August 27, 2019
I really like living in an apartment. It’s strange because I think people often think of dense housing as inferior to ‘single-family’ homes, or at the very least, consider apartments a temporary stop-gap on the way to a big, spacious house. Even I still default to these assumptions even though I’ve lived in both houses and apartments and consistently feel that the latter suits me much better.
In particular, I like modern, functional apartments—the kind that people often think of as lacking character. It doesn’t bother me at all that all the units look the same, or that there are no period features. I like the fact that when done well, these apartments are optimized for modern living.
Things I love about where I currently live:
- Open-plan living space, great for casual entertaining
- Functional design that is easy to keep clean
- Big windows that let in tons of sunlight
- Small units that have been cleverly designed to make the most of the limited space
- No loft or garage in which to hoard stuff, so forces me to stay reasonably minimalist
- Gorgeous roof garden with amazing views, maintained by someone much better at gardening than me
- A management team that are quick to resolve issues, and put on community events for the residents
- Neighborly atmosphere, encouraged by the use of Slack, where residents can chat. Often gets used to organize board games nights, ask for pet-sitters, give away furniture, share recommendations etc.
- Trash shoot, so I can get rid of trash at anytime and don’t need to worry about remembering which day to put the bins out
- Concierge that receives my mail and packages so I don’t need to be home to get deliveries
Apartment life has significantly reduced the cognitive overhead of ‘life admin’ for me. When I hear others complain about their packages being stolen from their doorstep or having a nightmare trying to get their boiler fixed, I am simultaneously so grateful for my current situation and baffled that it isn’t the default. My place isn’t cheap, but for all the benefits and convenience I have no doubt it’s worth it for me, and I can easily imagine more affordable versions that provide many of the same benefits.
I remember once mentioning I was surprised that there weren’t more building complexes that provided a kind of ‘dorm-rooms-for-grown-ups’; a style of living closer to a university hall of residence, including a canteen that provides simple, cheap, healthy food. The reaction surprised me: people seemed morally offended at the idea of enabling adults to get away with not cooking for themselves. Personally, I don’t think not cooking is any more of a moral failing than not sewing your own clothes, but even if I did, the fact of the matter is that lots of adults I know live off takeouts or frozen meals anyway.
I’m excited about experiments with new forms of housing, like Starcity and Oppidan, where a single fixed monthly rent includes “private apartment, all utilities, super-fast Wi-Fi, food essentials, living supplies, cleaning and maintenance, four hours of free car hire per month, community events and a range of lifestyle benefits”.
I’ve already heard these projects decried as some terrible symptom of late-stage capitalism where young people can’t even afford a “proper” place to live, or as some kind of millennial rejection of responsibility, or as a manifestation of obscene hyper-optimized convenience-culture…
But I think it’s just a reflection of changing lifestyles and values. I move so frequently, it’s silly that I have to set up WiFi and utilities, move furniture, and acquire basic supplies every time. I love well-tended outdoor space, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to invest in maintaining it myself. More people are living their lives according to the gospel of Marie Kondo and valuing experiences over things, so have no need for expansive, permanent homes to store all their stuff. And co-living provides a tentative solution to the loneliness and isolation that is often said to plague city-dwellers. I don’t know if this style of living will suit me forever, but for now it’s ideal.