New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced a competition that, at first glance, may seem a little odd: he wants builders to present designs for micro-units – apartments ranging from 275-300 square feet. The winning design will be used in Manhattan on a city-owned site, where at least 75 percent of the units will be micro-units.
With more people moving into urban areas, New York may be leading the way in a trend toward smaller, more compact city apartments. So how do you live in 275 square feet? And more importantly, would you want to? Is living in the heart of the city worth the lack of elbow room? Perhaps the benefits outweigh the drawbacks – as long as you use some clever tricks to make your space uber efficient.
One item that requires a lot of floor space is the bed. With only 275 square feet to work with, the bed may take up more space that the average person is willing to sacrifice. One solution may be the new and creative ceiling-hugging design. The bed "drops down" at night and then returns to the ceiling during the day, leaving the living space open when it is needed.
Another solution is a Murphy bed. These are not new – they have been around for nearly 100 years. William Murphy applied for the patent in 1900 and designed the pivot bed in 1918. It soon became a familiar gag in movies of the 50s and 60s. (Usually the hero or heroine would be caught trying to stuff the bed back into the wall, only to have it tumble back out again … or someone would get trapped in the bed when it inexplicably snapped up into place.)
The Murphy bed has come a long way since then – some even operate by remote control. But if you don't want your bed tacked to the ceiling or stored behind a bookcase, there are other solutions. A loft bed isn't just for kids – you can have an elegant loft with the right design. The space under the loft becomes and instant room. Turn it into a home office or use low-set furniture and create a reading nook.
Your bed can pull double-duty and act as a couch during the day by using a futon or a daybed. These aren't the futons and daybeds of yesterday – modern designs are quite stylish and comfortable, and some daybeds offer storage drawers underneath – something that will come in handy in such a tiny space.
It will be interesting to see what type of kitchen these tiny apartments have. Apartment kitchens already seem so small, but they'd have to be downright miniscule to work in less than 300 square feet of space. The designers may consider a circular kitchen. This concept is your entire kitchen, loaded up on a giant Lazy Susan. If they go with a standard kitchen design, it may be necessary to shrink everything down to mini – mini fridge, mini stove top, mini microwave. If that's the case, storage could become an issue.
Storage solutions can also be part of your décor – look for ottomans with storage space, add shelves and bookcases to walls, utilize closet organizers to add more space, and try to eliminate unnecessary furniture. If, for example, you can get a coffee table that converts to a dining table, you won't need a separate dining area.
Speaking of separate spaces, it is easy to create the illusion of another room by using room dividers. Make your own or create one using bookcases. See-through bookcases will give the illusion of another room while making the space feel larger. Try using a bookcase horizontally – it divides the room and provides storage but still allows that open-space feel.
You may think sectionals need a large home – not necessarily. Since you purchase each piece separately, you can make your sectional as small as you want it – perfect for a small corner in a tiny apartment. Some places, such as Pottery Barn, have sectionals specifically for apartments.
Some contend that living in a small space is freeing – you can't purchase a bunch of things you don't need, so life is less cluttered and therefore less complicated. Well, I suppose that could be true … but I still wonder if I would feel comfortably cocooned or crazily claustrophobic in a less-than-300-square-foot apartment. If you live in a small space, share your tips and ideas with us on Facebook!