Luke Clark Tyler has the claim to fame of being “that crazy guy” who lives in what may be New York City’s smallest single apartment. He doesn’t have a kitchen or a bathroom (of his own), but he does have 78 very well organized square feet. As the general New York City population — as well as portions of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Florida (because our parents live there) — can’t help being obsessed by people living in small spaces, we needed to know more from Tyler, a 27-year-old architect who turns 28 on Monday and, for the record, is not having a party in his apartment. So, how, and why, does he live there?
People really reacted to the video of you talking about your tiny space!
Yeah. It’s weird for me to hear a lot of the feedback. It’s normal for me; it’s just my environment, so I don’t really notice it’s different.
Do your friends come over?
Oh yeah, all the time. Most of my friends live in Brooklyn or Queens, and my apartment, in Midtown, is central, so we’ll meet at my place and hang out.
How many people can you fit in your place?
We’ve only had like 4 or 5. My last apartment, we had like 7 people at once.
Your last apartment was 90-some feet, right?
My last apartment was 96 square feet, and it was by Penn Station. I’m actually trying to put together a video of that one. The cool thing about it was that I had a sink, so I could kind of fashion a kitchen. It had a lot more bells and whistles! I had a dining table that popped out of the couch.
Why did you leave?
I left the country, and I actually lived in a 35-square-foot apartment, in Kenya. It was 7 feet by 5 feet. It had mud walls; the roofs are thin metal sheets. The thing about my place, which was smaller than the average 10- by 10-foot one, was that I was the only person living in it. Most of the others had families of five. I was working on a project and spending most of the day on construction. I was just there doing work and sleeping. That’s why, when I came back here, I thought, I don’t have much stuff and I don’t need that much space.
Do you feel like people in New York and the rest of the country are living in too much space?
I know I have more than I need. But I could go shopping and imagine having a beautiful piece of furniture or even having a sink. I think it’s just the general attitude; we have more than we need. If you were to ask what the typical American dream is, it probably does involve the white picket fence and cars and a garage and a bedroom for every child.
Is that something you want?
I personally really like the urban context in which you have several people using one thing together, like transportation in New York. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed here, because I didn’t have to drive. Being able to use transportation together, having densely populated streets, or sharing utilities in an apartment building — there are so many different ways of achieving sustainability. But there’s probably a big chunk of the population that doesn’t really understand what it takes. That was one thing, living in Kenya, you had a lot better understanding of the process it takes to just live.
So you don’t miss anything about living in a bigger space?
Sometimes I do miss having a kitchen. Last night I wanted to make a cake for my friend’s birthday. But I can just go to a friend’s apartment to do that. When it becomes your norm, things sort of disappear in terms of it being a compromise. I don’t notice it until someone says something.
Are you dating anyone?
I am single. But I have had two exes more or less live with me, one in my old place, and one in this one.They stayed for like a month, two months. It was fine for me. And I host my family and friends when they stay here. Hotels in New York, especially Midtown, are so expensive!
Do you think you’ll stay for a while?
The only reason I left my last place was because I moved to Kenya. When I came back, I had to find a new place. So…unless I want to move in with somebody, I plan on staying.
With the chorus of “you get more space in the boroughs,” why Midtown?
I like Midtown for its proximity to my interests, music and dance, it makes it really convenient to have picked those things up again after architecture school. To be honest, I don’t like the Times Square crowds, and I don’t like the smells of trash from the restaurants on my street, but in 5 or 10 minutes I can be doing whatever I want.
Did a broker show you this place?
Yes. I found this one and my last on Craigslist, and they were advertised as studios, which they are very much not, they’re like half-studios. And they were both with realtors. The first one (the 96 square foot) was just a disaster when I saw it. I decided I could take it and paint it, and it was totally great. I stayed there until I left the country. With this one, I thought, It’s the cheapest place I could find in Midtown, so, let’s do it.
Did you have to pay a broker fee?
Yes! My first one was $2,000, and my apartment rent was $800 or $825 a month. With this apartment, he asked for one month, and I think I ended up paying $600 or $700 after talking him down. My rent is $800 a month.
Any advice for someone who wants to live in a tiny place?
It’s hard for me to imagine who would want to live in a tiny place…
You do it!
Well, I don’t mind it. But it’s totally possible, it just depends on what’s important to you. No matter where you live, if you’re unhappy with it, you’ll probably change it.
Yeah, my apartment is like 250 square feet, and I think that’s too small…
I get so excited about the possibility of what you can build in a 250-square-foot space. Right now I’m working on a house that’s 10,000 square feet, and I just think, What are you gonna do? And that’s for two people!