Take a Tour of a Tiny Living Space

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It might seem inhumane to some New Yorkers – the idea of a 275 to 300 square feet apartment – but to others it’s the lap of luxury.

“To me 300 square feet seems like a palace,” Genevieve Shuler said.

The 33-year-old administrative assistant has been living in an apartment even smaller than the micro-apartments envisioned by the mayor.

“I dream of, 'Oh my Gosh, what could I do with 300 square feet?'”

She has been renting a 105 square feet studio in the West Village for seven years. Shuler says she makes the best use of space: she has a loft bed which utilizes the height of the apartment, and a couch and a small table for TV the space underneath.

The studio doesn’t have a full kitchen, but Shuler, who’s an avid cook, has found a way around the problem.

“The quirkiest part of trying to cook in an apartment this size, without a kitchen, is where to do the dishes, because the sink is so tiny it’s not really practical,” Shuler said. “So, I do them in the shower.”

Shuler said she was attracted to the apartment by its location and the opportunity to live alone. She pays $800 a month in rent, and plans to stay here.

Another person who understands how to make the best of a small space is Darrick Borowski, creative director at Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture in Brooklyn, which has made over several tiny apartments. The key, he said, in designing such small spaces is to first consider the lifestyle of the person who’s going to live there, carving out a smaller area, for example, for a kitchen if they don’t cook much.

And then, he said, it’s crucial, “not to try to cram a suburban home into 400 square feet, but instead to really try to embed that particular person’s living pattern into the design.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a city-sponsored contest to design buildings with micro-units on Monday. He said the purpose of the contest was to accommodate the city’s changing demographics. New York City currently has 1.8 million one and two-person households, but only one million studios and one-bedroom apartments, according to the Mayor’s office.

Regulations at the moment require new apartments be at least 400-square feet. The City will waive this zoning requirement for the project, which will be located in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan.

Courtesy of Genevieve Shuler
Genevieve Shuler's 105 sq. ft. apartment.
Courtesy of Genevieve Shuler
The other side of Genevieve Shuler's 105 sq. ft. apartment.
Courtesy of Genevieve Shuler
Her "kitchen" and storage area.
Courtesy of Genevieve Shuler
Her shower also serves as a dishwashing and drying area.
Courtesy of Genevieve Shuler
A close-up of the living space under her lofted bed.
Courtesy of JPDA
The layout of a 450 sq. ft. East Village apt.
Courtesy of JPDA
An intricately sculpted wood-paneled central service core contains the kitchen, bath, closets, and sleeping loft.
Courtesy of JPDA
The live-work space.
Courtesy of JPDA
Continuous finishes hint at the tight integration of the kitchen appliances and storage spaces into the central service core.
Courtesy of JPDA
A 400 sq ft Battery City studio gets a separation of sleeping area from living area.
Courtesy of JPDA
A rendering of a 375 sq. ft Upper East Side studio.
NYC Mayor's Office
A mico-apartment floorplan.


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Comments [14]

Bob Sacco from Manhattan Island

Regarding your story about Bloomberg’s idea for "micro-apartments," I presume that these "apartments" (i.e., rooms) aren't for the trust-fund kids or children of well-off mommies and daddies who can plunk down three to five hundred thousand for a "starter" flat on the Lower East Side or in the East Village for their darlings. No, these cell/storage units will be for some dreamy dope from Wisconsin or newly minted corporate drone who, respectively, wants to be, or has to be, in Manhattan for their art, career, ego aggrandizement, or whatever endogenous or exogenous calling they have, or maybe just to feel "cool," like, they're doing something with their lives by living in the Big Town, even if it’s in a little way. So I wonder, will a new measure of success (actually of failure) for these Wannabes of Tenants Future be how long you’ve lived at (read: been stuck in) your little dog house closet of a place? Will the 40+ actor who moved into one of these new bright and gleaming holes so many hopeful decades ago be considered a loser because she or he's still in the dump, nowhere else affordable to go?

But I think to really get a good sense of living like this, who better to ask than some of the "tenants" of a much earlier development of tiny spaces – Rikers Island – for their seasoned perspective on living small? Who better to advise the pre-incarcerated than the actual incarcerated about the fine points of a room with no view – not now, and probably never.

