life in *your* tiny apartment

photo courtesy of unico
Dear Erin:

We live in a (super) tiny apartment in Tokyo and we have a small kitchen/open plan living room but no dining table/dining space. 
We always have dinner in the living room on the sofa and use the coffee table in front of the sofa as a dining table, but it's a tiny table and we usually cook lots of small dishes. 

We've come up with a couple of options (but we're open to suggestions):

1. We can replace the coffee table with a longer table and keep on eating in the living room.
2. We can put a small dining table for two with two chairs in the kitchen.

I like option #2 because I like the idea of having a separate dining area, however in my mind adding a piece of furniture = smaller space. Also, our kitchen is already tiny! I'm not sure adding a dining table + 2 chairs is a good idea.

Let me know if you have any advice.


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Oh, dinnertime in a tiny apartment. First, there are the smells to contend with, then there's the space.

I'm embarrassed to admit that on many nights, James and I snuggle on our (tiny) couch to eat our dinner. Here's the thing: almost every single night of my childhood I sat at the kitchen table with all three of my sisters and my parents, not to mention any of the various neighbors, friends, boyfriends and passersby who also happened to be hungry. Only on special occasions were we allowed to eat our dinner on the couch in front of an episode of Nova (graphic depictions of juvenile orca whales foraging, anyone?).

As an adult, I feel pretty strongly about having a kitchen table. In our first two apartments, James and I ate at the table every night, with candles burning. In this apartment, even if I lug my computer onto the table during the day, by evening its always clean and ready for whatever tea drinking or meal preparation, or dinner eating that needs to happen there. And still, we end up on the couch.

There are a few reasons: the most important one being that, hysterically, I'm a bit of a claustrophobe. Sliding myself into a tight spot between table and chair makes me cranky. If we use serving bowls, there's barely a spot to slide my dish, let alone my wine glass, and we can't have that. Beyond the tight quarters, we have less than a foot of actual counter space in our kitchen. Try as I might to clean as I go, the table sometimes holds the last of the dinner prep materials. In my effort to enjoy my dinner while it's still hot, sometimes leaving those things be until the meal is finished is just easier.

Knowing all this about me, this is what I would suggest for you: If you're really hankering to draw a line between couch time and eating time and you're in desperate need of additional surface space in your kitchen, by all means consider getting a table and chairs for the kitchen-y side of your apartment. But to be totally honest, it looks like you've found a pretty beautiful solution in this slim wooden table. If it fits nicely in front of the couch and doesn't make you feel crowded, I'd go for that option. If you really need the surface in the kitchen, consider a small, high table and no chairs, because if you're anything like me, you wouldn't end up using them much, anyway.
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Do you have a tiny apartment quandary? Send me a note, along with pictures if you'd like, and we'll see if we can't tackle it together.
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