How much living space do we really need?

April 1, 2013

There’s an interesting article in the March 25 issue of Time magazine called “10 Big Ideas” (read the digital version here). Some of the ideas are fanciful, but idea #2 resonated with me: Shrink your living space.

Check out the photos and floor plan of a New York City micro-apartment. At 250 square feet, it’s roughly half the size of the average Manhattan studio, and is designed with high ceilings and large windows that expand the perception of space. The high ceilings allow for plenty of cabinets and other storage space. Hideaway furniture makes the most of every square foot; for instance, at night the couch unfolds into a bed and the dining table rolls back into a nook.

As the Times article notes, in order to facilitate the construction of micro-apartments, a number of North American cities (including Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle) have dumped old zoning laws that require new units to be at least 400 square feet. The tiny units are a boon for Millennials who can’t afford the rent in many metro areas. At one San Francisco project that opened last year, micro-apartments are renting for less than $1,600 a month.   

There have been countless articles in housing magazines, including Professional Builder, about making small spaces live large. The question is not, “Could you live in 250 square feet?” but, “Could you make do with less?”

Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas