Thursday, March 29, 2012

Doin' time: Jail cells as small-space inspiration (really)

Doin time title

Crime and punishment meant something quite different as a kid. Common infractions were things like Refusal to Eat Green Beans, "Not Touching" Your Younger Brother, and Giving Yourself a Haircut. Your parents were judge, jury, and jailer, and your bedroom became your jail cell. The sentence: Until After Dinner.

And if you live in a tiny-ass apartment, it's an experience that doesn't stop when you reach adulthood. If you live in a dorm room or teeny-tiny studio, it can sometimes feel like the walls are closing in. And so, I'm here to make you feel worse by showing you some jail cells that actually look rather appealing. But before you consider going on a crime spree in order to make one of these cells your home, just take a moment and think about how you can take some of these small-space ideas can translate to your own place.

And yes, I'm including making pruno in the toilet tank. Delicious and affordable!

Our first batch of rooms are actually jail cells that have been converted into hotel rooms. Apparently this is a Thing. I personally wouldn't go for a vacation in the hoosegow, but I have to admit it is a different experience than your usual Holiday Inn. The Old Court in Somerset, UK used to be a Divisional Magistrates’ Court and Police Station and was built in 1857. The three jail cells have been converted into theme rooms, including the Guy Fawkes and Jack the Ripper rooms (pictured here) and the Queen Anne Boleyn room. Something I found pretty funny was their warning that "wi-fi is unavailable in this room due to the thick walls but the adjacent lounge offers full connectivity." No wi-fi in the room? What is this, a prison?

The room contains two slim twin beds with wall-mounted lamps and storage built into the headboard. Wooden partitions have been built up to hide the more private parts of the bathroom, while the modern glass bowl sink is left open. And I gotta admit, the arched exposed brick ceiling and paned window are really charming. Via The Old Court.

The Oxford Prison Hotel (also in the UK, obvs) boasts an even more impressive history. It was originally built in 1071 (not a typo), and remained an active prison until 1996. Ten years later it reopened as the Oxford Castle Complex with the hotel inside; it was renovated with a grant from the National Lottery Heritage fund. The hotel claims that it has very "romantic" suites and is ideal for a "romantic getaway." If what I've heard about marriage being like a prison sentence is true, then I'll believe it! Nyuk nyuk. But romantic or not, the cells/rooms have modern luxuries like plasma flatscreen TVs, king-sized beds, and Jacuzzis. From Oxford Prison.

Since I'm a native Bay Arean (there's gotta be a better term than that), I'm pretty eye-rolly about Alcatraz. Yeah, yeah, I've taken the tour, it was pretty cool, and every time I entertain out-of-towners they want to go see it. It's just that thing when you live in a town with a well-known tourist attraction, and you become rather blasé about it. But interestingly, the Alcatraz Hotel is not in San Francisco. It's in… Germany? Okay. Like the others, the hotel is a converted former city jail. The rooms are Spartan but bright and modern, and the black-and-white striped curtains are a nice touch. From Izismile.

Now these photos, you might be surprised to learn, aren't from a cell-turned-hotel-room. They're from a cell-still-a-cell. Halden Prison in Norway has quite lovely accommodations for its criminals. In fact, with the IKEA-esque furniture, it looks uncomfortably like my old dorm room -- and I didn't even have an in-suite bathroom. Damn state school. From The Daily Mail.

The Justice Center Leoben in Styria, Austria has also got me considering a life of crime… in Austria, of course. Not only do you get a kickass cell like the one pictured here, but they also have ping-pong, indoor soccer, and a nice gym. No more working out in a dusty prison yard for me! I'm off to a Zumba class! (Okay, I think I'd still get my ass kicked by my celly for that.) From Carniola.

Finally, if you're a fan of Boardwalk Empire, this is the cell for you. (I can't say that I am a fan, but I can say that watching the show while drinking a few glasses of wine inspired me to purchase the domain True story.) Al Capone's cell at Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania is downright luxurious. Apparently he invented shabby chic in between bootlegger runs and assassinations. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies, "Pitch Black" (shut up, that movie is good!): "Amazing how you can do without the essentials of life, so long as you have the little luxuries." Looking at that fine furniture, I'd say Capone felt that way too. Via Reddit.

And before we're through, I wanted to give you a quick word on decorating your jail cell (or jail cell-like apartment): if you're interested, I know a guy who can get you some awesome posters...


  1. Having lived in the smallest of smallest spaces, I love your blog! And your sense of humor!

  2. That's a great way of thinking for the design of a smaller apartment

  3. Yeah, I agree... your sense of humor is on point. I'll be anxiously awaiting the launch of your kittycat site :)

  4. Love this post. Some of them look more like jail cells in Sweden though.

    Maybe that's why I should go take classes at AAU (

    Jail cell design is my calling!


  5. I don't know if I could handle being in such a small space, i think I would freak out

  6. Dude that first rustic cabin looking one made me rather jealous. Al Capone's looks badass but would be more badass if he was living underground during a war or something(with the crumbling walls and all)

  7. Great post. Space-saver's greatest dream but a claustrophobic person's worst nightmare. :)

  8. I'd stay in a jail-turned-hotel - can you imagine the potential paranormal activity going on in there?!

    Speaking of, Al Capone's old cell is rumored to be the most haunted cell in that penitentiary.


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