Small/Cool Is Officially Back: A May Letter From the Editor

published May 4, 2020
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Credit: Bijou Karman

I’ve always been a homebody, but I never imagined spending as much time in my apartment as I have the past two months, with time at home transitioning from a treat to a must-do. My dining table is now my office (it’s also my “neighborhood” bar, the classroom for my Tuesday night class, and a spot for our board games). The rug in front of the couch is my gym (just push the coffee table out of the way). The bedroom is a backup conference room when my husband and I have competing work calls.

No one moves to New York City for the space, but in the last two months I’ve been surprised how much the two of us can squeeze out of the 700 or so square feet we share together. I’ve always known a safe, comfortable home is an incredible privilege, but I’ve never felt that as acutely as I have since NYC’s stay-at-home order went into effect in March. My ability to stay put makes the city just a little safer for those who cannot, especially essential workers.

Maximizing and personalizing any amount of space has been core to Apartment Therapy’s mission since the beginning. But that message feels more even more powerful now, as we attempt to make the most out of every last square inch of our homes.

I think I received my first request to bring the Small/Cool contest back within my first few weeks of starting to work here, at the end of 2017. The program was a beloved tentpole for more than 10 years, before being sunset in 2016. And I heard readers loud and clear: they wanted it back. About a year ago, our founder Maxwell Ryan explained the original genesis of the contest—that feeling when you walked into a friend’s apartment for the first time (remember that?!) and marveled at the genius way they used the space. So he and the team set out on a mission to find the smallest, coolest spaces in New York City, and eventually the world.

With that in mind, we started working to revive the contest—but we had no idea how relevant the celebration of home would feel when we debuted. We accepted submissions for three weeks last month, receiving a total of more than 500. As I’ve been working from home, your entries have truly inspired me. They’re full of ingenious solutions, personal style, and a ton of heart.

And now, starting today, our larger readership can start voting on them here. We have four brackets (small, smaller, tiny, and teeny tiny), with the first—the small bracket—opening up Monday, May 4. You can page through the entries, choosing a thumbs up to vote for an entry or a thumbs down to pass on it. You’re able to vote on every entry, but only one time each, so make your selections carefully. A new bracket will open up every Monday in May, which means you have until next Monday morning to cast your votes for the small bracket. I can’t wait to hear which ones are your favorites, and what you think of our new voting interface. Our readers will select the four bracket winners, and then our expert panel will choose the grand prize winner from there. That winner will be announced in early June.

Credit: Isabela Humphrey

We also have a big surprise: we’re bringing a Small/Cool experience straight to your couch from the weekend of May 15. We challenged 20 designers to bring 20 trends to life, all in 20 teeny tiny spaces. Their work exceeded every expectation, chock-full of stylish small-space ideas. When our team realized that a live event in NYC wasn’t in the cards for at least the first half of 2020, we pivoted to make our event a virtual one. Starting May 15, you can tour all of the spaces virtually on Apartment Therapy, from the comfort of your own home. Plus, we’ll be hosting a live Instagram event May 15-17, where you can join in on the fun, meeting some of our designers, playing games, and connecting over small-space design. I’ll be hosting some of the events and can’t wait to meet you over on Instagram during the event. Tune in @apartmenttherapy, and sign up for event information and updates here.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Of course, we have even more planned for the site this month aside from Small/Cool. For starters, May is our second annual Plant Month. We’ll have a big guide to how to take care of (pretty much) every plant, a thoughtful discussion of plant ethics, tons of plant-centric house tours, and more. I personally can’t wait, as my ZZ plant has been suffering these past few weeks (perhaps it doesn’t like all of this newfound company?).

As you’re reading this, I hope you’re staying as safe and healthy as possible. It’s my sincere hope that Small/Cool and Apartment Therapy can provide a bit of a virtual bright spot in the coming weeks, as we all rely on our homes more than ever before.


Credit: Joe Lingeman / Apartment Therapy

Our letter from the editor series appears the first Monday of every monthYou can follow Laura on Instagram here.