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Airstream-inspired apartments as affordable tiny homes

Patrick Kennedy is a housing developer who likes to build small. His vision is to build the housing equivalent of the Smart Car, “What I want to do now is build the urban equivalent of Levittown – entry-level, urban housing for about $200K each”.

His SmartSpaces will be small- just a couple hundred square feet. Everything down to the lighting and type of furniture has been studied carefully so that space is maximized in the tiny units.

To create a smarter space, Kennedy constructed a 160-square-foot test home (the smallest legal-sized apartment for California) inside a Berkeley warehouse. SmartSpace 1.0 is filled with innovations like the SmartBench, an adjustable banquette that converts from a dining table to a guest bed.

To give the space a true test run, an MIT student lived in it for a few weeks and to determine what features were truly smart in real-life circumstances. She gave low marks to the “Euro shower” (the shower and drain are part of the bathroom) and to the tiny, round kitchen sink (too small for a pasta pan), neither of which made the cut for SmartSpace 2.0.

The space cost a couple of thousand dollars to build, but Kennedy believes it’s money well-invested in small space research. ‘We learned, for example, that ceiling heights have to be at least 9 feet, width of room has to be at least 10 feet, 11 is much better so our next generation is going to be 11 feet, we needed to know how big the bathroom was so 2 people could turn around in it and that sort of thing.”

In this video, Kennedy gives us an exclusive tour of the tiny SmartSpace 1.0 studio, as well as of his 78-square-foot Airstream travel trailer parked outside (his vacations onboard with wife and child inspired his latest development).

Kennedy believes that it’s not size, but location that is important and he tries to develop tiny, infill spaces (like parking lots) in desirable urban locations. “Someone asked Aristotle Onassis, what was your secret to being rich and he said 2 things, always have a suntan and always have an address in the best part of town even if it’s a broom closet. Now I’m providing the broom closets in the South of Market area, metaphorically speaking.”