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This dreamy art deco home is only 247 square feet


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.

home interior with study desk, indoor plants and curtain partition
The internal area of this historic apartment is a lean 23sqm. Picture: Tom Ross

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.

exterior of a home with stairs leading up to it and plants surrounding it
This apartment block was built with community in mind. Picture: Tom Ross

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.”

Read more: Raising 5 kids in 1 flat – how one dad makes it work

a man is looking through his closet
Resident Michael Roper finds living in his 23sqm apartment a breeze. Picture: Tom Ross

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.”

courtyard of a home
The Cairo Apartments were built back in the 1930s as an experiment in minimal living. Picture: Tom Ross

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.

bright room with a study deck, indoor plants, floating shelf and a door to the garden
High ceilings and plenty of natural light make these apartments a delight to live in. Picture: Tom Ross

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.

Read more: 500 sq ft apartment? No sweat, here’s 5 design tips for a fabulous home

a floor to ceiling shelf filled with books, and clothes
Smart internal storage means you won’t have to deal with clutter. Picture: Tom Ross

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.

This article was originally published as Dreamy Art Deco home in Fitzroy is just 23sqm by written by Erinna Giblin

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