The Clivati Family Living Small

Bedrooms: 1
Property: Rental
Square Feet: Unsure
Adults: 2
Children: 1

It’s an unusually hot day, the sun is beating down on the concrete pavement squares. I’m greeted by Matteo Clivati and his daughter, Anna (16 months), outside of their apartment block. With Anna in his arms, Matteo is eager to get back inside and cool down.

The Clivatis live in a one bedroom apartment in the Marina neighbourhood of San Francisco. For those who aren’t familiar, the Marina is separated from the rest of the city by a steep hill. Situated beside the bay, it looks out towards San Francisco icons like the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz.

Inside the apartment we meet Sarah, Matteo’s wife. Sarah is originally from Texas and works in media, while Matteo is a chef from Milan. They met in 2012 when Sarah took a year off to work in a bed and breakfast in Lake Como where Matteo catered an event. Now three years later, they find themselves married with a 16-month-old and living in another beautiful part of the world. One that just so happens to also be home to some of the world’s most expensive rental property.

Though Sarah and Matteo moved into their one bedroom apartment as a couple, they didn’t hold any particular reservations about welcoming a daughter into the space. Even Sarah, who hails from Texas where they are not exactly famous for doing things on the small, was optimistic. Neighbors in the building had a child, so they knew it could be done (although they moved out on the day that Sarah and Matteo brought Anna home from the hospital). And the couple liked their apartment, and the safe and scenic neighborhood they had come to enjoy, “I never imagined I would live in the Marina - it wasn’t my scene, but we love it,” Sarah adds.

Anna's nursery, in what used to be the closet off the master bedroom.

Anna's nursery, in what used to be the closet off the master bedroom.

The apartment may only have one bedroom on paper, but they are not lacking a nursery. It comes in the form of a large walk-in-closet off the master bedroom, “My mom helped decorate - it’s a legit nursery. It makes it feel like we have a 2 bedroom apartment,” says Sarah. The converted nursery now fits Anna’s full size crib, changing table and clothes, with shelf space to store books, toys and other household items.

Down the hall in the bathroom, the family are a little more conscious of space. The proportions of the room are slightly awkward for Anna’s bath-time. Sarah and Matteo solve this by positioning a laundry basket down the accessible end of the bathtub, creating a smaller bath zone to keep Anna from sliding out of reach.

In the kitchen, a clip-on high chair sits Anna at the dining table without adding extra clutter, “not only is it a major space-saver, but Anna eats right at the kitchen table with us,” says Sarah. And when your papà is a chef, what goes on at the dining table is not generally something you want to miss out on. In fact, while I visit Matteo prepares a simple snack for Anna that is presented so beautifully it could be mistaken for a restaurant starter.

Anna's Chicco 360 high chair saves some valuable real estate at meal times.

Anna's Chicco 360 high chair saves some valuable real estate at meal times.

Whatever space the family miss in the kitchen and bathroom, they make up for elsewhere. The living room is large, the master bedroom is huge, and the apartment certainly doesn’t feel small. What they do lack appears more in the functional elements keep life with a child ticking over, “I wish I had laundry in the house instead of in the garage two floors down. And I wish I had a dishwasher - I waste a lot of time doing dishes,” Sarah says. The couple are also conscious of their proximity to neighbors. Being the only tenants with children in their apartment block now, sound transparency affects them, “either I feel guilty about making too much noise, or I’m annoyed because someone else is throwing a loud party late at night.”

But for these small challenges, Sarah and Matteo are happy here. They even surprised themselves by staying past Anna’s first birthday, “we originally said we would live here for six months - one year max,” said Sarah. Instead they have grown into the space, rather than grown out of it, “we just assumed that having a toddler who can run around would be awful in a one bedroom apartment, but it isn’t bad at all. There is plenty of room for us.”

Words: Rachel Jamieson
Pictures: Rachel Jamieson