• 01.27.11

Living Green by Making a Tiny Apartment Feel Like a Penthouse

TreeHugger founder Graham Hill saw that living green also means living small. So he used crowdsourcing to find the best design for his 400-square-foot apartment.

Living Green by Making a Tiny Apartment Feel Like a Penthouse

Tiny apartments are the norm in New York. But what if living in a shoebox could actually feel airy and bright? That’s exactly what TreeHugger founder Graham Hill wants to do. And it’s all part of trying to save the environment: “If you take something and use it with half the materials, you just made it twice as green,” Hill says. “If you just reduce the amount of square footage you’re going to make things greener.”


Hill spearheaded LifeEdited, a crowdsourced contest to design his Manhattan apartment in the most space-efficient and environmental way. Out of 300 entries on the Jovoto crowdsourcing platform, there were seven user-selected winners and three finalists. One Size Fits All, designed by Catalin Sandu, won the top prize of $10,000 and the potential of a design contract. Hill plans to implement their design in his apartment, with some modifications.


All entries were required to include space for a sit-down dinner for 12, a comfortable lounging option for eight people, a semi-private space for two guests, a home office, a work area with space for a rolling tool chest, and a hideable kitchen. Entries were judged on whether they encompassed all the requirements, as well as the design’s aesthetic value and how replicable it is in other homes.

Hill says the top three designs can be categorized like cars. Third-runner-up Surfaces, designed by Gorlov, is the Porsche, with sleek beauty but maybe not as utilitarian design. Living in the Future, designed by Theo Richardson, is the minivan, well thought-out and designed but lacking some visual pleasure. And he considers the winner, One Size Fits All, the four-door Porsche. However, Hill says that all of the finalists need some functionality changes. The apartment will also include furniture from Resource Furniture, a New York-based company that specializes in transformable furniture and a contest sponsor.

“You want a space to have two functions,” he says. “You don’t really need a couch when you’re in bed or an office when you’re in bed so make that a second option.”


By editing the unnecessary objects in life that occupy arguably unnecessary space, Hill argues we are not only helping the environment but also lightening our financial burden, and in turn, we will be happier. People will no longer have empty space that indulges their wasteful shopping habits — even credit card debt wouldn’t be as rampant.

However, Hill wants to trump the criticism that he organized this contest to have someone design his apartment for free. He plans to use the space as a platform for raising awareness about environmental design issues, one of the reasons he needs a table to seat 12.

“This is the most inefficient, expensive ways to do an apartment ever,” he says. “I’ll still have to pay a lot of money for design and construction.”

When are we coming over for dinner?