UPDATE (NOVEMBER 2016):
Seeing how some people in Hong Kong are living in apartments ranging from 150 square feet to 200 square feet in size makes me feel like I am living in luxury!
I keep telling people that my home is a hut in the sky. It is a tongue in cheek way of saying I live in a high floor shoebox apartment. Yup, it is one of those apartments smaller than 50 sq m (538 sq ft) in size described by the ex CEO of CapitaLand as "inhuman". Of course, he was not the only one who had something negative to say about shoebox apartments.
To be quite honest, I was a sceptic too. My old place was almost 1,000 sq ft in size, had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a big kitchen, a big living area and a balcony. Almost everyone who visited told me then that it was a perfect size bachelor pad.
At the time, I already had friends staying in shoebox apartments and I knew what a 463 sq ft apartment looked like. The first word that came to mind when I visited the place was "tiny". Space was tight. In between furniture and fixtures, there was only enough space for one person to walk around. Well, maybe two if the people were smaller in size.
So, it was a leap of faith for me to buy a shoebox apartment more than two years ago and, to be quite honest, I was somewhat worried about the space issue after the whole deal went through. I made copies of the floor plan of the apartment and made scaled measurements of furniture, exploring different ways of making everything fit while still having enough room to move around.
Now, having lived in a shoebox apartment for a while, I find that they are, actually, very livable. The trick is not to clutter up the apartment with stuff. Staying in a shoebox apartment makes people think more carefully about what they buy for their home. The question "Is this necessary?" takes on another layer of importance.
|Kitchen is in the living room? Yup!|
For me, the necessary furniture to buy in a shoebox apartment would be:
1. A bed.
2. A wardrobe.
3. A sofa.
4. A desk and two chairs.
5. A TV console.
Depending on the size and layout of the shoebox apartment, smaller size furniture might have to be considered. However, if the apartment is not smaller than, say, 441 sq ft, and the format is not oddly shaped, pretty decent size furniture, including a queen size bed and a two seater sofa should be able to fit quite comfortably.
I have learned to appreciate that living in a shoebox apartment has many advantages and, strangely, although I had much more space in my old place, I do not feel that my current home is less livable. Let me see if I can rattle off a list of things.
|Tiny apartments are the norm in Japan.|
The first thing that comes to mind is that there is less underutilised or wasted space. I had lots of space in my old place but most of it was underutilised. When I sold it after staying there for more than 4 years, I remember that the kitchen was in an almost pristine condition.
There is less cleaning to do in a shoebox apartment which saves me a lot of time. I remember that a thorough cleaning of my old place, including the underutilised kitchen, took me almost 6 hours! The shoebox apartment takes me less than 2 hours to clean.
Financially, the shoebox apartment is less burdensome as it was much cheaper to buy and I also pay less in property tax. We always hear people saying Singaporeans are asset rich but cash poor. Although not always the case, many people "over consume" when it comes to their homes. Real estate can be good investments for income but, unless we have and are willing to rent out spare rooms, our homes are consumption items.
I enjoy equal access to the facilities in the condominium which includes the car park but I pay much lesser in monthly maintenance fee compared to my neighbours who bought the larger units in the condominium. Of all the facilities available, why did I mention the car park? Isn't that the most boring thing on the list?
Well, I remember telling some friends that considering the fact that a car park lot is about 100 sq ft in area, I got a pretty good deal since bigger units are also entitled to only one car park lot each. Proportionally, a 441 sq ft apartment would gain 22.6% more space while a 1,034 sq ft apartment would gain only 9.7% more space, for example. Interesting, isn't it?
|I thought this was somewhat extreme.|
Anyway, although we might feel unhappy with the rising costs of living, as long as Singapore's economy chugs along nicely, things will only become more expensive over time. So, apartments will become more expensive too. Smaller formats are more affordable, for sure, but beyond affordability, many are concerned about whether they would compromise on the quality of life.
If we believe that a HDB 4 room flat, 970 sq ft in size and has 3 bedrooms, is about right for a family of 4 or 5, then, each person in the family would have 242.5 or 194 sq ft of space, proportionally. A shoebox apartment that is 441 sq ft in size would, therefore, provide plenty of room for a single person or even a couple. It is all relative, isn't it?
Finally, I have been watching a program called "Tiny House Nation" recently. This is a movement in the USA and we all know how the Americans love their big houses. I remember a friend from the USA told me that a 1,300 sq ft apartment was tiny for a family of 5 when I was staying with my parents in an apartment which was about that size.
Anyway, I really enjoy watching "Tiny House Nation" and to learn that more Americans are downsizing, being less wasteful and more environmentally conscious.
|Images from "Tiny House Nation."|
If you want to find out more about "Tiny House Nation", here is the link:
Shoebox apartments might not be right for everyone but they could be right for some. Definitely, we could live large in a tiny home.
1. Housing and the CPF.
2. Slaving to stay in a condominium.
3. Affordability of housing in Singapore.
4. How big is a 452 sq feet apartment?
5. Smaller apartments' prices more resilient.