Friday, March 16, 2012

On set: Small apartments on TV and film

On set title

There is much to be said about discrimination and underrepresentation on TV and in film. Not only are people of different orientation, ages, races, religions, and body types routinely excluded from roles on shows and movies, but there's another major category that Hollywood is overlooking: tiny apartment dwellers.

So many shows and movies depict their characters living in huuuge apartments and houses. I know I've complained about it before -- when Carrie and Mr. Big bought their apartment together, it looked like freakin' Versailles. And Monica and Rachel's place on Friends? Yeah, I'm so sure a chef and a waitress were able to afford that palatial home. The dorms on Buffy the Vampire Slayer were redonkulous (I could have fit FOUR of my dorm in theirs!). Even the poorest characters have ginormous living spaces. People: the show's title is "Two Broke Girls." I've never watched the show, but after seeing pictures of their place, I think they must have serious blackmail material on their landlord if they're living in a giant, "quirky" loft like that.

So, I wracked my brain trying to think of actual small apartments as seen on the screen. It was surprisingly hard! Not only were there very few to choose from, but apartments that I knew would fit had no images to be found. Dirty Harry Callaghan in Dirty Harry lived in a small, one-room apartment in 1970s San Francisco (I wonder how much rent was back then), and at the end of the movie Election, Matthew Broderick moves into a crazy-tiny "efficiency" apartment after his life is ruined by Tracy Flick. Yet alas, no pictures of those sets were to be had.

If you can think of any more small apartments, by all means, let me know! Email me or leave a comment, and together we'll make sure we're represented properly in the media!

Image from the Community Wiki.

I looove the show Community! I'm so happy it's back -- six seasons and a movie, baby! On the show, sweet young Annie lives in a studio apartment in a terrifying neighborhood. Everyone tries to convince her to move someplace safer, but she cherishes her independence. Eventually, she does move in with her friends Troy and Abed -- and who could blame her? They have a Dreamatorium.

Images from the Dexter Wiki and Design on Fire.

Secret serial killer Dexter Morgan lives and hunts in Miami. His place is still bigger than any I've ever lived in, but for TV his one-bedroom is rather small. It's incredibly neat and rather stylish -- I love the built-in bookcase -- but behind the air conditioner grill is a secret…

Images from Free Republic and Umlud.

The Fifth Element is another movie I've referenced here on TAA before. Korben Dallas's place is a perfect example of an efficient, transforming apartment, which fits with director Luc Besson's vision of the overcrowded metropolis that is New York in the 23rd century. The shower is on top of the fridge, which raises and lowers as needed, and the bed pulls out from a cabinet. Best of all is the "auto-wash": the shower cleans itself and the bed makes itself. An awesome time-saver… unless you're trying to hide from Zorg or a bunch of Mangalores.

Keep reading for Sex and the City, Seinfeld, True Blood, Wonderfalls, Firefly, Mad Men, and Futurama…

Images from Hooked on Houses and HBO.

Carrie Bradshaw's studio apartment in Sex and the City is probably the best-known studio apartment on TV. On the TV series and in the early part of the first movie, Carrie's apartment looks as it does above. Especially considering that she once said that the place was rent-controlled, it's a pretty realistic-looking home. Carrie, who works as a writer (and moonlights as a fashionista) creates space for the two most important things in her life: her reading/writing and her clothes. Her walk-through closet holds her enviable wardrobe, and a giant bookshelf takes up a whole wall. Other than those major areas, her apartment still conveniently contains everything else in neat, distinct zones. Her living room is centered around a coffee table (perfect for sitting around and gossiping with her ladies), her desk is set apart and looks out the window, and her bed is the farthest back, framed by a nightstand and chair-turned-nightstand.

Image from Hooked on Houses.

Although Carrie's apartment is perfectly charming in its first incarnation, I am in LOVE with her post-jiltedness makeover. This time the look throughout the apartment is more consistent and sophisticated. The blue walls accented by white and dark purple are gorgeous, and everything generally feels cleaner and less cluttered. This is basically my dream apartment.

Image from Apartment Therapy.

I've been told that for New York City, Jerry Seinfeld's apartment is huge. Be that as it may, a this one-bed, one-bath is still pretty small. At least he's an organized guy -- even his cereal is kept in alphabetical order.

Images from SkarsgardFans, True Blood Wiki, and ForeverAFangirl.

Most characters on True Blood live in sprawling Southern mansions. However, when Hoyt and Jessikuh -- I mean, Jessica decide to move in together, they end up in a true starter home: a small, one bedroom cottage that's a serious fixer-upper. I mean, it clearly needs a fresh coat of paint, some new curtains, and someone to exorcise the resident ghost and its creepy baby doll.

Image from KellyRelish.

