DIY-crafted Seattle micro apartment: 8 spaces stacked in 182 sq ft

Ten years ago Steve Sauer was looking for a place to keep some stuff. When he found a subterranean storage unit in the basement of a century-old Seattle coop, he quickly realized it had potential as a living quarters.

Drawing on his expertise as a designer of airplane interiors (at Boeing), he began to sketch a home that could fit within 182 square feet. “When I first started designing this thing, I was thinking bicycle messenger, 22 year old bicycle messenger with 8 pieces of clothing and almost nothing else just living in the city.”

Stacking functions

Sauer’s “pico dwelling” (pico is 1/trillionth) isn’t about sacrifice. He’s managed to fit about 8 different useful spaces into the micro apartment by stacking functions. A cafe area (complete with Eames chair) is stacked on top of a video lounge (with 37-inch TV). One floor up on the adjacent wall, a bed(room) is lofted above a walk-in closet/ office.

The main floor space fits a transforming table (that folds down from a cable to seat 6) and a 3-foot-deep Japanese-style soaking tub hidden below the entryway. The kitchen backs onto a bathroom which serves as the platform for a guest bed(room). There’s also storage for 2 bikes (a pull-up bar doubles as a bike holder) and steps that double as benches.

More quality, less space

“I drive a Smart car and I like pushing the limit to see what I can do with the smallest kind of thing in all ways. I guess being an engineer I like pushing efficiency kind of limits all over the place because it’s just interesting to me.”

Sauer appreciates simplicity, but his main interest in small spaces is a desire for high quality and control over his environment. “Typically cost considerations are the driver for small spaces, but that wasn’t at all my primary interest. I wanted higher quality than I could afford at normal size and so by compressing myself I could get high quality materials and also by building it all myself I saved that money as well.”

Maker built: DIY machining and IKEA hacks

Sauer spent thousands of hours in materials research and settled on the exotic (i.e. German faucets and Brazilian Walnut flooring) to the mundane, using IKEA as a materials resource. His hacked IKEA projects include: cut-up shelves and tabletop serve as the frame for kitchen drawers; bed slats are both floor for the guest bed and a countertop has become floor to his cafe level; and in the kitchen, “Ikea hardwood shelving for drawer boxes, a table-top for drawer fronts, countertop planks for framing, and heavy duty drawer glides.”

Standing beneath a former-table-top-glass-turned-translucent-bathroom-ceiling (also the guest bed floor, covered by bed slats), Sauer explains, “This would cost a fortune if I ordered it custom and it’s only a couple of hundred from IKEA with a whole table so IKEA really comes to the rescue with some of these things as materials supply.”

Nearly every piece of furniture or appliance reveals some mix of Sauer’s DIY tinkering. The bathroom sink is a mix of “floor wood as a deck, Ikea shelf brackets, a glass vessel sink, and satin-finish pipery”. Bathroom towel racks that were too expensive to purchase were replicated via “desperate acts of machining stainless steel” (an earlier iteration used boat-part stanchions).

His soap/shampoo shelving was constructed from stainless steel kitchen containers fitted into a laser-cut panel. A bike shifter mechanism became part of a showerhead. 3form plastic products serve as both a cover for his soaking tub (1″ Chroma) that is strong enough to double as a floor, and a semi-translucent wall between the bathroom and kitchen (1/4″ Varia Ecoresin).

Sauer doesn’t have formal construction training, but he is a self-taught practitioner of all the residential construction trades, holds a master’s degree in whole systems design, and has a little workshop that includes a lathe (an Atlas 6″ metal lathe) from his father that was resurrected for extensive custom machining.

A pico development?

The final project shows off Sauer’s dedication to quality and custom finishes and it was a labor of love. It took 7 years to complete and 2 years to get permitted.

Today, Sauer has the permits and a certificate of occupancy for his tiny home and he would love to take what he’s learned and create an entire building of high-end micro apartments.

Steve Sauer-
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  1. Mie Kurahara
    June 2, 2017

    Love how people express their intensity.

  2. Kelly Tankersley
    June 8, 2017

    ; )

    a generalist is like a German Shepherd—2nd best at EVERYTHING!!!

    I'd rather be with a generalist than a specialist ANY DAY!

  3. Immanuel Chioco
    June 13, 2017

    Because of all the steps, it'd be pretty hard to navigate through this space if you had a broken arm or a broken ankle. I've done both. I fractured my ankle a few months ago and found it incredibly difficult to go around my apartment at the time, which didn't even have any steps.

  4. Danai D
    June 17, 2017

    One of the best and most practical. Congratulations

  5. Art Teacher For Life
    June 20, 2017

    This is one of my favorite small spaces that i have seen. I have always imagined living in a small space in a city. This oneI could totally see myself living in permanently. I like all the levels.

