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6 rooms into 1: morphing apartment packs 1100 sq ft into 420

When we first met Graham Hill- founder of treehugger.com- in 2010, he had just bought two tiny apartments in a century-old tenement building in Soho and had plans to turn them into laboratories/showcases for tiny living.

It was all tied into his idea that the skill of this century is editing- or life editing. He believes that if you edit your stuff, space and even friends you can have more money, health and happiness (see our video “LifeEdited: cut space, stuff, media, friends and be happier).

“The whole point of the project really is we’ve gone from 1000 square feet average home size in the fifties to 2300, 2500 now, it’s just notworking for us. I think this is a happy way to live.”

When we first met him he’d spent most of the year living in tiny spaces- “a tiny trailer, a tent, and then a boat [the Plastiki]” so his then 350-square-feet home (see our video) felt “spacious” and he was convinced others would love compact living as much as he did if small spaces could be designed right.

Hill wanted a tiny space that didn’t sacrifice function, but instead that would expand to provide a wish list including dinner parties for 12, accommodations for 2 overnight guests, a home office and a home theater with digital projector.

Not wanting to limit himself to local architects, he crowdsourced the design as a competition and received 300 entries from all over the world. Two Romanian architecture students (Catalin Sandu and Adrian Iancu) won with their design “One Size Fits All”. (See the apartment pre-remodel in our video Crowdsourcing tiny home design: a 420-square-foot Soho pad).

Completed in 2012, his LifeEdited apartment doesn’t resemble the cramped space we saw in 2010; back then, it was divided into 4 micro-rooms where despite lacking a shower/bathtub, a family had lived for 4 decades. Hill and his team knocked down the walls and left the space open yet built-in plenty of options for it to be transformed.

Today the 420-square-foot space can be expanded to include the functionality of 1,100 square feet: walls, drawers and beds move and unfold to create 6 rooms: living room, dining room, office, guest office, master bedroom and guest bedroom. If you include the kitchen and the bathroom which morphs into a phone booth or meditation room, the apartment includes 10 total rooms.

To create the bedroom, Hill lowers his Murphy bed (designed by the Italian firm Clei– see our video with distributor Resource Furniture: Space-saving furniture). He grows his dinner table from inches to feet. His office is a simple desk-in-a-drawer. The truly tricked-out element is the moving wall that is packed with storage (2 desks, drawers, closets, etc) and opens to create a full second bedroom (with 2 Clei bunk beds that fold out of the wall)*. Magnetized curtains close for privacy, both visual and acoustic.

It all feels very futuristic, and given the experimental nature of the project it wasn’t cheap. The hardware for the moving wall cost about $4,850- sourced from a maker of library stacks. Hill admits this iteration of the home is too expensive, though his long-term plan is to provide rental housing (via his company LifeEdited). And he’s open to people hacking his ideas.

Product list (we have no affiliations, but since so many have asked):