sitting room were painted the color of dried mustard–which can be a nice accent color, but is too much when it fills the room, uninterupted. The pattern on the kitchen wall (and ceiling) paper was upside-down.
I recruited some help and set to work on it. We cleaned and disinfected the fridge and stove, and scoured the floors, walls, and cupboards in the kitchen. Then we removed (or pounded in) the protruding nails in the floor, and gave the bed-sitting room a thorough paint job. We did it in light blue, which went well with the broken tiles, and really served to brighten the place up. The wardrobe (which was a permanent fixture) was painted a bright white. I then bought a peice of light grey carpet (an end peice) which covered most of the broken-tiled floor in the bed-sitting room.
The bathroom was down the hall, and I shared it with two women who lived in similar tiny apartments on the same floor. It didn’t even have a shower (just a bathtub with a big ice cream bucket for filling and dumping over your head), but I got used to that right away. We were all on somewhat different schedules and we were all good about keeping the place clean, so the bathroom situation was a non-issue.
And that was it–I had done the work and had transformed the place. The upside-down wallpaper stayed, but that was OK because it was something of a coversation peice. I really felt like I had built a wonderful little nest for myself there, and I still have fond memories of sitting on my bed or in the big old creaky armchair while reading or entertaining a guest or two.
Back then I didn’t own a lot of stuff, so that was all the space I needed. I left my bike outside (even over the winter), and the neighbours were all good and friendly. I stayed there only one year. Circumstances changed and I moved into residence for my final year at St. F.X.U.
I could easily live like that again, but not as a permanent arrangement. If I had a “home base” somewhere and was inclined to move around a lot spending weeks or months at a time in other cities, that is all I’d need in those other places. For example, if I made huge bucks and were required to pass a few months of the year in London, I’d be first in line for a microflat. In fact, I’d probably spend more time there than in my bigger place back in Montreal!