  6. Dredd
    June 21, 2017

    This is genius and inspiring, but I dunno why I feel sad seeing this.

  7. hellowhitepeople
    June 23, 2017


  8. Cymon Cyrado
    June 26, 2017

    I lived on a 40' sailboat for eleven years, I would loved to have had all that space.. heh

  9. Cid Claro
    July 8, 2017

    that is amazing! i would love to live in a a house like that.

  10. D LG
    July 15, 2017

    This is way too tiny for a claustrophobic like me, but it's incredible none the less.

  11. Karen Vanderstraeten
    July 16, 2017

    This guy's my hero 🙂 !

  12. Graey Genes
    July 21, 2017

    Anyone else seen the bug at 12:16?

  13. Robyn Gallagher
    July 23, 2017

    I love how he just casually mentionins that he can fit two people in his bed and in the tub.

  14. xradelox
    August 8, 2017

    I love this!!! Cities really should make ways for people to do more of this kind of stuff. This is great for any person willing and physically able to live in something like this. I mean what a great way to use wasted space! This guy is a genius!

  15. Brian Jackson
    August 28, 2017

    Almost gives me ideas for this 600 sq ft studio house lol

  16. Sarah Shepherd
    August 29, 2017

    This is probably my favourite "small house". The guy is super chill, and he knew exactly what he wanted out of his home when he built it and made sacrifices where he felt comfortable (building everything himself, a slightly too short bed, etc) but kept the luxuries he wanted (the bikes, the tub). Really cool design too! I love it!

  17. Jack Borden
    September 1, 2017

    Wow, great optimization of the space!

  18. Lainie Rideout
    September 6, 2017

    The man is a builder badass.

  19. A. GM
    September 7, 2017

    Really amazing apt. It rocks!

  20. Heat Round
    September 15, 2017

    Seattle, socialist paradise.

  21. Connor Joyce
    September 20, 2017

    Very cool! Looks like a space I could live in! It's got everything you need!

  22. ShallowDepression
    September 26, 2017

    Sad we have to do these things, to get by.

  23. Isabel Gil
    October 4, 2017

    Brilliant, Steve! Functional, creative, sturdy and beautiful. If you were my friend, I would sure ask for your advice about how to arrange MY small space, which is just one room too, smaller than yours. And, Kirsten, I love the places you choose to film and interview about. Very interesting. How do you happen to find them? I'd be interested to know…

  24. Ell monroe
    October 5, 2017

    Good design but I would be worried about that window for security reasons.

  25. FeelItRising
    October 7, 2017

    Jeff Ament of Pearl jam lived in that building I believe.

  26. Man Cave Tiny House Loans Nationwide
    October 9, 2017

    Impressive !

  27. Cesar Pozo
    October 9, 2017

    I don't really like that place.Alot of tubes..! And many things around,it confuses me..

  28. write2ap
    October 10, 2017

    I usually love all tiny homes but this one is a little off-putting. Too many levels. It also seem like an accident waiting to happen. You stop paying attention to where you are going for one second you will kill yourself by running into something or God forbid you leave that tub door up and fall into the tub. Also, yeah he can leave through his window but someone can reach in and pull his ass out, too. Not mention a bum could urinate right into the window. Not Safe.

  29. Haley Chacon
    October 10, 2017


  30. Leon Cliff
    October 19, 2017

    Great until you forget where the toilet was.

  31. D S
    October 24, 2017

    If I were 20 something, I would love this. ❤️

  32. Zippy Of the line
    October 26, 2017

    When he got in the tub did anyone else think of the smuggling compartment on the Millennium Falcon?! Awesome job my friend!

  33. kbamm69
    October 27, 2017

    that would drive me insane…there is no place to just spread out besides the bed and that has a low ceiling

  34. kai //
    October 27, 2017

    this guy playing sims irl lol

  35. Horkslair
    November 1, 2017

    I would have used the dishwasher space for an oven and tried to get a larger sink since I hand wash all my dishes.
    Get a remote controlled window slide bar to prevent the window from opening while you are gone… so that you can just leave the apartment through the window and lock it behind you with your window remote!

  36. nycerak
    November 4, 2017

    I’d go crazy living in this.

    November 14, 2017

    What is an Avalon Co Op?

  38. doge fm
    November 16, 2017

    it's very nice

  39. ATL333
    November 18, 2017

    This could be done for many homeless people across this country.

  40. ATL333
    November 18, 2017

    How do you have SEX in that tiny space? Very Innovative and creative but no thanks..

  41. Rob Ayres
    November 24, 2017


  42. Eve Black
    November 25, 2017

    This is the end of civilization. You can't have sex in this space, babies are over .

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