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Credit: Nancy Mitchell

Where Are They Now? Catching Up With AT’s Small/Cool Winner From 2008

published Apr 14, 2020
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One of Apartment Therapy’s biggest missions is to celebrate living in small spaces, particularly by sharing peeks into the incredibly inspiring homes of people who live small! And for many years, the best source of gorgeous tiny homes was our own Small/Cool contest. While the Small/Cool contest took a hiatus for a few years, it’s back this year and it’s better than ever. If you live in a small and cool home, you can enter the contest right now for a chance to win big prizes (and the chance to inspire others with your great ideas!).

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Entering will give you the chance to be part of a time-honored Apartment Therapy tradition, one that I’ve been revisiting now that entries for this year’s contest are in full swing. I went back—way back—to the 2008 contest, and was struck by just how clever the winning home was. In the spirit of competition and nostalgia, I reached out to the owners of that home to see where they are now, get their small-space tips, inspire current small home-dwellers to enter the contest, and find out what living in an award-winning small home has taught them about home design.

Credit: Jim Franco

Hilary Padget and Anthony Harrington won Apartment Therapy’s Small/Cool contest in 2008 with their “3-in-1” studio apartment in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. The couple—who together own the full-service, New York-based architecture practice pHdesign—didn’t just decorate their 460-square-foot studio apartment stylishly; they completely transformed the tiny space into a home with a ton of different functions… all in just one room!

Credit: Jim Franco

The key to their home’s success was the modular live/work loft they designed (and hired a furniture designer to build) out of birch plywood. “We have space for our closet, media and book storage, a home office and entertainment center before we even get to the bed,” they wrote in their Small/Cool submission. “At the top of the loft, we have a queen size bed, enough space left to sit up comfortably in bed and more storage for our linens in the headboard.”

And if all that function isn’t impressive enough, the couple also designed the live/work loft—as well as much of the rest of the furniture in the space—to be movable since this was a rental! “All of our furniture is made to move easily since we’re still renting,” they wrote in their Small/Cool submission. “The loft is like a big piece of furniture, but comes apart so when we move, it can move with us and change to fit in a new space. Living here as a couple with a cat, we have enough space to store everything we need without sacrificing comfort.”

Credit: Jim Franco

Hilary and Anthony successfully lived in their Small/Cool-winning home for five years before moving to Jersey City, to a 1050-square-foot home they own. Though larger than their former Brooklyn rental, it’s still packed with their same functional, beautiful design style. They’ve been in their Jersey City home (which we toured as well!) for about four years now. Below, Anthony answers some questions about what they learned about living (and winning!) small.

A photo of the couple's New Jersey home, which they currently live in.

Apartment Therapy: Did you learn anything about living in a small home from entering the contest and winning?

Anthony Harrington: It was great to see so much positive feedback from the AT crowd! When your whole life is on public display, it can be a bit daunting, but it felt really great to share our space with so many people. Overall, we learned just how much other people love looking for small space living ideas and can appreciate creative solutions.

Credit: Jim Franco

AT: What did you think it was about your space specifically that resonated the most with readers?

AH: I think we walked the line between decorating an existing space and creating an expensive custom-built apartment. We have a more minimal style, but still like to include warmth and color in our spaces, which we think made readers feel comfortable and able to imagine living in our space.

Credit: Jim Franco

AT: What do you think was the most important small space trick/storage idea/organizing idea in your home then? What is it now in your current home?

AH: Our biggest trick to organizing our space was to create storage specifically for the things we already owned and locate them near the spaces where we would need to use them. No storage was “dead” storage space where we might lose track of what we owned. In both our original apartment and our current home, we used basic cabinetry for storage that’s both easy to access and hidden away to avoid too much visual clutter.

Credit: Jim Franco

AT: Were you able to use any small space lessons you learned in your new, larger space?

AH: Aside from the other lessons we mentioned, we also learned about designing spaces to perform more than one function. In our current home, we have an entry that is also a play space and a guest room, while our dining room is also an office.

Credit: Nancy Mitchell
A photo of the couple's New Jersey home, which they currently live in.

AT: What is the most surprising feedback you received on your small, cool home?

AH: To us, it was always most fun to show friends in person and see their expressions change as we walked them through the space and described how we used it. As with anything online, negative comments can be discouraging, but overall, we were pleasantly surprised that comments were overwhelmingly positive.

AT: Why did you end up moving out of your Small/Cool-winning home?

AH: Honestly, we got bedbugs. They moved in from a neighbor’s apartment and infested our loft. It was heartbreaking.

Credit: Jim Franco

AT: Any advice for competitors this year?

AH: As with any space, it should be a reflection of you. Honesty shines through!

Thanks Anthony and Hilary!