It’s like Harry Potter’s closet but with a happy twist — that’s kind of how Bay Area illustrator Peter Berkowitz describes his 8x3.5x4.5' bedroom in the living room of his friend’s apartment in San Francisco.
Berkowitz, 25, didn’t always plan to live in a pod, but San Francisco’s ridiculous rents and living costs helped him to make that decision pretty promptly about three weeks back. In a city where one bedroom apartments rent for an average of $3,500 per month and city leaders are grappling to come up with affordable housing solutions (yes, millennials in the city can’t even afford garage-sized rooms), a pod will do just fine for Berkowitz.
“Yes, living in a pod is kind of silly,” he said. “But the silliness is endemic to San Francisco's absurdly high housing prices — the pod is just a solution that works for me.”
As Berkowitz puts it, a pod is a really easy way to add on a bedroom.
“Having an extra bedroom in a San Francisco apartment raises your rent by a couple of thousand dollars,” he said. Instead, Berkowitz pays $408 a month to live in the pod (plus $108 a month over the course of a year to cover its construction cost) which is in a house by Ocean Beach.
“I don’t have any corresponding drop in quality of life,” he said.
Right now, Berkowitz spends quite a bit of time inside his pod, using it for sleeping, reading and working.
“I’m still working on the soundproofing — I think I’ll line the pod with cork,” he said.
It’s easy to see why Berkowitz, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and De Correspondent, came up with such an unique idea — his creative flair to turn the mundane into something extraordinary is easy to spot in his art.
‘We could have a lemonade stand, sweetie, but wouldn’t you rather do a pop-up ramen shop?” a guy asks his girlfriend in a New Yorker cartoon.
He approaches his living conditions in much of the same way he approaches his art: An appreciation for the science of aesthetics.
“The idea for a pod came from a bunch of different sources — I was always interested in Japanese capsule hotels,” Berkowitz said. “Earlier this year I was living in a very noisy apartment at street level, and I kind of thought how much I would love to have a quiet place to sleep. But finding a two-bedroom apartment was impossible in San Francisco — I thought of making something like a Japanese capsule hotel.”
Berkovitz wanted the cheap rent, but he also wanted something nice enough that he would “actually want to live in.”
So he went to work in his friend’s garage, and with a little help and about $1,200 worth of construction materials — including plywood from Home Depot — he had his pod.
Berkowitz has four other roommates in the three-bedroom apartment.
“I’m allowed in the kitchen and living room — they are very nice to me,” he said smiling. “it’s really like adding an extra bedroom to the apartment.”
The pod pretty much holds all of Berkowitz’s worldly possessions: a fold-down desk, a slanted and cushioned backboard, and LED lights for reading. In fact, Berkowitz even has room to store his books and clothing in a storage space behind the backboard.
“I don’t really own that much so I’m probably an anomaly,” he said.
Berkowitz admits that his tiny box isn’t perfect. “If I had to make it again, I would make it taller,” he said.
He tries to keep it really clean.
“I haven’t had a pod party yet and there are no candles allowed inside,” he said.
He adds that the pod isn’t for everyone. “It’s a little small and it’s probably not for people who get claustrophobic. But what I kind of enjoy about it is how absurdly low my rent is."