While I never watched Wonderfalls, it was suggested to me for this post because the main character, Jaye, lives in an Airstream trailer. This quirky show -- I mean, the gal talks to tourist tchotchkes -- is reflected in her eclectic but warm home.

Images from Stellar Four and Rocco Passionino's portfolio.

Living in space presents a whole new set of difficulties. The crew of Serenity on the show Firefly all have their respective, cramped bunks, but most impressive is Inara's shuttle. Inara isn't technically part of the crew; she rents a small shuttle from Captain Reynolds, where she lives and plies her trade as a Companion, entertaining men and women who are willing to pay. The show depicts a future that's part Wild West, part Far East, and her living quarters reflect that with its shiny silks and rich red hues.

Images from CasaSugar and Design Public.

Mad Men's another show that's about to come back after a too-long hiatus! I can't wait to see how Don and the rest of the Sterling Cooper Draper Price gang are getting along. When we last left Don, he and Betty had divorced and he had moved out of their idyllic suburban home and into a small bachelor pad in NYC near Waverly and 6th. His dark, depressing home reflects his mindset and is a stark contrast to both his former home as well as to his bright, modern office.

Image from The Infosphere.

But none -- and I mean none can touch the tininess that is Apartment 00100100 in the Robot Arms Apartments. It's Bender's two-cubic-meter home in the show Futurama. Of course, he's a robot, so he doesn't need a lot of space -- a fact he fails to mention to his friend Fry when Fry was looking for a place to stay. Thankfully, there's a closet in the back of Bender's quarters -- a closet that's the size of a comfortable, human-sized apartment.


  1. Actually, I've watched "Two Broke Girls" and while not many scenes are set in their apartment, it doesn't strike me as being large, or even a loft--it's really just a small, first-floor one bedroom from what I can tell. I've never lived in a city so I don't know how small the apartments can be, but I'd guess there's is something like 400 square feet? I'm not awesome at estimating dimensions, but I also get annoyed when people in TV shows or movies have things they "shouldn't" have based on the circumstances of their lives, and I remember thinking that their apartment seemed appropriate to their economic situation! As a side note, they also repeatedly wear clothes from what seems to be a small wardrobe of clothing, which is also more realistic than most shows.

    1. This is what drives me crazy about SATC!
      She's a newspaper columnist, how on earth does she afford all her amazing designer clothes!!!?

    2. Plus, they're an illegal sublet anyway. I'm waiting for the episode where the landlord catches on...Although seeing as the landlord didn't notice a gigantic horse, maybe they llive in the best building ever.

  2. I hear what you're saying, but Lovely Undergrad had a really good post on their place here: If that apartment isn't 800 square feet or more, I'd eat my hat. Still, I don't watch the show, so I don't know much more than what I've seen in commercials and reading online. I do like that they re-wear clothes, though -- that really bugs me on TV shows! Where do people get these endless wardrobes?

  3. Uptown Girls has a 3 minute or so clip where they show Molly's new unfurnished apartment, which is a tiny studio with a twin murphy bed.

    Also, Lily's temporary studio on season 2 of How I Met Your Mother is realllly small.

  4. Roz's apartment on Frazier? She had an efficiency with a prominently displayed bed (she was always portrayed as such a loose woman).

    Ed from Northern Exposure lived in a single room/studio(?).

  5. Mary Tyler Moore's studio apartment!

  6. When I think tiny apartment's on TV, I always think of Fran's flat from Black Books. There's an entire episode ("Fever") centred around a plot of how the landlord is trying to sneakily put in a new flat by moving the wall, making the place even smaller. Anyway, I thought the flat looked cute - and actually small.

  7. Wow, you're right, Simone! I can't believe some of those photos--I feel like maybe I've never seen that much of the apartment at once! I'm also having a hard time understanding where, based on the first photo, that Murphy bed comes down? Sometimes it seems like sets are changed for the sake of a story line, or as the show goes on, which is always weird.

  8. I'm late to the game, but I'm reading older entries. Have you seen Flight of the Conchords? Bret and Jemaine's apartment, in Chinatown, NYC, is very small. One episode has Bret moving into his own smaller apartment with room only for his mattress...vertically.

  9. I just found your site and I totally agree! Most of the time the apartments you see on tv are huge! One show that has a small studio is Pretty Little Liars. Even though most of the characters live in huge houses Ezra lives in a tiny studio more along the lines of what you would expect a recent grad to be in.

  10. Have you seen the size of the bedroom on the show "two broke girls" it's tiny. I think it's a full bed that is against the wall. The living room might be a little big though. As it should be its a tv show...

  11. Hey there. Lovin' the blog.

    When I think of tiny on screen apartments the first thing that comes to mind is Elwood Blues apartment in "The Blues Brothers".


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