There’s no denying that tiny living is having a moment, with smaller spaces being celebrated around the world. But this place is proof compact living is no passing fad.
Tiny living enthusiasts are embracing new building methods to create homes that have all the liveability of a full-scale home but on a tiny footprint – but few are aware that the concept has been in play in various forms around the world for a long time.
Built in 1936, the Cairo Apartments in Fitzroy is one such place. Designed as an experiment in minimal living, the apartment development and its residents are still reaping the benefits over 80 years later.
The lucky residents of the Art Deco-style apartments joyfully embrace a small footprint because the homes are functional, beautiful and well-considered, with much of the storage and furniture built in.
The building also encourages community by having outdoor spaces for residents to get together and enjoy each other’s company as much or as little as they’d like.
We spoke to one resident, architect Michael Roper from Melbourne’s Architecture Architecture, to find out how he finds living in a 23sqm apartment in Fitzroy.
“This building is celebrated as one of the first examples of testing the idea of tiny living,” he says.
“In terms of location, I love being close to everything. Being close to the city and being opposite Carlton Gardens is great.”
But more than just a regular apartment, it’s nice being part of a community, he explains.
“Everyone in the community engages to a greater or lesser extent. It’s nice being part of a broader family.”
When it comes to living in a tiny space, Michael also really loves how quick and easy it is to keep clean and tidy.
“The flats were set up as a bit of an experiment in providing for a life of relative comfort and luxury within a small footprint”
But what makes a tiny house truly great? While it’s relatively easy to install fold-out furniture, it’s harder to make the spaces feel grand and light.
The Cairo Apartments enjoy stunning timber joinery, high ceilings and clever storage solutions. This means a bedroom can transform into a study or an entertaining space in a manner of seconds, proving small spaces can pack a big punch if they’re designed right. And shouldn’t we all be aiming for better-designed homes that demand fewer of the Earth’s resources?
We’re seeing a trend of house sizes expanding even as the size of families reduce. Spaces like this prove that bigger houses don’t necessarily mean better houses, Michael says.
“It can be easy to forget that you don’t need a separate room for everything you do,” he explains.
For those interested in creating a new home, Michael says don’t be talked into building a house larger than what you need.
“You can live in a relatively small footprint”, he says. “A comfortable lifestyle doesn’t mean having to live in a large house.”
And the proof is there for all to see, more than 80 years on.