The Jamieson-Weir Family Living Small

Bedrooms: 1
Square Feet: Approximately 600
Property: Rental
Adults: 2
Children: 1

Briefly describe your family.

Mark is a software engineer and Rachel is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. We live in San Francisco with our one-year-old daughter, Penelope.

Did you ever imagine that you would live here with a child one day?

No. It was small but worked perfectly when we lived here as a couple. Now that we have a baby it is even smaller and works somewhat less perfectly. 

Mark and Penelope in the kitchen. 

Mark and Penelope in the kitchen. 

What has been surprising about living in a small space with your child?

Originally when we decided to stay put while I was pregnant we thought we would need to move out at around six months, or when ‘the baby’ became mobile. Our neighbours in this building couldn't believe that we could even fit a newborn in one of these apartments. Now our daughter is one year old and we are still here. It is surprisingly doable to live in a small space with a baby, we're feeling a little more squeezed these days, but I can see it being an acceptable option for toddler years if we need to stay put.

Describe your biggest challenge so far.

One of the more difficult aspects has been both sharing our bedroom with Penelope, and her sharing her room with us. Before she slept through the night, we woke each other up a lot. Nowadays, she sleeps well, but she wakes up early. So we all start our day at the littlest one's decree, sometimes it's 6am, sometimes it is 5am.

In what ways have you altered the space to fit your little one?


Penelope’s dresser and changing table moved into the bedroom, while our dresser has moved into the living room. At first this seemed a little awkward, but now it is useful. The dresser/changing table acts as a divider between Penelope's crib and our bed. We have found using the dresser as a changing table works considering the lack of space. The model we used was the IKEA Hemnes, big roomy drawers and sturdy enough to fit a full sized changing pad.

Because space is at such a premium, a full sized crib was not an option for us. We settled on a sturdy travel crib and it has worked well for our needs.

We also park her stroller in our bedroom. It's a very compact umbrella stroller, but still manages to take up a lot of the remaining space in the room. It is nice to keep her wheels out of our living space though.

Living Room:

There are no major changes that we have made to the living room. Clutter creeps in as toys multiply. We try not to buy many toys, but the ones that we do have are divided between a big basket and a cardboard box stowed under the coffee table. The coffee table sports foam edges to protect from falls during these precarious learning to walk months.

When Penelope was younger we loved the compact activity gym from IKEA. It looks good and it's small and light enough to move around when you're short on space. Nowadays she's more entertained by balls, things with wheels and blocks. The metal door on our media cabinet has become home to Penelope's magnetic blocks... the ones that aren't collecting dust underneath it that is.

The media cabinet turned Tegu block wall.

The media cabinet turned Tegu block wall.


We have a tiny, but functional bathroom in this apartment. We don't have a bath, so a suction hook above our shower stows Penelope's tub


Penelope’s high chair is a Stokke Tripp Trapp. I love that it has a small footprint. Given that it takes a prominent space in our kitchen, I also appreciate that it is nice to look at.

In the early months we kept a foldable jumperoo in the kitchen, the smallest (they are generally huge) that we could find. That thing was a godsend whenever we wanted to get something done. These days, distraction takes the shape of a small wooden stool housing Penelope’s ‘kitchen’ items. At the moment there are a couple of shaker eggs, a small cardboard box and some stacking cups, along with other blocks and bits and pieces. She plays with these since she cannot get into the real kitchen cupboards, which to her frustration we keep closed with childproof latches. Although we do give her free reign in the pots and pans cupboard, another favourite of hers.

Little kitchen.

Little kitchen.

Do you have car parking space? How do you get around?

We don't have a car park, but that's ok because we don't have a car. We spend a lot of time in our neighborhood and spots within walking distance. We also use the Muni (San Francisco subway, bus and tram) with Penelope in her carrier or umbrella stroller.

What would excite you about living in a bigger home?

Giving Penelope her own bedroom would be about as thrilling a prospect as I can imagine. It would be such a luxury to not have to tip-toe into our bed at night so as not to wake her up. At the moment even getting up to go to the toilet in the night is a delicate affair.

Also, having more storage space. Good lord that would be useful. We only have one small wardrobe (inside the bedroom) in this apartment. Anything else we need to stow is hidden away under the bed or sofa. It limits the amount of stuff we can live with, which can be a good thing in some ways. 

How does living in a small space affect your future plans?

Living here we are conscious of the limits that this apartment imposes. How long can we live here? Is there an expiration date? We wouldn't want to try to fit two kids into this house, for example. It does affect how we plan for the coming years.

What do you enjoy most about living here?

Without a doubt location is this apartment’s biggest drawcard. We can be in any of our favourite SF neighborhoods in under twenty minutes and we’re just a couple of blocks away from Duboce park, which has a lovely little playground for the kids. Friends are close by, and there is always something going on when we walk out the door. Also, we’re very well served for shops, cafes and supermarkets. It’s a fantastic area, especially appreciated since we don’t have a car.

I also appreciate the fact that Penelope is growing up in this kind of population density. She comes into contact with so many people even when we’re just taking a walk to the supermarket. There are lots of sights and sounds for her to absorb and I think the richness of this day-to-day San Francisco experience is quite special.

Words: Rachel Jamieson
Pictures: Rachel Jamieson