A super sized brief for a “tiny huge design contest”.

December 4, 2010 at 10:30 pm Leave a comment

In an effort to personally demonstrate how to “save money, radically reduce our environmental impact, and have a freer, less complicated life,” Treehugger founder Graham Hill has opened up a design contest for renovating a 420sf New York apartment. Called “LifeEdited,” the contest has been set up with Mutopo and Jovoto as an open forum to “propose, discuss and evaluate designs” for super small residential spaces.

existing plan and photo of Southeastern bedroom at 150 Sullivan, both via Treehugger’s Flickr set

Here’s the challenging, but super exciting, Creative Brief for LifeEdited:


Design a jewel box of an ultra-low-footprint apartment in 420sf (~39 m2).


What if we could save money, radically reduce our environmental impact, and have a freer, less complicated life?

Treehugger founder Graham Hill has part of the answer: we need to have less stuff and live in smaller spaces, like the 420sf (~39 m2) apartment he will renovate in 2011. With some design and technology magic, we think 420 square feet can allow for working at home, space for 2 guests to stay over, a sit-down dinner for 12, lounge space for 8, and maybe even a steam room.

So we’re asking you to redesign a small space thinking about these core ideas:

  • transforming space – use one space for work, play, sleep, guests
  • digitize everything – photos, books, music
  • from ownership to access – think Netflix, Zipcar, Airbnb, etc.
  • only the essentials – cut down on extraneous stuff, leaving only what’s really necessary

The winning concept will be used in a renovation of a 420sf apartment in New York City in mid 2011. Ideas will remain online as reference, to inspire and encourage others to rethink how they buy, rent, renovate and furnish their future properties.

Task Definition

Create a design based on Graham Hill’s 420 sf apartment. The design needs to support the life of a real person in the apartment – someone who works, eats, lives, and entertains. We’re looking for apartment designs that allow for:

  • a sit-down dinner for 12
  • a comfortable lounging option for 8 people
  • space for 2 guests with some visual and ideally auditory privacy
  • a home office
  • a work area with space for a rolling tool chest
  • a hideable kitchen

As the room function is changed, it should not feel like you are sleeping in your office or eating in your bedroom. At the same time, it should be easy and quick enough to change the room function that one would actually do it.

We believe feedback and conversation can help you improve your ideas. You have the ability to post and update your entry at any time up until the submission deadline — and we highly encourage you to do so. In return, you’ll receive feedback from Graham, your peers, and our jurors.


Photos of the space we’ll be renovating are available in this Flickr set.

For those who have AutoCAD, DWG files are available here.

If you don’t have AutoCAD, there are still plenty of ways to get involved! Google Sketchup is a free 3D modeling tool with a huge library of pre-made components available. We’ve created the basic plan for the apartment that you can use as a starting point, available here.

Floorplans and concept sketches are also great submissions. Here are floor and elevation diagrams in PNG form, and more detailed ones in PDF are available here.

photo of fire escape at 150 Sullivan, both via Treehugger’s Flickr set

Ready to sign up? Check out these other examples of living small and thinking big if you want some further inspiration.

December 4’s daily design idea is applying your creativity to real world situations will help develop real world solutions.


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Two more design actions in the public realm. People, places, things, and alphabets.

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