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Microscopic living space is nothing new for big-city residents. In New York, a studio apartment can often run 300 square feet
and smaller, and in San Francisco, you can legally nest in something as small as a cozy 220 square feet. But these days,
tiny doesnt have to mean crummy and cramped. In fact, some micro-apartments can be downright cool while being cost
Plans for New York Citys first micro-unit community launched in January after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the
winners of a competition to design the citys first micro-unit apartment building. The 55 modular spaces in the winning My
Micro NY proposal range between 250 and 370 square feet.
Mimi Hoang, a principal of nArchitects, the design end of the three-prong winning team, said that high ceilings will add a
feeling of spaciousness and sliding glass doors to Juliette balconies will make renters feel a connection to the city. Though
compact, the apartments will sport a car trunks 70 cubic feet worth of overhead loft space; deep closets and kitchens with
full height, pull out pantries and fold out counters.
In New Yorks East Village, Jay Glazer, a 27-year-old real estate salesman says he fits comfortably in his 450 square foot
co-op studio. It feels very spacious, Glazer points out, and boasts incredible storage space that you just dont find in an
apartment of this size.
Glazer, who bought the space for $340,000 last year, contends that ultra-small not only works but can feel quite roomy. But
the coziness didnt come without some interior design help. Jays mother, architect Pamela Glazer, created the walk-ups
modern-meets-bohemia look using custom modern cabinetry in three different color patterns, a strategically placed wall
divider, walnut-stained oak floors and handmade lighting.

Jordan Parnass, a principal of Digital Architecture, says making a micro-unit seem not quite so tiny comes down to reducing
the clutter using lots of built-ins which serve multiple functions. For a clients teeny New York studio-turned-one-bedroom
loft, Digital Architecture designed a staircase-dresser with risers that face into drawers leading to a loft sleeping space.
The paring down of belongings can be tough, Parnass added, but for some the realization that you dont really need that
much is really quite liberating, particularly when your space is really tailored to your life.


As more people across the country are living alone, the costs of rent and real estate are soaring in many urban areas. Cities
like New York and Vancouver are trying to get the most out of available apartment space by creating "micro" apartments.
Many of these apartments are smaller than what was previously allowed under the law.


On Tuesday, Mayor Bloombergtrailed by his perpetual entourage of news camerasstepped through the door of a tiny
but neatly kept apartment. He explored the model unit, which currently sits inside of the Museum of the City of New York,
pulling down a trundle bed and peering inside of unexpected storage spaces. There wasnt much ground to cover (only 300
square feet, in truth), and soon Bloomberg migrated to a podium to introduce the unit as the winning design in his AdAPT
NYC competition, which seeks to imagine the future of housing in New York.
Of course, its unlikely that Bloomberg will ever live in a "micro-unit," but his administration is betting that millions of other
New Yorkers will like the idea. Specifically, the citys 1.8 million households of one or two people, a demographic that has
ballooned over the past two decades, growing far beyond the roughly 1 million studio and one-bedroom apartments available
in Manhattan. "The citys housing stock is misaligned with the changing demographics of its population," largely because of
outdated housing codes that prevent the construction of smaller units, the mayor explained.
AdAPT is part of a grand experiment to change that. On a plot of land in Kips Bay, the city has agreed to suspend its current
housing codes and allow the construction of a tower consisting solely of micro-units under 300 square feet. The winning
AdAPT proposal, by a team including nARCHITECTS, developers Monadnock, and the Actors Fund HD, will begin
construction on the site next year. Their scheme, "My Micro NY," calls for nine stories of long, thin units stepped back from
the street. Each apartment will be prefabricated in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and arranged on site using a crane, saving
precious construction days and millions of dollars.
nARCHITECTS, whove been building living spaces in New York for more than a decade, designed the units to be a bit like
a cabin on a shipfull of hidden details. Each unit is divided into a "toolbox," which packs a bathroom, kitchen, and folddown table into a compact box, and a "canvas," the window-facing tabula rasa that can function as a bedroom, living room,
or study. A juliette balcony lets in air, and over head, a step ladder leads to a storage space equivalent to that of a VW Jetta.
The firms design will pack 55 of the modular units on site, with nearly half priced below market.