Jan. 24 2013 02:04 PM
Elizabeth from Parlin, NJ

My son and his wife have been living happily in a 350 sq.ft. apartment for the past six years and find it cozy, comfortable, and practical. That it happens to be in Germany is irrelevant for the current discussion. They have an open kitchenette leading directly into a room which is both the dining area and living room, a small bathroom with a shower, wash basin, and toilet, and a separate bedroom into which they fit a queen-sized bed, 9-foot long clothes cupboard, dresser, and desk for office work. They'll be moving into a larger apartment in the spring only because they are expecting their first child. So micro-living is not only possible but can be fun!

Jan. 23 2013 06:59 PM
Angela from Brooklyn

I currently live in a space that is 12'x 18', with a little separate kitchen.
I love my apartment and am by nature a minimalist, so I can work with a small space (and I live alone). I think the rents should remain under $1,000. though and that could make up for your willingness to live in one room. My rent is $1,100., which is okay for now, but I wouldn't want to pay much more . . .

Jan. 22 2013 07:53 AM
Peter from Great Neck

I am curious if there have been any long term psychological studies of people living in tiny spaces and what the effects are from living in them

Aug. 01 2012 03:42 PM
Sue Young from Montclair, NJ

The smallest space I ever lived in was the captain's cabin of a Thames sailing barge, the glorious gaff-masted boats immortalized in the WW2 song, "Red Sails in the Sunset," sung by Vera Lynn. The barge was moored opposite the Battersea Power station in London. There was probably around 36 square feet, and I shared it with a friend ... there were two bunks. Exquisite carved mahogany closets and a tiny carved railing preventing us from falling out of the bunks.. We stayed for two weeks until the dampness and ridiculousness of the size drove us out. Of course I was in my 20s.

Aug. 01 2012 03:16 PM
afgan irakson from brooklyn

Ha, he doesnt even consider you a human beeing... .

Jul. 15 2012 12:26 AM
cobblehillite from Brooklyn

we have been building microunits for supportive housing -- for people with mental illness, drug addiction, and for the formerly homeless. A lot of older new york city apartments do not meet current building code standards in terms of current rules on fire safety, bedroom sizes, bathroom sizes etc. if people are willing to rent microapartments, what is the big deal

Jul. 14 2012 08:32 AM

Smaller apartments does not mean lower rents. It does mean more tax revenue for the city and incrementally more income for developers.

That said, I wouldn't mind living in one. If the last few years has taught us anything it should be that we can all do with less 'stuff'

Jul. 11 2012 05:38 PM

Smaller apartments means more apartments means cheaper rents. This option should exist.

Jul. 11 2012 05:06 PM
Andy` from 10024

If one were to consider the other boroughs, there is plenty of space and there is no need to build 300 square-feet apartments.
Bloomberg favors Manhattan real estate landlords. Isn't it obvious that he does not care if residents live in units the size of cages in Central Park Zoo.

Jul. 11 2012 04:52 PM

Remember when people used to laugh at the tiny apartments in Tokyo? Or recoil in horror at the cramped living spaces of the poor in Hong Kong? It's amazing how America went from land of McMansions to "micro-apartments" in about five years!

Jul. 11 2012 11:58 AM

if bloomie will 'take back' the central park south manse purchased for his youngest daughter and have her live in one of these units then i am all for it...O_0

Jul. 11 2012 11:47 AM
rachel from Manhattan

Would this appeal to those who are already minimalist or could it teach people that space and things do not a life make.

Jul. 11 2012 09:02 AM
VMGillen from Staten Island

IF - if this is ADA compliant I submit that Bloomberg, Burden and the developer each be required to spend several hours in a unit while sitting in a wheelchair... (we won't even mention so-called visit-ability. The RFP says the developer is responsible for complying with all regulations - including the ADA - so the City will dodge any regulatory bullets, presumably. Interesting, considering the recent ADA-compliance smack-down from the Dept of Justice - since 1991 the "understanding" by everyone, from the Dept of Buildings to design architects to developers was that NYC was "exempt" from ADA requirements. We'll waive zoning, code, and whatever we want, to create "affordable" housing in Kips Bay? -hey, why not Williamburgh, too?

Jul. 11 2012 07:44 AM

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