life in a tiny apartment.

May 8, 2013

Tip #63: Create a common space, even a tiny one.

As the weather gets warmer, coming back to our tiny apartment has a way of making me feel just a little bit hemmed in. Where I don’t really mind the closeness in the wintertime, warmer evenings have me longing for more expansive vistas.

As delighted as I am with afternoons spent in the park, I’ve been itching for just a little bit of outdoor space that’s closer to home. I have elaborate daydreams that include reading on a chaise lounge, elderflower cocktail on a side table next to me. In my daydreams, I imagine a private little space with just enough room for me and James and whatever plate of dinner we choose to enjoy. But lately I’ve come to the conclusion that sharing wouldn’t be so bad either.

Designs for new micro-apartment buildings usually include some kind of common space. Architectural renderings show open terraces with communal tables where stylish young people gather in the evening to play card games and drink wine.

When I first began to see these drawings, I was skeptical. Aren’t New Yorkers known for their particular brand of coolness to strangers? Would neighbors really invite each other to the terrace for a rousing game of Hearts? But I’m warming to the idea. After the first few weeks of warmer weather, I’d share my terrace with just about anyone.

Our building didn’t come with any promise of common space. “Micro-apartments” here were an afterthought, sectioned off from what were once much more spacious apartments. This spring I’m doing a little experiment and doing my best to beautify what common space we do have. Those two crumbling flower boxes next to the trash bins? Filled up with sunny marigolds and violas, you don’t even notice their chipped edges. I don’t imagine that the neighbors will start inviting each other for glasses of wine next to the pile of recycling, but I do think that the tiny pop-up gardens help to foster a tiny sense of place. Which is very much better than none at all.


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  • Reply lisaathome May 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I'm not sure how a common space shared by numerous folks would work, but we share a large patio in the city with two other neighbors. For the most part, we have the space to ourselves- which is nice, but I hate to think others feel uncomfortable sharing the space when we're already there, either alone or with a friend.

    • Reply Erin May 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Oh, that would be ashame, but I say the onus is on them to get out and share it with you!

  • Reply laura_S May 8, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    i very much miss nyc life but not this aspect. being able to sit on a front porch or in our small yard to cook some shish-kabobs is a kind of solace that i relish.

    • Reply Erin May 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      Oh, shish-kabobs! PS. I recently came across *the* funniest picture of the two of us at one of my aunt and uncle's backyard BBQs. Maybe it's time for a little TBT.

  • Reply Jennifer Allison May 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    three cheers for you floral thumb and sharing tendencies. i'm certain your beautifying will be enJOYed…to be sure.

    • Reply Erin May 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      thank you, ma'am! here's hoping!

  • Reply Georgina Orgill May 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Having a neighbour like you would definitely brighten up our building! Having said that, in our last flat we asked the landlord if we could freshen up the paint on the front window and he refused. And this building has a 'no window box' clause in the lease. I've noticed that in the US, landlords seem much more relaxed about tenants.

    • Reply Erin May 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      I'm not sure if it's a general rule…we might just have lucked out!

  • Reply Julie [Plums for Breakfast] May 8, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I had an apartment once that shared a back yard with three other homes owned by my landlords. It was a really nice space, and I took advantage of it a few times, but often I was too shy to use it when other people were, too. Now I wish I would have been bolder and enjoyed it more often. Maybe if I lived with a bunch of hip wine-drinking hearts-players, I would be more keen on sharing. It would definitely be a nice way to make friends.

    • Reply Erin May 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Ha! Sharing space is so tricky. We shared two different front porches when we lived in Wilmington, North Carolina and mostly it worked really well…but there's definitely sometimes an element of awkwardness.

  • Reply Jen May 9, 2013 at 1:58 am

    That's a really sweet gesture 🙂

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic May 9, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Those tiny gardens are good idea, and they could be a good ice breaker too. We don't really have a common area in my building, except the roof; most people don't go up there, though, because there's no place to sit and it's too cold most of the time. One time I did go up there to watch the fireworks on the fourth of July. There were several other neighbors up there, but no one said anything to each other.

    • Reply Erin May 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Oh, dear! Maybe if there'd been flowers;)

  • Reply Tonielise May 10, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Love this idea! We're actually going to be working on our very own little garden space on the stoop area of our apartment building in Boston this weekend…hoping our neighbors will be interested in a tiny (and i mean t-i-n-y) garden party with us….

  • Reply IndiaMorgan May 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    such a small but very generous way of brightening up everyone's home. i love this.

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