Some may disagree with Bloombergs approach to the housing shortage. Richard Florida has argued that increasing density
in urban cores isnt always the right path toward building communities, providing a counterpoint to "urban economists arguing
that we need more flexible land use, more flexible building regulations, that we need to build more housing in some of these
very precious urban areas which dont want any." Florida suggests that cities which expand "out, not up" will breed healthier
and more creative neighborhoods. In other wordsthe city should be looking at how to lure tech startups to Queens and
the Bronx, not figuring out how to fit more people in Manhattan.

But as long as Manhattan exists, there will be people chomping at the bit to live thereso why not design a better model for
how we use space in these hot-commodity neighborhoods? AdAPT isnt so much about planning how a city should grow
rather, its acknowledging how the city is already growing, and planning accordingly.
Wherever you fall on the continuum of Jane Jacobs to Michael Bloomberg, there are plenty of alternative proposals on view
in Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers at the Museum of the City of New York. Check it out until September



The smallest apartment I have lived in was technically a double-occupancy room of about 250 square feet. It had been
chiseled out of what was once a single with a private bathroom, on a hall shared with other Columbia-affiliates in
Morningside Heights. My roommate and I agreed that, because I kept later hours, I would inhabit the "second room,"
which was actually just a narrow hallway leading to the bathroom. My share of the space was not closed off from hers,
which is lucky, because otherwise there would have been even less air circulation. My domain fit only a twin bed, shoved
against the wall beside a piping hot radiator, and a small desk. To get to the bathroom, my roommate had to walk
sideways past my bed; if I was seated at my desk, I had to get up, push in the chair, and step back to clear a path.
But of course, the size of ones apartment is not so much about real estate as it is about breathing room for the mind.
Precious personal space. And if your mind gets too cramped, you will start to lose it.
Within a couple of months, I began to test all the different ways I could reach out and touch each wall from a central
point. I scraped down postcards with my toes while I was reading in bed. When winter came, and the radiator pipe got
fiery hot, I had to contort my body sideways to crack the window, which let in all the noise from Broadway. The cacophony
of the street, which would only increase in volume as the night progressed, was so disturbing that it made me crabby,
and then resentful. The conditions of my apartment had made me so crotchety at such a tender age.
The environment weighs heavily on New York Citynot only during a catastrophic hurricane or a blistering snowstorm,
but also with every day heat waves and cockroach infestations, not to mention the street cart smell that wafts through
your window and the wailing soprano who lives downstairs. In a city, where any single person has little control over their

surroundings, ones apartment is the promised refuge of sovereignty. As it turns out, all these elements can make a tiny
apartment feel less like ones home than the hole of a hollowed out tree in a very big and hostile forest.

Still, most people are willing to put up with a lot for a slice of New York real estate. At an open house, a realtor once
defended the price of a modestly-sized two-bedroom by saying, "People will sleep standing up to live in the Village." Most
New Yorkers have had to settle into tight places, and while I can laugh it off and move out after a year (to another
apartment, only slightly larger), small apartments, overcrowded apartments, inhospitable apartments are a constant.
They often result, as mine did, from landlords trying to squeeze out every inch of inhabitable space, in order to charge
as many tenants as much as possible. This usually affects desperate apartment-seekers the most. The ones who are
struggling even just a little bit more than that might get pushed outto a less cared for building, farther away from work
and school, or onto the street.
But claustrophobic habitation may be coming into vogue. Mayor Bloomberg is an advocate of micro-living, at least in
theory, which he championed during the opening of Making Room, a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New
York. Like him, I took a tour of a 325 square foot residencethe winning micro-unit design of the citys adAPT housing
competitionand delighted in its clever pockets of storage and "The Swing 000 Wall Bed," which folds up when
company is coming. Guests walking through one afternoon inspected the model homes layout and craftsmanship, as if
it were on display for move-in on the first of the month.
Printed on a gallery wall was the message, "With unmet demand for more housing choices growing, many people are
turning to an improvised housing market, often resulting in inappropriate, illegal, and dangerous living situations." Next
to this was a monitor showing a loop of desperate Craigslist postings, fading in and out, like a screensaver of apartment
mug shots.
There are many good reasons why tiny apartments are good from a city planning point of view: they are efficient, costeffective, and accommodate growing populations. Almost half of the people living in New York City are single adults,
but one-bedrooms and studios account for only 1.5 percent of the rental housing stock. And the population keeps getting
"Making Room" makes note of the fact that San Francisco and Providence already allow developers to build micro-units,
and Japan and Hong Kong are well known for their small dwellings. But this can be taken to a disturbing extreme. Last
week, the Associated Press reported that, for some of Hong Kongs poorest residents, a small home is, quite literally, a
metal cage, for which they pay the equivalent of $167 a month. Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kongs chief executive, told the
AP, Cramped living space in cage homes, cubicle apartments and sub-divided flats has become the reluctant choice
for tens of thousands of Hong Kong people.
Its impossible to imagine living under such conditions, much less shelling out rent for it. The standards of what makes
a home habitable can vary widely, but whats humane stretches only to a point. (Billennium, a story written by J.G.
Ballard in 1962, carries this question to its dystopian end: the home becomes a cell.) In plotting out housing plans for
cities, though, we may wonder where to draw the line: how much space is ideal, how much can be spared? And how
much can we tolerate, for the sake of participating in that great big metropolitan world?
The micro-home set up at the museum will be constructed as part of New York Citys first micro-apartment building
(officially, anyway). Forty percent of the fifty-five unitsall between 250 and 370 square feetwill be offered as
affordable housing. The most eager renters will likely be young people with modest incomes, who dont mind the idea
of a pull-down bed, and who are enticed by the promise of a rooftop garden. Shared spaces like this are a key aspect
of micro-living, because they cut back on the square footage needed for so many private rooms. And when individual
space is limited, residents can become more intimately connected to the rest of their building. Given the constraints of
a tiny apartment, you take stock of your position among the company of neighbors.
A tiny apartment forces you out of it, squeezing you from your private quarters into public spaces. Which can be both
an attraction and a drawback of urban life: a city is not for shutting yourself in your apartment, no matter the size. A city
is where you retreat outside.



