I traded in my cramped NYC apartment for a tiny house in the woods for a weekend — and to be honest, they're not all that different. Here are 27 photos that show how the spaces stack up against each other.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderTiny houses and New York City apartments aren’t all that different.

Welcome to my abode.

It’s roughly 700 square feet, in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has no washing machine or dishwasher. That makes it, basically, a tiny house in the sky – without some of the amenities tiny houses are most famous for.

Think panoramic windows, natural lighting, and the ability to take your home with you wherever you go.

I would know: I recently visited Think Big! A Tiny House Resort in the Catskills, about two hours north of Manhattan, and stayed in a tiny house for three days. It wasn’t the tight squeeze I anticipated, and I quickly realised why: It was essentially my apartment, but in the middle of the woods.

They’re both small spaces that necessitate some physical trade-offs. You have to be resourceful in both to make the most of your space.

Of course, there are differences, like the lifestyle each dwelling enables, as well as cost – the median monthly rent in New York City is $US2,900, while median cost of a tiny house is nearly $US60,000.

But physically speaking, I can now say that tiny houses are basically NYC apartments on wheels. Here’s why.


As Business Insider’s millennial wealth reporter, I’ve been covering the intersection of money and the lifestyles of today’s most controversial generation. That has meant deep dives into topics like student debt, millennials’ attempts to catch up financially, and early retirement.

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But it’s also meant that I’ve chronicled some of the trends millennials love most – think plants, VSCO girls, wellness, and, of course, tiny houses.

I’ve interviewed a Colorado man who designs tiny homes for a living and built his dream tiny house; talked to tiny house dwellers about what it’s really like downsizing; and interviewed couples who have taken on a minimalist lifestyle about how it’s affected their budgets.

But one thing I had not done, until recently, was actually stayed in a tiny house myself.

In October, that finally changed when I took a trip upstate to the Catskills and spent two nights in a tiny house. It was a fun experience – but honestly, it didn’t feel all that different to stay in a tiny house and my tiny NYC apartment.


I live in a pre-war building in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Like many streets in the area, it’s pretty noisy and tree lined.

Hillary Hoffower/Business Insider(Not my apartment building.)

My apartment is a fifth-floor walk-up (that means no elevator and four flights of stairs). It’s classified as a four-room apartment with two bedrooms; I have one roommate.

The management company didn’t respond to my request when I inquired about square footage, but an internet search yielded a listing for another two-bedroom apartment in the same building at a similar price: It’s 700 square feet.


Please, step on in to my living room. Don’t mind the futon — I’ve yet to be a real adult and upgrade to a couch.

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Like most living rooms, mine serves as the focal point of the apartment – you need to walk through it to get anywhere else. It’s part of an open floorplan with the kitchen.


Along one wall is space for an entertainment centre (and a much bigger TV, if we wanted one).

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The TV is useful when my roommate and I want to watch a game or a movie together, but it’s not necessary – I usually watch TV in my bed on my laptop.


My living room only has one window, and it yields a classic NYC view: The apartment building next door and the garbage cans in between them.

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Like most NYC apartments, this doesn’t allow for a lot of natural lighting – something you’ll notice in the darker quality of the apartment photos I took.

Even when it’s sunny out, the buildings can block the light. I frequently assume it’s a rainy day when it’s not.


Now here’s the Catskills tiny home I visited in October, when I traded in sirens for crickets for a weekend. It looks like a world away, but it’s actually not too different from my apartment.

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The Catskills are about two hours north of Manhattan. This tiny house, called the Little Bear, is 269 square feet and nestled in the woods in a very serene setting – a far cry from the city’s hustle and bustle. I stayed here for three days.

It’s part of Think Big! A Tiny House Resort. The resort’s owners, Margie and Melissa, work with Escape Homes to design the tiny houses themselves. They find a way to use “every nook and cranny,” Melissa told me, adding that “everything serves a purpose; everything’s utilised.”


The living area accounted for one of the biggest differences between my apartment and the tiny house: My tiny house didn’t have a living room. The central living space consisted of a kitchen and dining area, with no room for a couch.

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The interior was rustic, but it was also more modern than my circa-1910 apartment.

If you live by yourself, a lack of living room may not be a downside in a tiny house. But if you have guests or a roommate, you’d likely want a space to socialise.

Take it from me: I once subleased a New York City apartment that didn’t have a living room. After I moved into my current apartment, I realised what a difference not having one made. I hated that my bed was the only place where I could relax.


But the tiny house wasn’t without an entertainment centre. The TV was placed at the foot of the main bed — a convenient location, in my opinion.

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There was shelving for knick-knacks, much like my entertainment centre has.

The tiny house even has something my entertainment centre lacks: a heated electric furnace that functions as a (fake) fireplace.


The tiny house’s panoramic windows, which boasted beautiful autumnal views of the sky and trees, put my apartment’s sliver of a window to shame.

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With so much natural light, there was no need to turn on the lights inside.


Comparing the two kitchens shows how differently space gets used. There’s a window in my kitchen, but there’s also a notable lack of counter space. Only a sliver of it exists to the left of the stove.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderMy kitchen.

The setup is not ideal for cooking, especially because that counter space is often taken up by drying dishes.

