Magazine article The New Yorker

Mini Dinner

Magazine article The New Yorker

Mini Dinner

Article excerpt

Depending on how you count, Graham Hill's micro-apartment, in SoHo, has either six rooms or one. The other night, a dozen people gathered in them/it for a dinner party. "This is the first time I've had apartment envy for a place even smaller than my own," one of them whispered.

Hill is thin and rangy, with reddish hair and a reddish-brown beard. In his mid-twenties, he founded a Web-consultancy firm, which a few years later he sold for some ten million dollars. In his mid-thirties, he created the Web site TreeHugger, which he sold for another ten million dollars. Hill is now forty-two, and the micro-apartment, in addition to being his home, serves as a showroom for his latest venture, which he calls LifeEdited. The idea behind LifeEdited is to make scaling back in the face of ecological catastrophe seem attractive. Hill hopes to convince Americans (and anyone else who might be persuaded) that living in a small space with very few possessions is not only greener but also more fun. He envisions whole buildings--indeed, entire neighborhoods--made up of diminutive apartments and shared stuff.

"We want to design compelling places to live that are really smart financially and really smart environmentally and have a sense of community," he said. Each LifeEdited building, he imagines, will include "a communal professional kitchen or a roof deck or a co-working office. You could have bookable spare bedrooms--Zipcar-ify the guest room. There could be something like a product library, so, for example, instead of everyone owning a drill you would have five amazing drills that everyone can access."

Hill's apartment--so far the only micro-apartment that's been completed--is roughly a rectangle, about twenty-four feet by sixteen feet. It doesn't have room for a coffee table, or for more than one couch, so for a while everyone stood around, drinks in hand. Once the last guest had arrived, Hill gave a micro-tour. He lowered a sleek, twenty-first-century Murphy bed from the wall behind the couch: the living room became a bedroom. He pulled out a drawer with a work surface, and it became an office. He slid the opposite wall forward along a set of tracks embedded in the floor; this created a second bedroom, with Murphy-style bunk beds. …

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