NMS Apartments

Living small: Is a micro-apartment right for you?

Louise Miclat cut her rent by nearly half in February 2014 when she moved from an 800-square-foot apartment in East Hollywood, CA, to a 226-square-foot apartment in Echo Park, one of Los Angeles’ hippest neighborhoods. Her rent dropped from $1,200 to $650 a month.

“It’s cozy and simple,” Miclat said of her apartment, which is about the size of an average hotel room.

Miclat’s narrow kitchen runs parallel to the living room, which is furnished with a futon sofa that converts to a bed and a small table that doubles as a desk. Covering one wall is a gigantic mirror that makes the apartment look more spacious.



Micro-apartments like Miclat’s are an emerging option for living large in a tiny space.

In recent years, developers have embraced the micro-apartment trend. You’ll typically find micro-apartments, which range in size from 220 to 450 square feet, in coveted neighborhoods where high-priced housing is the norm. Some of the hottest cities for micro-apartments are Los Angeles; Boston, MA; Washington, DC; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Austin, TX; and Denver, CO.

NMS Properties built its first micro-apartment community in Santa Monica, CA, in 2009. Now, demand for micro-apartments at NMS buildings in Santa Monica and Los Angeles is “increasingly stronger than the current supply,” said Terra Andersen, director of Internet marketing. The apartments appeal mainly to 25- to 35-year-old professionals, she said.

An appetite for micro-apartments

So, who’s willing to endure a little claustrophobia to live affordably in a trendy place? According to a recent survey by Software Advice:

  • 31 percent of consumers would consider renting micro-apartments.
  • 55 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were either “moderately” or “extremely” likely to consider a micro-apartment.
  • 24 percent of those in the 45-to-54 age group were “extremely likely” and 33 percent were “moderately likely” to rent a micro-apartment.
  • 65 percent of those surveyed said they’d be motivated to choose a micro-apartment to save money on rent.

Flats on D

Creating a sense of neighborhood

In Boston, where a 449-square-foot studio in the Seaport District rents for around $2,300 a month, developers spiff up common areas with rooftop decks, grills, bike storage rooms and fitness centers. Fancy amenities actually keep micro-apartment rents comparable to those of larger apartments, said Patty Gallagher, a Realtor in Boston.

“They are very popular but are not solving the problem of affordable housing in the city,” she said.

Boston’s micro-apartments are mainly in the Seaport District and the Innovation District, which are eager to attract employers and young professionals. “They’re trying to get it where everything you could possibly want is within a 20-minute walk of your apartment,” Gallagher said.

When you live in a micro-apartment, your neighborhood becomes an extension of your home. If you don’t have room for a big-screen TV, you walk to a neighborhood bar to catch the game. No dining room table for a dinner party? Meet up with your friends at the restaurants right outside your door.

Micro-living does have its disadvantages, though. Storage issues, tiny closets and furniture-packed rooms are common gripes, said Rachel Seavey, a professional organizer in San Francisco, where some micro-apartments measure only 220 square feet.

Seaport District

Tips for micro-living

Here are some tips from Seavey on keeping a micro-apartment organized and uncluttered:

  • Use a free room-planning app like Room Planner Home Design by Chief Architect to determine the furniture layout before you move in.
  • Invest in a Murphy bed that folds up on the wall and doubles as a desk or table when upright. Save space with a futon bed that transforms into a couch during the day.
  • Use a collapsible laundry bag, and do laundry frequently so it doesn’t pile up.
  • Sort your closet seasonally, and seal off-season items in storage bags. Use hangers that hang on each other to create vertical space in the closet.
  • Use towel rods to hang extra linens, scarves and belts on walls.
  • Go wireless. Cords create trip hazards and make the place feel smaller. Buy a Kindle or similar device to eliminate book clutter.
  • Put off-season stuff in off-site storage units. Some micro-apartment communities offer on-site storage for an extra charge.
  • Use a rolling cupboard that doubles as a tabletop with a pantry beneath. Hang “S” hooks on handles to create vertical storage.
  • Keep only the number of dishes, pans and utensils that you need. Use a pot that can double as a boiler and a saucepan. Have one frying pan that accommodates almost anything.
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