Live smarter, not bigger — the joys of redesigning small apartments
Four years ago, I found myself faced with every Berliner’s greatest fear: looking for a new apartment for a price that I could afford in the Kiez that I had come to love. :-O It didn’t take long for my newly formed patchwork family’s spacious living dreams to vanish into thin air.
So what do we do now? Abandon the idea of merging households and continue raising our children under separate roofs? Oof. Move to the suburbs and endure long commutes to fulfill our respective co-parenting obligations? Not even a question. Forfeit a living room and Tetris socializing into a tiny kitchen instead? As a soon-to-be family of five, non merci!
Radical times call for radical measures, so my partner and I decided that embracing a more minimalist lifestyle in a tiny home-style apartment was the way to go. We settled for a small, oddly divided apartment where a series of non-load-bearing walls gave us the flexibility to make the necessary changes. And that’s how moebelle & umbeau came into the picture — my design-savvy husband, Eric Emery, lovingly created a space-saving interior concept tailored fully to our growing family’s needs.
Little did I know that this decision would quickly emerge as a blessing in disguise. Because, as it turns out, re-envisioning the layout of a smaller apartment (even if it is a rental) is better for your wallet, the planet and personal well-being than increasing the square meters of your living space. Here’s why.
Crunching the numbers
Moving house comes with a hefty price tag. You have to factor in everything from packaging materials, movers, transportation and storage costs to renovation work and deposit deductions. Something always gets lost or broken en route. Not to mention all the new decorative and functional furnishings that need to be acquired to fill a big space and make it cozy.
Eric’s calculations for clients have proven time and time again that the most underestimated cost of moving and upsizing is often the long-term rent increase that comes with a new lease. And we’re talking five-digits here just by adding a single room: If, for example, you pay just €500 more rent to move into an apartment with an additional bedroom, that adds up to €6,000 more rent per year, meaning a whopping €60,000 more over 10 years. Suddenly that extra 14 sqm seems much less appealing…
In our case, Eric’s decision to split two bedrooms into four rather than upsize only cost us €12,000 — a price that, based on this formula, allowed us to save a substantial amount of money after just two years. In his work for small living spaces, we benefited from his holistic approach. This budget included changing the apartment's floor plans and designing several space-efficient storage solutions and multifunctional pieces.
Less is more when it comes to the planet
Moving on to the ecological formula, things are equally straightforward: Smaller apartments = less energy for heating, cooling, and lighting than larger living spaces. The result? Lower energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint. Simple as that.
Moreover, if we all chose to optimize (rather than increase) our living space, we could densify cities and alleviate the housing crisis. This also means protecting more wildlife and natural habitats from bulldozers and construction sites. It’s actually happening at our doorstep as you read this. Emmauswald in Neukölln, for example, is just one of several Berlin forests campaigning for its future existence.
Then there is also the topic of accumulating ‘stuff’. By living in a smaller apartment, you have less space to acquire possessions which inevitably means less waste and a lower environmental impact. Smart ideas and tiny home living solutions, like custom furniture pieces, make it easier to focus on the essentials and avoid clutter. Enough said.
Happiness is a state of mind
Beyond monetary and ecological factors, there are also several personal components to consider. Owning fewer possessions has a scientific correlation with overall well-being — rather, investing in meaningful experiences and connections results in a higher quality of life than accumulating more material goods. Clutter has also been directly linked to stress levels and unhealthy lifestyles, while healthy habits come easier to people who are conscious and mindful of their surroundings. Minimalist living for the win.
But the personal is also about the interpersonal. And in our family, for example, the decision to sacrifice the size of our bedrooms and bathroom was intentional. The communal spaces we eat, relax and play together are the true heart of our home. To ensure everyone’s privacy needs were met, moebelle & umbeau’s interior concept included a custom feature in each bedroom — each family member was rewarded with a special space to call their own.
To sum it up, when it comes to apartments, living smaller and smarter can go a long way in making your life cheaper, eco-friendlier and better for all. So what are you waiting for?