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[B][SIZE="5"]375 sq ft? Just think of the possibilities[/SIZE][/B]

05:55 AM Jan 14, 2011


NEW YORK - To reach the apartment where Daniel and Dasha Faires live, you pass through the vestibule of a small century-old brick building on Ludlow Street and head down a dingy tile-lined hallway. But hang a left near the trash can, and you will find something amazing.

This is the tiny home where the Faireses, newlyweds from Arkansas in their mid-20s, have lived for the past year. Both work in fields that demand visual creativity. Ms Faires is a sales representative for BB Dakota, a moderately-priced line of women's fashions, and Mr Faires builds furniture and owns a design firm that bears his name. Together, they have created an exquisite space in which a good eye trumps a shoebox.

And shoebox in this case really means shoebox. The apartment, for which they pay US$2,000 ($2,600) a month in rent, has only two rooms - a bedroom and an everything-else room. When the Faireses were married last summer, the wedding invitation instructed guests wondering what to give the happy couple to "please remember that they live in a 375-sq-ft apartment in New York City."

Yet, thanks to such touches as strategically placed mirrors, votive candles deployed with a lavish hand and incandescent Edison bulbs whose golden filaments glint like giant fireflies, the space shimmers. Ceilings 3.35m high make it easy to forget that the rooms are only 2.4m wide. Gauzy white tulle curtains conceal windows that face brick walls and dreary alleyways.

"To be honest," Ms Faires said, "it's sort of like a cave in here, because the only natural light comes from the backyard. But, fortunately, we both like low lighting."

While their current apartment could be tucked into their old bedroom in Hoboken, Ms Faires regards it as "an unbelievable find". The location is a major draw. Mr Faires uses wood salvaged from the street to build his furniture, and Manhattan's Lower East Side is an ideal hunting ground.

"And this apartment offers so much," Ms Faires said. "The exposed brick walls, the high ceilings, the wood and marble floors. The ambience was here even before we moved in."

When the couple first moved in, they ate their meals sitting on the futon and balancing their plates on their laps.

Now they use the table and benches that Mr Faires made from wood he found in Hell's Kitchen. The items are from his furniture line, Capsule Furniture; the company takes its name from the glass capsule tucked inside each piece, containing observations on the wood's history.

Thanks to the couple's taste for repurposing, even the most mundane items enjoy a second act. Mail is kept in a metal bicycle basket, and Mr Faires stores his tools in an ancient black trunk that doubles as a table.

Open shelves hold wine glasses, white mugs and soup bowls, most of them bought from stores like Ikea but so artfully arranged they look as if they belonged in a museum. Mr Faires designed and built a spice rack that also looks like a museum-quality piece, a lattice of two dozen glass tubes, each filled with a different ingredient.

The bedroom is furnished with pavement finds like an old liquor dispenser, its spigots bearing the labels Scotch, gin, vodka and bourbon; a working sewing machine from the '20s, and an armoire. The bedroom looks out on the garden, where coils of razor wire and the unearthly yowl of the stray cats that live in the alley serve as a reminder that the neighbourhood retains rough edges.

But the garden is idyllic, especially at night, when Moroccan lanterns and strands of bistro lights provide pinpricks of brightness in the darkness. Even on the chilliest evenings, the couple and their guests hang out here, sitting on benches that Mr Faires built from shipping crates and facing a table with bicycle wheels for legs. Mr Faires, whose passion for landscaping is almost as great as his passion for furniture-making, has planted Virginia creeper, creeping Jenny and autumn stonecrop, along with the honeysuckle and sweet potato vine beloved in his native South.

Sitting there the other night, Ms Faires, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a long black skirt and a necklace hung with a tintype and a skeleton key, her husband in Levis from a Goodwill store in Nashville and a bracelet he made from twine and vintage trinkets, the two looked like characters from the 19th-century ambrotype that hangs in their living room.

And their small world seemed vast.

"Do I feel the walls closing in?" Ms Faires said. "Not me. The apartment is so cozy, all I feel is a feeling of warmth." The New York Times