Visiting Graham Hill's Amazing LifeEdited Apartment

credit: Living area wide open/ Graham Hill

I will admit it. Without being snarky like the New York Times, there are things that I questioned about the LifeEdited project. It's not unusual for entire families to live in 420 square feet in New York City, so for a single guy to demonstrate how to live in an apartment didn't seem like much of a stretch. There were things in the program that seemed silly and excessive. (Dinner for 12 in New York in your apartment? That's what restaurants are for!) A second bedroom for guests seemed a bit much. (that's what sofas are for!) But then I saw what Graham Hill did in the LifeEdited project and I realized that I was wrong. Because where most people have to make lots of compromises in comfort and quality to live in New York, and give up a lot of the things that people have in bigger homes, Graham has demonstrates that you don't have to give up a damn thing.

credit: Lloyd Alter

There are elements of the project that won't surprise anyone; lots of people have murphy beds that fold out of the wall. This one from Resource Furniture is particularly nice, in the way that things on the shelf do not have to be removed when you lower the bed. But it isn't revolutionary.

credit: Lloyd Alter

But having a giant sliding wall that pulls out on tracks to enclose the bedroom and create a second sleeping and working zone behind it certainly is.

credit: Graham Hill

Behind that wall, there are a pair of bunk beds, another workspace and a whole lot of storage, including a cupboard for Graham's bike.

credit: Lloyd Alter

Graham folding down the guest desk.

credit: Lloyd Alter

Even the smallest details are considered. Graham wants this to be a shoe-less apartment, which makes a lot of sense, considering what your feet can drag in from the New York streets. This box becomes a seat for removing your shoes and storing them inside, and then you can move it to become a step to get out onto the fire escape.

credit: Lloyd Alter

The kitchen is full of innovative ideas that I loved. I am a big fan of drawer fridges, because like chest freezers, the cold doesn't spill out of them when you open them. Graham's fits under the counter, because as we have noted before, small fridges make good cities; in New York you can shop fresh every day in the street outside your door, so you don't need a big one.

credit: Graham Hill

Perhaps the most unusual idea is the range or hob; instead of a fixed range top that takes up 24 or 36 inches of counterspace, Graham uses three plug-in induction portable hobs. So if you just need one element in the morning to make your espresso, that is what you use. If you need three to do a dinner, you pull them all out. Induction units are so energy efficient that they don't need permanent piping or wiring, so why take up all that space when you don't need to?

credit: Lloyd Alter

Mat McDermott is admiring Graham's kitchen utensils, all chosen because they are the smallest and coolest available. (and sharpest; Graham cut his finger while pulling out a knife to show us. He needs to develop some proper drawer dividers.)

credit: Lloyd Alter

Then there is the programmatic requirement of LifeEdited, the ability to serve dinner for twelve. Graham shows the cupboard where the stacking chairs are stored;

credit: Graham Hill

The table is stored under that eating counter;

credit: Lloyd Alter

Graham pulls out the very clever Resource table;

credit: Lloyd Alter

And voila, a table for twelve. Graham has proven that it CAN be done. I am still not convinced that it SHOULD be done; one of the principles of the LifeEdited project is that people should share more, and only own what they need to use regularly. I wonder how often one is going to serve twelve, and whether it is not more efficient in space and money just to rent on those occasions. But it doesn't really matter, because as Graham notes, this apartment is a laboratory as well as a place to live. it may well be that he finds that the table isn't used that often; on the other hand, with all the publicity this thing is getting, Graham may be partying on it every night.

credit: Graham Hill

It isn't all about looks, either; it is also about quality of life and health. There are new soundproof windows, carefully detailed blackout blinds, a heat recovery ventilator to deliver fresh, filtered air year round, an additional HEPA air filter shown above. In the bathroom, (not yet finished and ready for photography) the toilet is in a separate enclosure and there is a large, comfortable shower.

credit: Graham Hill

In the end, the wonder of the LifeEdited apartment isn't that Graham is living in 420 square feet; lots of people do that. The real wonder is that he is living with a level of comfort and style that usually takes three times that area. He is able to do things that most people have houses for. In a hundred year old new york tenement he is living in a capsule of modernity, with good air, controlled light and noise, a place to hang his bike and store his kite, to entertain and to have overnight guests without a stretch. What is shown here is not for everyone, but there are lessons that can be shared with anyone, no matter what their budget. Graham is on to something, and this small apartment is going to be big. More at a LifeEdited and look at the pictures in the New York Times.