Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Compact Living

When I first moved to New York one of the most noticeable differences was the living space. Apartments are much smaller here and I found it difficult fitting my life into one. However, it is one of the compromises that I, and many New Yorkers, are willing to make in order to live in the city.

There are currently over 8 million people living in New York City and as this number continues to grow, it seems inevitable that apartments sizes will condense further. With living space in NYC already at a premium, and the population set to grown by some 800,000 this year, it is hardly surprising that city officials are looking for alternative housing solutions for the future.

In 2012 the Bloomberg administration launched a competition for architects to create smaller living accommodations. The winning design was a 325 square foot micro-studio, a model of which is on display at the Museum of the City of New York. This is a good deal smaller than the current 400 square foot minimum required for all new builds in the city, so I was intrigued to visit the ‘Making Room’ exhibition and see a micro-studio for myself.

On arrival into the unit we were met by a guide who walked us through the area and demonstrated how its various features worked. I was surprised at the size of the kitchen and was impressed with the inventive space savers that included a drawer-sized dishwasher and dining table that slid out from under a counter.

The living space was well organized with a sliding flat screen television that moved across the wall to reveal a storage area behind. The design also included a small home office which folds out of the wall, and a compact bar area. There isn’t a separate place for sleeping, but the bed is located in the wall above the sofa and is pulled down when needed.

Much of the storage space is above head height, but can be reached using the desk chair that converts into steps. This is one of many inventions in the studio that would be useful in any small apartment. I particularly liked the fold out ironing board in the wardrobe, and the coffee table which can be transformed into seating for 4 people.

Believe it or not, I was slightly envious of the bathroom as it was bigger than the one in my apartment! I don’t know what I expected, a shower over a toilet perhaps, but instead it was full bathroom with all the amenities.

Overall I was impressed with the micro-studio, but you can’t deny the fact that it is tiny. Although they have tried to maximize storage areas, as you would expect, there isn’t much space to put stuff. If you own more than 1 pair of shoes and your entire wardrobe doesn’t fit in a gym locker, you might be in trouble. I would definitely be using the oven for storage space!

As it is a similar size to a hotel room, I would imagine it suitable for an extremely organized person living alone. Personally, I would feel claustrophobic staying in such a small space for a long period of time. That said, although these compact apartments might not be suitable for everyone, it could provide an answer to space saving and affordable housing in NYC.

The ‘Making Room’ exhibition is on display the Museum of the City of New York until September. For more information visit

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