Life Edited

Design a jewel box of an ultra-low-footprint apartment in 420sf (~39 m2). $70,000 prize pool

Design a jewel box of an ultra-low-footprint apartment in 420sf (~39 m2).


What if we could save money, radically reduce our environmental impact, and have a freer, less complicated life?

Treehugger founder Graham Hill has part of the answer: we need to have less stuff and live in smaller spaces, like the 420sf (~39 m2) apartment in New York City he will renovate in 2011. 

With some design and technology magic, even small space can allow for almost anything - so we’re asking you to redesign a small space thinking about these core ideas: 

  • transforming space - use one space for work, play, sleep, guests
  • digitize everything - photos, books, music
  • from ownership to access - think car-sharing instead of owning, pay-per-view instead of downloading, smart space-sharing and subletting
  • only the essentials - cut down on extraneous stuff, leaving only what’s really necessary

Task Definition

Create a design based on Graham Hill’s 420 sf (~39 m2) apartment.

The design needs to support the life of a real person in the apartment - someone who works, eats, lives, and entertains.  We’re looking for apartment designs that allow for:

  • a sit-down dinner for 12
  • a comfortable lounging option for 8 people
  • space for 2 guests with some visual and ideally auditory privacy
  • a home office
  • a work area with space for a rolling tool chest
  • a hideable kitchen

You must use one or more of the Resource Furniture Space Saver designs to combine some of the functions, but the rest is up to you. For additional requirements, please see Mandatory Requirements section.

As the room function is changed, it should not feel like you are sleeping in your office or eating in your bedroom.  At the same time, it should be easy and quick enough to change the room function that one would actually do it. This is the space we’ll be renovating. And here are some ideas we’ve compiled to get you thinking about how others have created more from less. 

When a design is found that meets all of Graham’s criteria (he needs to love it, since he’ll be living in the space and paying for it) an additional contract will be awarded to use the design or elements of the design in his apartment renovation. 


Keep in mind that feedback and conversation can help you improve your ideas. Therefore we encourage you to post and update your entry at any time up until the submission deadline. In return, you’ll receive feedback from Graham, your peers, and our jurors. 



Both jury and community are asked to consider the following three criteria when evaluating the designs:

Requirements - does the design meet the requirements (after all, Graham will be living in it and promoting the ideas so we really want him to be happy)?

Replicability - can the design be replicated in similar spaces with a reasonable budget? Will this design get people to consider living in this type of space, from an economic perspective?

Aesthetics - will the design look good in 25 years? Will it make us want to leave large and love little?  



We’re awarding up to $70,000 in cash, products, and contracts for the best ideas. The best ideas will also be featured on Treehugger, Core77 and Architizer.


The submission process depends on thoughtful feedback to help designers improve their submissions. We’ll also reward the best feedback with over 50 prizes.


Jury Award

  • $10,000 in cash
  • Contract award of up to $10,000 to consult on the renovation project
  • One week stay at the renovated apartment in NYC
  • The revolution unfolds: a Strida folding bike
  • Get together with family and friends: Cisco ?mi Telepresence system and Cisco Valet router for 2 locations plus one year of service*
  • Collaborate at work: Cisco Webex annual subscription

Community Prizes

First Place

  • $5,000 in cash
  • The Thinbike designed by Graham Hill and Schindelhauer
  • One week stay at the renovated apartment in NYC
  • Get together with family and friends: Cisco ?mi Telepresence system and Cisco Valet router for 2 locations plus one year of service*
  • Collaborate at work: Cisco Webex annual subscription

Second Place

  • $3,000 in cash
  • Two day stay at the renovated apartment in NYC
  • Get together with family and friends: Cisco ?mi Telepresence system and Cisco Valet router for 2 locations plus one year of service*
  • Collaborate at work: Cisco Webex annual subscription

Third Place

  • $2,000 in cash
  • Two day stay at the renovated apartment in NYC
  • Get together with family and friends: Cisco ?mi Telepresence system and Cisco Valet router for 2 locations plus one year of service*
  • Collaborate at work: Cisco Webex annual subscription

Fourth Place

  • $1,000 in cash
  • Two day stay at the renovated apartment in NYC
  • Get together with family and friends: Cisco ?mi Telepresence system and Cisco Valet router for 2 locations plus one year of service*
  • Collaborate at work: Cisco Webex annual subscription

Fifth Place

  • $750 in cash

Sixth Place

  • $750 in cash

Seventh Place

  • $500 in cash

Best Feedback to Designers

* available to winners in the North America and European Union. Winners in other regions will have the option to exchange the ?mi system for other Cisco products. European Union winners may be invited to join the ?mi beta testing program.