For many Americans, the McMansion and its supersized mortgage payments have lost their luster. At the same time, many
people are delaying marriage and living alone for longer periods of time. The shift has led the way for tiny homes with less
square footage and almost no wasted space, a phenomenon called micro apartments or micro units.
Micro units are catching on in Europe and Asia due to high population density, but stricter zoning laws have slowed their
spread across the United States. Some micro units are as small as 200 square feet, requiring a building variance from some
cities, since many have minimum square footage requirements for livable units.
Developers and groups like Citizens Housing & Planning Council, a New York nonprofit, work to support micro housing.
Single people comprise almost 30 percent of all households in the United States, according to Sarah Watson, deputy director
of the nonprofit. "We have been trying to promote smaller studios because there's so many single people and not enough
legal [housing] options for single adults," she says. Her organization is working with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
to launch a pilot program on East 27th Street to test the idea of relaxing zoning laws and building smaller apartments.
The smaller units appeal to young, single professionals who want the convenience of living in a city and haven't accumulated
extra stuff (the popularity of e-books, online video streaming and digital music means they don't need space to store books,
movies or CDs anyway). In some cases, the micro units have built-in multipurpose furniture like a lofted bed since traditional
furniture may not fit the space. However, they still include a small bathroom and kitchen area.
"It speaks to this millennial generation that's watched older siblings get handcuffed to houses during the housing crash, and
I think they have a different attitude about housing," says developer Michael Rushman of Rushman Dillon Projects. "They're
much more concerned about living in urban neighborhoods with lots of things to do within walking distance [than having a
lot of space]."
His company is developing an 87-unit micro housing project that is undergoing the public approval process in Jersey City,
N.J. Each unit will average about 340 square feet, according to Rushman. "The idea is that someone could move in with a
smartphone and a duffel bag full of clothes," he says. "We're looking at it as a way to create a different lifestyle that's more
akin to what college and university students are accustomed to."

Three hundred and forty square feet doesn't leave much room for entertaining guests, so the proposed building plans include
common spaces that can be used for large dinner parties as well as a courtyard, roof deck and gym that will occupy the
landing areas on all levels of the building.
In Boston's Innovation District, several new buildings offer similar collaborative spaces. Factory 63, a shoe factory converted
into live/work apartments, opened last spring and features communal spaces including a roof deck with an infrared grill,
lobby with complementary wireless Internet and flexible space for residents to entertain guests or business associates. The
units start at $1,699 per month.
Ross Chanowski, a 25-year-old entrepreneur who recently moved from Chicago back to Boston, says he loves the
collaborative environment at Factory 63, even though it means living in a small area (his unit is about 450 square feet). "I
don't miss having more space at all," he says. "[There's] plenty of opportunity in the small space. I use the lobby as my
office where I can have meetings and conference calls."
Chanowski also enjoys meeting residents and attending public events the building hosts, including fundraisers for local
charities and tech meet-ups. "This building and the area is almost like a playground in some sense," he says. "Every inch of
it is usable and discoverable."


