Small Wonder: Smart Designer Home

An environmental entrepreneur goes upscale while downsizing.

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Story by Sarah Ruppenthal | Photography by Tony Novak-Clifford

Graham Hill’s 1,000-square-foot Ha‘ikū home has four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and enough space to entertain more than twenty guests.

On paper, that description might arouse some skepticism—it’s a lot to pack into 1,000 square feet—but in person, the layout makes perfect sense.

At the home’s front entrance, guests can rinse off their sandy toes under the outdoor foot shower and hang their salty gear on Resource Furniture’s wooden coat rack.

Graham knows a thing or two about making the most of minimal space. He is the founder and CEO of LifeEdited, a consulting firm that helps homeowners, architects and developers design compact homes and apartments (some as small as 175 square feet). “It’s the way I think,” he explains. “I’m not the kind of guy who would do a big house.”

He walks the walk and talks the talk. Literally. In a 2011 TED Talk titled “Less Stuff, More Happiness,” Graham (already on the map for launching the wildly popular eco-blog Treehugger.com in 2004) extolled the virtues of pared-down living. Twenty years ago, he and a business partner sold their Internet start-up, and Graham used the windfall to purchase a four-story, 3,600-square-foot home in one of Seattle’s trendiest neighborhoods. He soon realized that a supersized house required an inordinate amount of stuff—and upkeep, too. “My life became unnecessarily complicated,” he says. The novelty wore off quickly; Graham sold the home and most of his belongings, packed what remained into a few bags, and set off to travel the world. In 2010, he debuted “LifeEdited1,” a 420-square-foot apartment in New York City that functioned more like 1,000 square feet, thanks to a flexible layout with moveable interior walls and convertible furniture. Later that year, he moved into “LifeEdited2,” a 350-square-foot apartment in the same building.

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