Target Group

  • Graham Hill
  • and everybody else that's looking to save money, radically reduce his/her environmental impact, and have a freer, less complicated, happier life

Mandatory requirements

Apartment Functions:

You must use one or more of the Resource Furniture Space Saver designs to combine some of the functions, but the rest is up to you.

Kitchen - The kitchen should have an induction cook-top, a combination microwave/oven, a small fridge (could be a drawer fridge), a dishwasher, an espresso machine, a juicer, a smart system for storing non-perishable food, and a soda water maker. The kitchen should be hide-able.

Bath - The apartment needs to have a toilet, a sink, a shower, and perhaps a steam room. The setup should look great, be space efficient, conserve water and energy, and have low embodied energy. Must have audio privacy.

Bed - The apartment should have at least a queen size bed, ideally raised off the floor.

Storage - Significant storage is needed for clothing, tools, sports equipment, food etc. (perhaps 300 or 400 cubic feet?)

Home Office - The office is built around a Mac 31” monitor and a 17” Macbook Pro.

Recycling and Reuse - There needs to be a convenient space/system for composting as well as a recycling and reuse "center" (stuff that will be given to friends or donated to charity).

Work Area - There should be a space to store a rolling tool cabinet and an area to do minor in-home repairs, bike maintenance, etc.

Entertainment & Telepresence - There should be Amina in-wall speakers to be used for entertainment and Cisco ?mi Telepresence. The 31” monitor will also be used in the entertainment and Telepresence center.


Materials and Other Considerations:

Flooring - The floor should look great, feel great, wear well, have low embodied energy, be easy to clean, and be maintainable by a Roomba.

Materials - When selecting materials, consider lifecycle and health concerns such as offgassing. Push for low embodied energy materials wherever possible.

Light, Sound - The apartment should be able to be made dark enough to not see one’s outstretched hand. Surfaces should absorb sound.

Shoes - This will be a shoeless apartment, therefore shoes need to be organized or stored near the entrance. A place to sit to take off/put on shoes might make sense as well.

Robot Servants - Low, hidden area where Roomba and Scooba cleaning robots might be stored away to charge.

Bike Storage - It would be nice to be able to hang the Strida in a closet and to slide the Schindelhauer ThinBike into a slot somewhere such that it is out of sight.

Plants - Plants should only require tending to once a month.


Nice to have:

Home automation - House systems might be controllable via mobile phone and internet, with simple on and off controls for all appliances.

Steam Room - It would be nice to have a few luxury items in the apartment such as a steam room. How do you optimize a steam room (less volume?), so it’s as eco-friendly as possible?

Lockable Storage - A portion of storage should be lockable such that some of it can be easily secured when the apartment is sublet.

Wall surface/area - There should be a way (magnets?) to display inspirational photos, images etc.


Assumptions and things already considered:

Air quality - The air will meet or surpass PlaNYC and the American Lung Association "Healthy House" certification.

Resource Usage - The space will use 70% less energy than a typical apartment, saving money and increasing peace of mind. Heating, cooling, and water usage is 20% of a similarly sized NYC apt. The apartment will be super-insulated, use high efficiency appliances and technologies such as a heat recovery ventilator to achieve this.

Lighting - It is anticipated that we will incorporate directional LED lighting into the ceiling so that none or very little additional lighting is needed anywhere.

Windows - It is assumed that we will replace the windows with super energy efficient pan and tilt models. Shading can be programmed using a Mechoshade Home System.


For additional information regarding the official rules, click here.


Download material

Click on the following links to download working material and additional information related to the project.


Show all comments (117)

Thank you for your attention.
I know JOVOTO is keeping an eye on users ratings but please be aware that it may get too late!
In our case, we were in 13th place and after 8 hours those cheaters sent us to 70th place!
while we put great effort in our projects, we will be disappointed to witness something like that.
I hope this will all end.

