The amount of living space we have access to is one manifestation of the unequal distribution of housing resources within societies. The COVID-19 pandemic has required most households to spend more time at home, unmasking inequalities and reigniting longstanding debates about the functionality and experience of smaller homes. Drawing on interviews across three UK cities, this article attends to the changing household routines of individuals living in different types of small home, exploring daily life before and during ‘lockdown’. Using the concept of urban rhythms, the data show that the lockdown has intensified existing pressures of living in a smaller home – lack of space for different functions and household members – whilst constraining coping strategies, like spending time outside the home. Lockdown restrictions governing mobility and contact acted as a mechanism of exception, disrupting habitual patterns of life and sociability, and forcing people to spend more time in smaller homes that struggled to accommodate different functions, affecting home atmospheres. For some, the loss of normal strategies was so significant that they sought to challenge the new rules governing daily life to protect their wellbeing.


Copyright © The Authors 2021. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. Reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses, as per the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Cite as

Preece, J., McKee, K., Robinson, D. & Flint, J. 2021, 'Urban rhythms in a small home: COVID-19 as a mechanism of exception', Urban Studies. https://doi.org/10.1177/00420980211018136

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 17 June 2022
Was this page helpful?