We're starting to look at real estate around town, as a way of beginning a process that we hope will end with purchasing our own apartment. There are a zillion variables here, including downpayment size and our own degree of job security, but you have to start somewhere, so we've started by looking around to see what might be available in our price range. We are middle-class DINKs, so in any other real estate market we would be looking at modestly sized houses, but here we are looking at one-bedroom apartments under 700 square feet, which is smaller than what I had in graduate school. Sigh. But leaving aside the fact that we will probably turn 40, possibly as a family of three, and still not have a spare bedroom to put up guests, looking at apartments does bring a certain reality to what has previously been an entirely theoretical discussion. It lets us think a bit about what we want from a living space, given what we can afford.
Oddly, I find that I feel very strongly about having the kitchen spatially separated from the living/dining space, even if only by a countertop/island kind of thing. For what we can afford, a separate kitchen is way too much to expect, but I feel much better about the half-assed nature of a living room with a kitchen on one wall if there's a spatial divider of some kind. I'm not sure why such a thing should have so much psychological value, although the inevitability of a kitchen population of human commensals in this part of the world may have something to do with it. It also turns out that I care about the quality of the appliances and countertops.
Although a lanai is a pretty common feature of apartments around here, we saw a nice one on Saturday that had none - but it was in a building that had a common space in an interior courtyard (with teeny pool) so that there was still a place where one could sit out and read articles or correct papers. Closet space is turning out to be something I care about more than I realized, and this place had both a bunch of closets and an associated storage unit; then there's cross-ventilation and ceiling fans (for our continued efforts to live without air conditioning). I am beginning to suspect I will have to give up on the ideal of having enough space for two desks (two workspaces) but perhaps those tiny corner desks from the office supply store might do the trick. You never know.