Everything You Need to Know to Enter the 2023 Small/Cool Contest

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Small Cool winner 2021
Credit: Lucía Gogenola

Apartment Therapy’s annual Small/Cool Contest is back again! We want your help as we search for the smallest, coolest real-life homes around the world. Learn more about entering your space and voting for your favorites here.

Apartment Therapy’s annual Small/Cool Contest is back again! And we’d love for you to join us as we search for the smallest, coolest real-life homes around the world. 

If your home is 1,000 square feet or fewer, you can submit your space HERE between May 1 at 9 a.m. ET and May 22 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The first step to enter the contest is to create an Apartment Therapy on-site account — when you go to enter the competition, you’ll be prompted to sign up or log in. (Not interested in submitting your home? No problem, but mark your calendars for July 10, when public voting will begin. This year, for the first time ever, we’ll present the Voter Award to one of the readers who enters the most votes for the grand prize winner!)

Keep reading below for everything else you need to know to get your entry ready before submissions open on May 1. Make sure you also check out the full contest terms and conditions.

5 Questions We’ll Ask

  • The basics, including your full name, location, home type, and email address (your email won’t be published) 
  • What your home’s approximate square footage is (click here for more details on how to properly measure)
  • Why your home is the smallest, coolest space (400 characters max). We want you to tell us what inspired it, what your vision was, and what you love about your home. What’s special/unique about your space or the way you use it?
  • How your home reflects who you are (400 characters max). Include any info you’d like to share on any items or art that reflect your heritage, family, or identity, as well as any past experiences or memories that have helped shape your space.
  • Whether or not you worked with any design professionals on your space. If the answer is yes, please get their permission to submit and credit them.

The 6 Files You’ll Need

  • 1 photo of your space to be used as your main contest entry image, plus a caption that tells us what we’re looking at. You must have permission to use this photo and all other images in your entry; more on that here.
  • 4 more photos of your space that help us better visualize it — each photo should show a favorite room, angle, view or aspect you want to share — with a caption for each. Each photograph must be at least 2,000 pixels wide and in .jpeg file format.
  • 1 image of the floor plan of your whole home, and a caption for it. You can hand-draw this image or create it on your computer. Please make sure no addresses, company or building names, logos, or personal information appear. Here and here are examples of great floor plan images from past contests.

More Small/Cool Contest FAQs

What makes a good entry?

We encourage you to show off what makes your space small and cool, in both your answers to our questions and the photos. Got a cool under-couch storage system? Show it to us in a photo! Better yet, share in the caption how you made it, where you bought everything from, and how it’s been useful. Be sure to copy edit your entries for legibility and adhere to the character counts. Photo quality matters, too — check out our guide for taking better interior photos here. Remember: no watermarks or screenshots. Of course, your main image will be voters’ first impression of your space, so make sure it does a great job of capturing what makes your space so Small/Cool. And just note that prepping your entry may take more time than you think! See our 2022, 2021, and 2020 winners as examples of excellent entries.

How do I measure square footage?

We need to know the approximate square footage of your home so we can determine eligibility. (No one with more than 1,000 square feet total can enter.) To measure yours, multiply the length and the width of all of your rooms and spaces (so, anywhere you inhabit — do include things like loft bedrooms, closets, and converted garages, but no need to include things like unfinished basements/garages). Here’s a guide for how to do it. If you work in the metric system, don’t forget to convert from square meters to square feet.

How do I know if I have permission to use the photos I’m submitting?

Chances are, your photos fall into one of the three scenarios below:

  1. I took these images myself, independently of any publication or other company: Yes, you own the copyright.
  2. I originally took these images for another publication or company: No. You will need to contact the original publication/company and obtain written permission to submit these images.
  3. Someone else took these images: No. You will need to contact the photographer and obtain written permission to use these images.

This isn’t enough photos to show my whole home. Is that OK?

Entries should give the idea of your entire home, but they don’t have to include everything. If you hate your bathroom, you don’t have to include a photo of your bathroom. You do need to include the square footage for the whole place (and yes, that includes the spaces you don’t take photos of, such as closets or bathrooms) and a floor plan image of the whole place.

Can I enter a space I designed for someone else?

Sorry, but no. You must enter a space that you rent or own for yourself.

Can I enter the contest if I’ve already been featured on Apartment Therapy?

Yes! Any photos you’ve taken or submitted are fine to use so long as you have permission to share them. But if we sent an Apartment Therapy photographer to your home to take photos for a house tour, you can’t use those. And, of course, employees of Apartment Therapy (and their families) aren’t eligible. Also, cash prize winners from the 2022, 2021, and 2020 Small/Cool Contest aren’t eligible to enter in 2023.

What happens after I submit my home?

Between the closing of submissions on May 22 and the opening of public voting on July 10, our team will review all entries and assign yours a confidential score from 0-16, based on photo quality, vibe, cleverness, creativity, functionality, and writing quality. Entrants with the highest scores will move forward (and if you get a 0 in any of those categories, you’ll be eliminated). 

During this timeframe, you’ll receive a notification letting you know whether or not your submission will be featured in public voting on Apartment Therapy. Please keep in mind that your submission may only be reviewed closer to the start of public voting on July 10. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to answer requests regarding why a home did not move on to public voting.

How does voting work?

We will open up the contest for two weeks of public voting beginning on July 10, from 9 a.m. ET that day through 5 p.m. ET on July 24. You must register and create an account on Apartment Therapy to vote

Important: You can only vote for each entry once per day, but you can return to vote for your favorite entries every day during that two-week period! (In other words, you can vote for each entry up to 15 times total during the voting period.) 

Wait, didn’t this contest used to have multiple rounds or multiple brackets?

That’s right! But this year we’re doing things a bit differently, and all entries will be weighed against each other in one big, two-week round of daily voting.

What’s the prize?

Besides endless bragging rights, the grand prize winner will get $1,000 and the chance to be featured on Apartment Therapy’s platforms. 

This year, aside from a grand prize winner, we’re also doling out four category winner prizes. These four winners will be selected by Apartment Therapy’s judging panel in the categories of:

  • Vibe Category Winner: the entry with the best design/aesthetic
  • Cleverness Category Winner: the entry with ridiculously cool and unique small-space solutions
  • Creativity Category Winner: the entry that’s teeming with personality, whether that’s via a wall mural/treatment/collage, a personal collection of items, or something else entirely
  • Functionality Category Winner: the entry that really works due to its layout and use of space

Each category winner will receive $250 and the chance to be featured on Apartment Therapy’s platforms. (The addition of any sponsored categories may be added at Apartment Therapy’s discretion throughout the contest.)

When can we find out who the winners are?

We’ll announce both the contest’s grand prize winner and the category winners on Apartment Therapy on July 27.

You didn’t answer my question! What now?

If you still have a question, email smallcoolcontest@apartmenttherapy.com.