Big News: Small/Cool is Back and Better Than Ever

published Feb 21, 2020
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Small/Cool is back and better than ever! The Small/Contest entries will open on April 3, and the live Small/Cool Experience will be open April 4-5. Sign up for (free!) tickets to the Experience here.

When our founder Maxwell Ryan launched Apartment Therapy’s first-ever Small/Cool Contest (all the way back in 2005), it captured a feeling I think a lot of us can relate to: the one when you walk into a real-life space and say “Wow, that’s so cool—how did you think of that?” I think about my friend Sam’s apartment, for instance, where she rigged a brilliant multi-tier shoe storage system in her front closet (a heck of a lot better than my entryway shoe pile). Or my friend Emma, whose 400-ish square foot apartment is a perfect mix of maximalism and her personal style.

This feeling led to the creation of the Small/Cool Contest. The original goal was to find the smallest, coolest spaces in NYC and, as it grew, the world. For more than 10 years, many of you shared your real-life small and cool spaces (Maxwell even published a book of small, cool spaces in 2010).

The contest took a break in 2016, and we knew that when we brought it back, we wanted to find a way to make it feel more fresh and exciting than ever. When I started as the editor of Apartment Therapy in 2017, I began receiving requests to revive the contest within my first few weeks—and I’m so excited to kickstart it this spring, in a dynamic new format.

For starters, the contest is back. Submissions will open on April 3, and stay open for three weeks before voting begins. So if you’re thinking of entering, start photographing now! To enter, you’ll upload a set number of photos and answer a few questions about your space as part of the entry. The contest, which will be sponsored by Behr Paint Company, has four brackets, broken out by size: teeny tiny (less than 250 square feet), tiny (250-500 square feet), small (500-750 square feet), and small-ish (750-1,000 square feet). The square footage is based on the total area of the home you live in. You should only enter a space that you actually live in—it’s OK if someone else designed it, but you need to give them credit (and get their permission).

But that’s not all. We also decided to create a Small/Cool Experience for the first time ever, which we’ll host at the home to Brooklyn’s Design District: Industry City. We’ve challenged 20 designers to bring 20 trends to life for 2020—all in 20 small spaces. You’ll get to see all of the latest home trends up close and personal, and every single item at the event will be shoppable, even if you can’t make it in person.

We’re working with so many great designers to bring the Small/Cool experience to life, including Emily Henderson, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent (working with their Living Spaces collection), Mikel Welch (of “Trading Spaces” fame), Shavonda Gardner, Orlando Soria, Hilton Carter (our resident plant doctor), and Apartment Therapy’s home director, Danielle Blundell. You can find the full list of designers at

Entry to the event is totally free, but you can reserve a spot to skip the lines. Of course, I want to invite Apartment Therapy readers to be among the first to sign up—you can do it today at If you live in the area, I’d love to meet you in person at the event. If not, you can still participate! We’ll have photos of all of the rooms up on the site (more details to come as we get closer).

I really do believe that a home, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is more important than ever before. It’s where we rest, recharge, connect with family, and have the important conversations. But at the same time, there are more options for creating your space than ever before, too. One of the most common struggles I hear from readers in emails, DMs, and out and about in real life, is how challenging it can feel to bring everything together in a way that reflects your personal style. This event will be one more way to make that happen. Not only can you see how designers created their spaces, but you can feel, touch, and see products before deciding to bring them home.

Maxwell talks a lot about how small spaces inevitably create constraints—but it’s those constraints that can lead to creative innovations. I can’t wait to see what each of our designers will do with less than 200 square feet. And I can’t wait to review your submissions for the contest in the following weeks.

Small/Cool is back for 2020—and it’s truly thanks to you. We heard your requests and can’t wait to make it all happen.