Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

LifeEdited Family-Style (Part 2 of 2)

[If you didn’t read Part 1, find it here]

Moving into the place required a lot of removal. Prior to the small 500 sq ft Brooklyn place mentioned before, we were in a 1200 sq ft one. When we moved out of the 1200 sq ft space, our stuff was split between the 500 sq ft apartment and a 500 sq ft studio with a big storage loft that my wife kept for work (you follow?). All of this stuff was transferred to our upstate place. Our possessions included two 8′ dining tables, six large dressers (one was about 8′ wide), six Eames fiberglass dining chairs, a daybed, a large sofa, two lounge chairs, a drafting table, two filing cabinets, a 6′ credenza, a couple stools, an 8′ H x 4′ W bookshelf, two taxidermied birds with glass covers, and much, much more. Our upstate place swallowed all of this stuff handily; in fact the place looked pretty spare. But our new place–less than half the size–would be much different.

Based on the original LifeEdited apartment, we knew we wanted most of the furniture to be built-in, because we not only wanted the space to work, but we didn’t want the place to feel overstuffed. Most of our furniture, save for a few pieces, was not appropriate for the space. We used the maxim that we had to “fit our stuff to the space, rather space to stuff.” In other words, if we had waited for a home that housed two dining room tables, we would have never found anything. Long before we found our new place, we had spent several months selling or giving away the majority of our possessions (we knew whatever we were going to find would be smaller than our previous places). Some of this process I documented on this site.

We really thought the home would make a great demonstration of the LifeEdited design ideas, incorporating less, but better stuff and making rooms do double or triple duty. It’d also contain a kid or two; the absence of kids being one of the chief criticisms made against the micro-movement. We tore the place down to the beams and were basically limited only by plumbing and sewage stacks, money and patience (the latter two ran critically thin by the end of the five month process).


Probably the most essential part of realizing our design goals were the beds. We built our rooms around the Penelope queen wall bed and the Lollipop IN wall bunk beds, both from Resource Furniture. This allowed us to turn the master bedroom into my office during the day and greatly expand the play area in the kids’ 100 sq ft bedroom (we already had one child and were planning a second, who is due in December).


For storage, we removed an existing closet and a nonfunctioning dumbwaiter in the front hallway (actually, the only hallway) and replaced them with an 8′ wide bank of floor-to-ceiling closets. We also had some matching cabinet units from Resource Furniture that fit on the sides of both beds. Because we had gotten rid of so much stuff prior to moving in, this turned out to be more than sufficient space for everything.


Speaking of ceilings, we found the previous owner had put on three–yes, three–layers of sheetrock on the ceiling as an ersatz renovation technique. When the ceiling(s) were removed, we found another 2’4″ of ceiling height. Unfortunately, because we were removing a supporting wall separating the living and bed rooms, much of the height was gobbled up by beams that needed to be sistered to the existing joists to compensate for the supporting wall’s removal. The ceilings still ended up being 9.5′, which gives the place a very open feel.

The structural wall previously had french doors. We took those out and moved the wall back, shrinking the bedroom by 2′ 9″ and expanding the living room by the same amount. We put a large sliding door on the new wall to separate the living room from the bedroom/office. The door itself is sandwiched plywood made by our contractor and attached to a track from Specialty Doors. Because the door is the same 9.5′ of the rest of the space, it creates a continuous ceiling plane, making the bedroom feel like a continuation of the living room, creating one big L-shaped room.


The original kitchen opened into the hallway and had a door to the kids’ bedroom, which we found awkward. We reoriented the kitchen making it a galley facing the living room. This change let light go from the kitchen window into the living room. Other changes included removing the existing tub, which was way too big for the space and moving it against the wall along the window.


Because of the space’s small size, we were able to upgrade on some of the materials. We used plumbing fixtures by Kohler throughout (mostly the Stillness line) and opted to splurge on marble for the bathroom and kitchen from Ann Sacks. We used sleek, high quality appliances (fridge, range, oven and dishwasher) from Spanish company Fagor. We used IKEA cabinets, because they looked good and, well, they’re inexpensive. Underfloor, were gorgeous Hakwood floors from LV Wood.

Aside from the Resource Furniture pieces, there wasn’t much furniture to buy. We kept our Room and Board sofa and NY folding lounge chair which fit nicely into the space. We found a simple, 39″ round oak table by Canvas Home and a matching 24″ play table for our son (they call it a coffee table). We got some classic Hans Wegner chairs for the dining table and two Kalon Studio wood stumps for our son’s table. In my office we had a small custom desk made and paired it with a Møller chair. Light fixtures in bathroom, living and bed rooms are by Allied Maker. While not furniture per se, we have lush plants from Sprout Home on every window sill, which provides a nice transition to our views of the park. (I’ll detail many of these choices in future posts).

