Micro-Apartments are the Future

3 design firms specializing in living bigger by living smaller

The world is getting smaller: literally! With more and more of the population landing in cities and choosing to live solo (in New York City, single people occupy a third of all residencies), inspired architects have devised a solution: the sleek, affordable micro-apartment. These fabulous flats run between 200 and 400 square feet on average, and their size makes them energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Check out Carmel Place, New York City’s first all-micro-apartment building, which opened to residents in 2016. Spearheaded by married architects Mimi Hoang and Eric Bunge of nARCHITECTS, the project, originally titled “My Micro NY,” won the 2013 adAPT Micro-Unit Competition sponsored by the NYC Housing & Preservation Department and secured the endorsement of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who even adjusted housing laws to legally allow for the duo’s smaller apartments. Today, their award-winning vision has become a reality. At full capacity, the 55-unit building in Kips Bay has created a new lifestyle option for New Yorkers. Impeccable design, sliding glass doors, Juliet balconies, and higher-than-average ceilings make the 300-500 square feet apartments feel both cozy and airy.

Pablo Enriquez
Pablo Enriquez


Built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as prefab modulars, the micro-units were later assembled on-site in 2016. The architects describe Carmel Place as far more than a novelty project: “There are people living together in substandard apartments all over the city who would prefer to live alone but can’t afford to. So we said, ‘Wait a minute, let’s make a humane small space where people would want to live,’” Mr. Bunge explains. And Ms. Hoang elaborates, explaining that Carmel Place is exciting because you get “to be part of a progressive new residential prototype for New York that has social implications and is intended to help solve a social problem.”

Its not just the booming metropolises that are discovering the new (mini)market—smaller cities are taking note as well. In Providence, Rhode Island, Northeast Collaborative Architects resurrected a defunct three-story shopping mall, known as the Arcade (built originally in 1828), retro-fitting it with 48 glossy micro-lofts to make a large-scale apartment complex.

the micro lofts at the arcade loft interior photo credit ben jacobsen
Ben Jacobson


NCA retained the building’s Greek Revival flair (complete with ionic columns), but splurged on fresh décor, new appliances, and doubled-windows to let in plenty of soft coastal light. They also added 17 micro-retail stores on the first level, including a whiskey bar and restaurants, so the community is convenient and walkable. For a space between 225 to 450 square feet, rent runs from $550 to $1800 a month (costs are higher for bigger units with skylights and cathedral-like ceilings). The project won a handful of awards, including the National Historic Preservation Honor Award in 2014 and the Congress for New Urbanism Merit Award in 2015. NCA’s gamble paid off: Arcade is at 100% occupancy, with 4,000 people on the wait-list to snag a spot.

Some architects are so smitten with the minimalist lifestyle that they’ve spruced up micro-condos of their own! Architect Alireza Nemati of Studio Bazi in Moscow, Russia, fashioned his snazzy dream home out of a mere 115 square feet. To save space, he built a lofted bed out of a pinewood box. The stairs to the bed serve as storage drawers, and there is plentiful closet space as well.

 And if you’re not about living in a petite appartement in a city setting, you can try renting one in the country. Getaway, a new company founded by Harvard grads Jon Staff and Pete Davis with a team from the Harvard Innovation Lab, rents compact cabins (160 to 220 sq. feet) to vacationers in the Northeast. Geared towards millenials who want the camping experience without the clunky equipment, these woodland cottages located in secret spots outside of Boston and New York provide a clean, quaint escape. Named for one of each of the team members’ grandmothers, the cabins have adorable titles, including the Eleanor, the Isidore, and the Maisie.



With more city denizens than ever before, the need for smaller spaces has created a challenge – not just how to construct such a minimal space, but how to furnish it, without sacrificing aesthetics. And the design world has risen to the occasion, delighting us with wee dishwashers, tiny tables, and bite-sized desks. Innovations in furniture design, including elegant updates to the Murphy bed, a space-saving frame that folds out of the wall, have made mini-apartments some of the most coveted residencies on the market. From trends in tiny houses to tiny apartments to tiny food, cutting your life down to size has never looked so cute!

–Catherine Pond