Imagine waking in a 15-by-15-foot apartment that still manages to have everything you need. The bed collapses into the
wall, and a breakfast table extends down from the back of the bed once its tucked away. Instead of closets, look overhead
to nooks suspended from the ceiling. Company coming? Get out the stools that stack like nesting dolls in an ottoman.
Micro-apartments, in some cases smaller than college dorm rooms, are cropping up in North American cities as urban
planners experiment with new types of housing to accommodate growing numbers of single professionals, students, and
the elderly. Single-person households made up 26.7 percent of the U.S. total in 2010, vs. 17.6 percent in 1970, according
to Census Bureau data. In cities, the proportion is often higher: In New York, its about 33 percent. And these botes arent
just for singles. The idea is to be more efficient and eventually to offer cheaper rents.
To foster innovation, several municipalities are waiving zoning regulations to allow construction of smaller dwellings at select
sites. In November, San Francisco reduced minimum requirements for a pilot project to 220 square feet, from 290, for a two-

person efficiency unit. In Boston, where most homes are at least 450 sq. ft., the city has approved 300 new units as small
as 375 sq. ft. With the blessing of local authorities, a developer in Vancouver in 2011 converted a single-room occupancy
hotel into 30 micro-lofts under 300 sq. ft. Seattle and Chicago have also green-lighted micro-apartments.
In the foreseeable future, this trend will continue, says Avi Friedman, a professor and director of the Affordable Homes
Research Group at McGill Universitys School of Architecture. A growing number of people are opting to live alone or not to
have children, he says. Among this group, many choose cities over suburbs to reduce reliance on cars and cut commute
times. Many people recognize that there is a great deal of value to living in the city, he says.
Friedman calls the new fashion for micro-digs the Europeanization of North America. In the U.K. the average home is only
915 square feet. In the U.S. the average new single-family home is 2,480 square feet. The National Association of Home
Builders expects that to shrink to 2,152 square feet by 2015.
Small living has deep roots in Japan, where land is scarce. Its just the way things have always been done, says Azby
Brown, an architect and author of The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space. Three hundred
square feet may sound tight, but consider that Japanese families historically lived in row houses outfitted with 100-squarefoot living quarters and large communal areas. After World War II, Japans homes grew, though not much by American
standards. By the late 1980s the average Japanese home measured 900 square feet.
Tight quarters demand ingenuity and compromise. Think of the Japanese futon or the under-the-counter refrigerator, a
feature of European apartments. The Murphy bed gets a sleek makeover in a mock-up of a micro-apartment on exhibit at
the Museum of the City of New York. The 325-square-foot space, designed by New York architect Amie Gross, also features
a table on wheels that can be tucked under a kitchen counter and a flat-screen TV that slides along a rail attached to builtin shelves. Visual tricks such as high ceilings and varied floor materials make the space feel roomier.
The show, titled Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers, displays some of the entries from a design
competition sponsored by New Yorks Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The winning team, comprising
Monadnock Development, Actors Fund Housing Development, and nArchitects, secured permission to erect a 10-story
building in Manhattan made of prefabricated steel modules. Some of the 55 units will be as small as 250 square feet. The
hope is that with more supply, that should help with the affordability of these kinds of apartments so that the young or the
elderly can afford to live closer to the center and not have to commute so far in, says Mimi Hoang, a co-founder of
Although tiny, these properties arent cheap, at least not on a per-square-foot basis. In San Francisco, where two projects
are under way, rents will range from $1,200 to $1,500 per month. In New York, the 20-odd units for low- and middle-income
renters will start at $939.
Ted Smith, an architect in San Diego, says singles would be better served by residences that group efficiency studios into
suites with communal areas for cooking, dining, and recreation. The market does not want little motel rooms to live in, he
says. There needs to be cool, hip buildings that everyone loves and goes, Man, these little units are wonderful, not I guess
I can put up with this.
The bottom line: Developers of micro-apartments are targeting urban professionals living alone. Quarters may be small,
but rents are not.