The space came out amazing. Despite its northern exposure in the living and master bed rooms, it’s very bright (helped greatly by a coat of white paint). The minimal amount of stuff makes it manageable and easy to clean. We have more than enough storage. Despite how it might appear on this site, I’m not a small-space zealot. I don’t like waste, and very large homes tend to have a lot of wasted space. What I think is great about our space is that every bit of it is used.

Perhaps the thing I love most about our new home is its location. The park provides a canopy of greenery to look out on and an excellent place to play. We walk down the block to great restaurants. There’s a movie theater a block from our house (that, as newish parents, we have never attended). We run into friends all of the time and there’s a very large community of interesting people (many with kids) in our neighborhood. Our little–though admittedly not ‘tiny’–home made it possible for us to be here.

  • clarkbennett

    You did a great job, it looks great. Congratulations on your second child.

  • Tracy McElroy

    This is stunning. Thanks so much for the walk thru. My only question and it is sort of a personal one, not including the price of the home of course, what can one assume a renovation like this costs?

  • Marrena


  • travelin_rn

    Thank you for sharing your home and the insight planning for the maximizing the space. Do you have bikes, cars, or use public transportation? Where would you store the bikes if guests came over on them?

  • experiencedgrandmother

    Canape? or canopy of greenery?

    • David Friedlander


  • Maggie

    Love the Resource Furniture beds! Practical and they look good. Have their website bookmarked, if ever…

  • Marrena

    A small request? I would like to Pinterest the heck out of this, but the pictures I am most interested in are only tiny thumbnails. I pinterested some from the Dwell article, but I’d rather link back to here, since it’s your place and I love this website. I might hit it up on tumblr too.

    I think this is the best use of small space I have ever seen, and I love the style of the place too. Graham Hill’s place is clever and innovative, but this renovation really feels more homelike and livable.

    • David Friedlander

      hi marrena,
      thanks so much for saying what you said about our place.
      in terms of pinterest, our slideshow is a tiny bit wonky. i’m not sure which browser you use, but with chrome, there is a pinterest widget that allows you to right click and pin even with lightbox images from slideshow. hope that helps.

      • Marrena

        Does that actually work in Chrome though? I am using “Copy image location” from the slideshow, which usually works with other websites, but then I get this message from Pinterest, “Oops! This site doesn’t have any images to Pin.” Maybe the slideshow jpg’s are protected?

        • David Friedlander

          i definitely works. see screenshot.

          • Marrena

            I use Firefox–after installing the Firefox Pinterest app, it works for me too. Weird. Thank you for your tech support!

  • Greg

    Wonderful renovation! I particularly like the large sliding door to your bedroom area.

    Is it my imagination or were you able to change the window in the kitchen?

    I live in a small converted hay loft, on a farm, in the Gulf Islands, off the west coast of Canada and have no concept of what it would be like to renovate an apartment in the city. (though I must admit, the idea is gaining some appeal with articles like yours 😉

    If you could “edit” your advice about tackling a project like yours, down to one sentence might it be something along the lines of “Expect the unexpected….” I can only imagine the challenges you faced.

  • candy

    This is absolutely beautiful and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

  • heather

    maybe my favorite post of all time here on life edited! love your place! thank you for all the inspiration and all the details you give! i spend hours trying to figure this stuff out with houses that i love. i would move right in with my two teenage girls and husband! thanks again!

  • Ana

    awesome work! Well, as an architect, I tried to understand everything in an
    imaginary floor plan, but I just couldn’t locate the bathroom, haha. Could you tell
    us where it is or maybe share a floor plan? I was wondering if it was beside the kitchen or even between
    the bedrooms, but I just couldn’t “find it” and now I’m super curious. Thank you!

    • Ana

      I’ve just found the floor plan in the Dwell Magazine article. Thanks!

  • sarah

    I really appreciate your edited lifestyle and your place is beautiful and spare, but my problem is that it honestly doesn’t look very cozy. Is there any way to combine the excellent ideology with a bit of sink-into-an-armchair comfort?

  • Mickey McReynolds

    Love your place! Loved the Dwell article! So much so that I’m hoping to gut a 1470 sq. ft. (main floor) modern house and copy yours! Stunning! Love the sliding door to the master. Can you give more detail about what it’s made of? And what is the size of your baseboard…1×3? Simplicity…an inspired way to live! Thank you for sharing it!


    This is an amazing home, and I am thinking about editing my own. How much were the lollipop bunk beds?

  • Alexander López

    What a great work! Congratulations!

  • travelin_rn

    I just thought of an another question David. Why did you chose to go with a cook top in the kitchen versus Graham’s portable induction elements in your kitchen? I know there had to be a lot of thought put into it. I think the idea would make for a great follow up article, Q&A’s about your home.

  • Can’t believe I didn’t see this until now. We were inspired by the first life edited apartment to turn our 600sqft apartment into a livable space for our new baby and us. It felt like a huge risk at the time but we couldn’t be happier with our decision. Thanks for the beautiful update. Please know you are inspiring a different way of thinking of living and space in Vancouver, BC.