Thank you.

first of all, it will not be too late - even when the ratings close, we are still reviewing the ratings and until we ourselves close the contest, nothing is set in stone.
However, I would like to remind you all that it's a tough competition - EVERYBODY put a lot of effort into their ideas which is why we have so many amazing entries and way more than just 10 entries that deserve to be in the Top Ten...
So good luck everybody!

let's discuss rating issues in a Public Discussion thread in the support center as this space is meant for questions on the briefing - I moved the comments above too so we can start our discussion based on them. Click here to get to the discussion space.


Hi to all. I was wondering, is the jury gonna publish only the winner, or they will publish a whole list of their own rating? I am curious to see how much similarities there will be with the community rating and that of the jury. That will be another way to see how close to honest is the public vote.... more or less.


Personally I'd be quite surprised if the jury's shortlist bore too many similarities to the public leaderboard.


well that would say something, won't it? ok, not that its normal to have the exact same top ten in the exact same order, but at least it should be expected for the first 50 projects to be in both shortlists. it would be weird to have someone placed at 164th by the community and makes it as 5th by the jury, or vice versa. coz that would be a huge difference in ranking. and ok, if its for one project its fine, but if its for more.... or you know, it might not mean anything :) im just being curious and thinking too much about this :)


The rating difference between 1st and 164th is less than 1 point. And there has been a free for all in the ratings system, probably hundreds of new users merely placing a few votes to downgrade some users and upgrade others, especially at the top. I wouldn't expect the jury to be swayed too significantly by the user ratings, though several "top" entries are deserving of their score, many seem to be artificially inflated.


Hello everyone,

As a LifeEdited contestant I have to say that this is the best contest in which i have participated and the main reason for that is that NOW with communities like jovoto the results and winners can be judges, comment, or improved during the whole competition.

It is a shame that there are many rotten apples that like to manipulate the ratings on his favor. But i trust /jovot will take care of that cheating behavior.

BUT do you remeber how it was before?? It was soooooooo much worst. Right now some of us are wondering if there will be a short list or not, one winner or more.etc. But before (in the old fashion contest model) there was only 1 (or few) mighty winner(s) and nobody had the chance to compare their own project with others but the almighty (questionable) winners.

Today, the winners are not gonna be questionable. And the so-called losers have more chances to benefit from the contest than never before. And also the cheaters have more chances to be publicly exposed as never before. So, for me, should be rated with a 8 "solid idea, impove it to make better"




To all cheaters, do you know when you become a great designer?..When you have the balls to recognize when somebody else is doing a great job :)


well said, my friend. :)

Thanks for the love, yair, and you certainly hit the nail on the head with your last statement - sad to see that not everyone can give credit to all these hard working creatives that submitted amazing work to this contest!


Nevermind Nathalie.

Be responsible of improving your ideas and be responsible to share your comments and be responsible of your ratings to others ideas or comments is a requirement of every Jovotoan. This responsible behavior can take us to the next level of collborative/community design. Let's think about that!!



PS. Thank you Nathalie.


Whatever the results will be, we just want to say that we are very happy for having participated in this contest (we loved the precedure, jovoto, feedback, etc.)

Thanks to all the community, and good luck to everyone!


For all who have participated. Thanks! I had a good time.

sorry to see some bitter and partially inappropriate comments coming in - as Zerooks stated at one point, it's impossible to make everybody happy and there will always be some people that are not happy with the results - however, it would be sad to have that affecting the overall very good spirit in this contest - we witnessed good submissions turning into great ones because of the help of the community, and also many creatives that were not afraid to give credits to other creatives for their amazing work - congrats and thanks for that!

So this is the final countdown now - please keep in mind that the current rankings do not reflect the final results - these will be announced on Thursday only - you'll find the link for the livestream here), and I hope to have all of you join us!


Congrats all winners


Big congrats to all the winners. that was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Maybe Graham's next project will be a whole apartment building to explore things like carbon neutral building, collaborative consumption, urban farming, green walls and roofs, etc. etc. etc...

Hi there!

It's been quite some time since this crowdstorm, but I wanted to let you know about an opportunity similar to the Life Edited challenge.

We're running a project with adidas, Freudenberg & more where they invite architects, interior designers, foodies and innovators to design and rethink the future food experience for their employees for the year 2025. Check out the brief here and feel free to ask any questions under the brief.

p.s. If you submit your ideas before halftime feedback on the 21st of September, you could earn 1 of 2 MacBook Pros with Retina Display!

Hope to get to see some of your ideas in there!