Luckily, we have a kitchen peninsula, which offers up more counter space. But this also doubles as a dining table – when my roommate is eating and I’m cooking, or vice versa, it can be a tight squeeze.

We were able to add some extra counter space with a bar cart, which actually, as you can see, serves as a pots and pans cart.


The kitchen storage space in my apartment isn’t bad — there are seven cabinets and six drawers in my kitchen.

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For us, it’s the right amount of space; nothing’s crammed, and two of the drawers are actually empty.


Where my kitchen falls short is in appliances — the fridge, oven, and microwave aren’t standard sizes.

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Granted, the microwave doesn’t come with the apartment the way a fridge and oven do. We could get a bigger microwave if we really wanted to.

The miniature size of the microwave and fridge don’t bother me; the oven, however, does. Its small space can make it difficult for my roommate and I to cook at the same time, and the stove gets crowded. I often cook food on a toaster oven tray.

But if the oven were bigger, we’d have even less counter space.


Here’s my NYC fridge. It’s a tight space for two.

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In the tiny house, the counter space wasn’t exactly ample either — but there was still more of it.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderTiny house kitchen.

A square dining table across from the kitchen provided some extra counter space, but that, too, was relatively small.


There were six cabinet doors and four drawers in the tiny house kitchen, as well as a shelf — and they seemed to fit all the necessities quite nicely.

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The upper cabinets weren’t all that different from one another: There was plenty of space in each for dishes.


The kitchen amenities were far bigger in the tiny house. The oven was much more spacious.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderThe tiny home’s oven.

Yes, I am aware that the tiny house’s oven was also cleaner than my old-fashioned one.


And I could probably fit my entire fridge into the tiny house fridge if I removed its shelves.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderThe tiny house’s not-so-tiny fridge.

That brings me to the bathroom. My bathroom is basically a square with one cabinet under the sink and one medicine cabinet.

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Luckily, we have a linen closet in the “hallway” where we can store things like towels.


The tiny house takes the gold in the bathroom: It was full of storage. There were two cabinets above the sink and a row of cabinets — plus drawers — underneath it.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderThe storage in the tiny house’s bathroom far exceeded the storage in my own bathroom.

Who needs a linen closet when you have all of this space?

Both the toilets and full-size shower tubs in my apartment and tiny house were about the same size.


But what’s really important is the bedroom. Like most NYC apartments, my bedroom is small. I crammed a full-size bed against three walls to create space.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderMy NYC bedroom.

There is one very thin window. Even though it was light out when I took this shot, I still needed my lamp on for this picture.

The optimal time for natural lighting in my bedroom is in the middle of the afternoon, but in the tiny house, it’s all day.


There’s not much room for a dresser in my bedroom, but I made it work.

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Tiny houses aren’t the only dwellings that require downsizing.

When I moved from Florida to New York, sacrifices were made. I had to get rid of my long, six-drawer dresser and queen-sized bed because I knew they wouldn’t fit in a NYC apartment.


I can live with the full-sized bed in my apartment. What really matters is the closet space — and that, at last, is where my tiny apartment wins out.

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This is not my dream closet by any means. It is not big enough to fit my full wardrobe. Part of my wardrobe is stored under my bed, which sits on a 16-inch high bed frame.

I also keep some clothes in other places in my apartment – my coats and some of my shoes have a home on their respective racks in our entryway.

That’s not to mention the clothes I have at my parents’ house in Florida; I try to bring some back with me every time I visit.


In terms of accessibility, the bed in the tiny house was also accessible from one side and one side only — but it’s a queen bed! That would take up too much room in my own bedroom. And note the difference in the window size.

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Because of the limited point of access, I found both beds equally inconvenient to make in the morning.

If this queen-sized bed isn’t to your liking, there were also two full-size, lofted beds in the tiny house.


This was the only closet space in the tiny house. All I have to say is: yikes. For the first time, I felt grateful for my small NYC closet space.

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That said, not all tiny houses have closets, so it’s nice this even had one.

If you prefer to rent your clothes, this may not be a deal breaker. But I am not ready to downsize my wardrobe or curb my shopping habits.


It’s a lot better than the single dresser drawer under the tiny house bed, though.

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I could fit my jeans in here – but what would I do with all my gym clothes, t-shirts, and pajamas?


Ultimately, there are pros and cons when comparing an NYC apartment and a tiny house. On a basic level, both are small and require downsizing and trade-offs in space.

Hillary Hoffower/Business InsiderMy apartment.

The kitchen storage and counter space in my apartment is on par with what I found in the tiny house.

But there are other aspects where one completely wins out over the other: My NYC apartment has a living room and more wardrobe space, but the tiny house has better windows with natural lighting and more bathroom storage.

It all comes down to what amenities you’re willing to sacrifice.


While they’re not all that different physically speaking, it’s not really what living in either is about: It boils down to the lifestyle — the biggest difference of all.

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In the case of my apartment and the tiny house I stayed in, it’s concrete jungle versus nature.

Do you want to live in a small space so you can be near the centre of action in a thriving city with everything at your fingertips? Or is it because you want to live a life that offers more flexibility for things like travelling and working remotely?

For me, it’s the former.

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