Rental Opportunity of the Week: Is This the Smallest Flat in the UK?

I'm not carrying a tape measure around, but this looks like the tiniest place ever profiled in this column.
A tiny studio flat for rent in Southampton
Photo: Rightmove
What is living in London like? Hell. Here’s proof, beyond all doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.

What is it? Realistically, and I’ve not been carrying a tape measure around with me or anything, but this might be the smallest flat we’ve ever seen featured on this hallowed and nationally beloved column.


Where is it? Southampton”.

What is there to do locally? The only thing I know about Southampton beyond them signing Ali Dia once is that there is a student nightclub there that is only talked about in hushed, almost reverent whispers; a place I have never been to and yet the sheer name of it sends shivers through my entire being: “Jesters”. In 80s movies, bad guys were constantly on international hunts for cursed amulets – spears or cups or chests that were filled with dark, portentous energy, which they (the bad guys) would always be drawn ever to, despite all logic, despite all reason, despite all sense. Cursed grounds have always pulled towards them the darkest of souls. You find yourself on the brink of a quarry; you find yourself floating in black waters.

This is how I feel about Jesters. My mind fears it; my soul feels pulled towards it. One day I will stand in that place, I know it. I will come to out of a fugue state, blinking against the pink then purple lights. “Where am I?” I will ask. And a lad called “Jonno” who I have never met before in my life will simply utter: “Jesters, mate. Jesters. You just drank a pint then puked it right back up again into the pint glass. Bouncer tried to drag you out but all he really did was just really aggressively pulled your top off. He’s still fighting your t-shirt outside.”


Alright, how much are they asking? £450 per calendar month.

A small flat, then. There’s not a lot to say because there’s so little space, here, in which to say it: a single bed over a built-in bed base, a tapered set of shelves, the kind of bathroom you can move around as long as you keep your arms pinned firmly to your side, an anodyne magnolia paint job, around half a square foot of floor space. We have seen landlords strangle the air out of properties like this before. This, though egregiously small, isn’t that different.

But I do want to zoom in on a few details, because there are some murky features in there that, if the other ghoulish buy-to-letters in this country get their brains around them, could threaten to become a trend. Every “property mogul x 3 bloody good businessman actually” person out there will be looking at this place and thinking, ‘Hmm. I wonder if that shitty block of flats I bought and made shittier could, somehow, be made even shittier?’ And the answer does rather seem to be: well, yeah.

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— We’ve already seen those special small sinks landlords buy because the cupboard they turn into a bathroom isn’t big enough for an actual sink, but I just do want to mention them again. Like, they are fine for a little side-bathroom in the midst of a larger house, which I think is what they were primarily designed for – how big, really, does a sink need to be, when all you’re doing is quickly rinsing your hands after a piss so you can run straight back into the living room to watch Ant and Dec on the big TV? But if it is the primary and only sink in your entire property, then this is a problem.


And, again: I do not want to rent a flat from anyone who has ever gone, “Yeah, do you do this sink but smaller? Much much smaller? Way smaller? No smaller than that. Smaller than that. Basically right: you know them tubs of ice cream you used to get as a kid, that your mum used to fill up with bolognese and put in the freezer? Said ‘neopolitan’ on top? Yeah, yeah them, yeah exactly yeah. Right: like that, but smaller, and a sink” and not even thought for a second about how bad that is.


— I am not, say, “in love” with a bed over built-in storage that you cannot move in any way at all. Though I’ll concede it’s fairly practical, I do think that the immovability of the bed hides a necessary truth, in that: there is no where else possible in this room where the bed can go, and if it has to go here, it may as well be nailed down. Just don’t love it! That’s all! It’s not very hygge!

— The space has a special compact all-in-one kitchen that is designed to fit between the front door and the space on the wall between there and the bathroom (so… like a 1400mm space) which the listing describes by its industry name (an “Elfin” [sic] kitchen). Again, I am not in love with this. I feel slightly made having to say this, but: a kitchen is a room, not a special type of cupboard.


Though I can just about envisage a situation where a well-designed compact kitchen could be useful (you are staying in a novelty AirBnb where someone has turned an old school bus into a glamorous camping experience / you are staying in the special weird student halls they only offer to international students / you have been condemned to a minimum security prison complex), I do not think they belong permanently in any place designed to be an actual home, because fundamentally you can’t do much in them more than make a sandwich.

I do not think we should be encouraging the idea of a business that produces these, is what I’m saying. I think if you are making kitchens this small, you should be legally stopped from doing that. What will landlords make smaller next? They’ve already done sinks and kitchens and beds. They— they can’t, can they? They can’t install really little toilets?

— I rally frequently against landlords’ choice of furniture, because they are either impractical and immoveable (a huge dinner table left in a studio flat, never to really be used for anything), sort of what is needed but not quite what is needed (the deeply uncomfortable vinyl sofa in my old flat, of which there were two, one that got used because it faced the television and one that just “had coats on it”) or ugly (a wardrobe with a load of really knotty wood making up the cupboard-front of it). Here we have something special, which is a table-cum-desk beneath the TV wall mount which flips out like a hangnail.


Again: I am not enamoured with the idea that a flat is so small it cannot permanently accommodate an exceptionally unassuming table and instead can only really have a table-as-a-shelf, and also I am wondering what can possibly happen in the flat that couldn’t happen before you fold the table away: the space that action is saving is so deeply negligible as to be pointless.

I suppose you could just about do one of those yoga YouTube videos you keep telling yourself you should do more in the long space between your bed and the wall, and that is sort of made easier by folding the table away. But that is it. That is genuinely about the only thing folding the table away affords you to do. And you do that, what, twice in one week then never again for three months? That’s the sort of frequency we’re looking at here? 

Other than that, there’s nothing much to say: this is an incredibly small flat that for some reason has three doors going into it (front door, door to the bathroom, then… a third, mystery door? It’s going to be something mad and sinister back there, isn’t it, like a glowing furnace), and is unlivably tiny, and costs £450 a month.

Here’s the thing, right: the population in Britain has remained reasonably stable for a number of decades (we have a fairly strict one-in, one-out policy when it comes to births and deaths). In that time we have been making more property than we’ve been demolishing. So there is no practical reason for flats to be getting this small. There is no person-number crisis that turning a three-door hallway into a single-bed studio actually solves. The fixed bed and the fold-out table is not a solution to any problem other than “some bloke in Southampton wants an extra £450 a month to spend on badly-fitted jeans and experience days at Silverstone”. Don’t be a part of it.