We have often quoted Toronto architect Donald Chong's wonderful line, Small fridges make good cities, where you respond to the marketplace, the baker, vegetable store and farmers market instead of the big weekly shop at the Wal-Mart. You don't need as big a fridge when you are committed to fresh and seasonal.
Copeland Casati, who surprisingly has time to watch television, points us to Oprah Winfrey touring a very classy and expensive Danish apartment, and it is fascinating to see how the priorities differ. Money is clearly not an issue here, but the kids' room (shared, of course) is the size of a closet, and the fridge- the size of a bar fridge. Oprah can't believe it.
Oprah in the kids' bedroom from video. Watch here.
What are the tricks that let a family with two small children live in such a clean, white minimalist environment? And why are their choices so different from those that we make in North America?
1. Bedrooms are for sleeping.
This is an extreme example, but there isn't even a master bedroom, the parents make up a sofa bed in the living room. The kids share a very tiny one.
2. There is storage for everything.
If you can't hide it you don't own it.
3. Minimize the use of drywall
It appears that every surface in this apartment is either glass or a built-in with a laminate face; almost kid-proof. Drywall is really a paper faced wall with a hairy surface that collects dust and mould; glass and laminate clean up easily.
4. They are raising their kids downtown, surrounded by amenities.
American commenters have said of some small apartments we have shown: "I feel sorry for the children since they barely have anywhere to play and weather is not always willing for them to be outside. In the US, the children would be taken."
But in fact many European (and urban American) cities have lots of amenities, recreational facilities and parks so that you don't have to internalize it all, the city is your playroom.
On Copeland Casati's facebook page, commenters seem to be appalled at Oprah's reaction. I am not certain that her reaction is much different than anyone in her audience might have been; few people in America live this way. But really, perhaps we should.