Small spaces, big ideas

The new micro-living trend has caused a stir in the property world, as innovative designs prove that less is most definitely more

If there is a birthplace of the micro-living trend, it has to be New York, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Housing preservation have launched a pilot program to construct a rental building compiled entirely by micro-units. The building, which is using the winning design from the Adapt NYC competition, will contain 55 units ranging from 250 to 370 square feet, has a roof garden and communal areas, and is scheduled for completion by September 2015.

Online, the micro-home trend has garnered a huge social media following. Sites like Pinterest and Buzzfeed have hoards of fans devoted to the movement and have provided a platform to share pictures of the most radical designs. The tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes, from floating modern masterpieces, to miniature alpine retreats, all contained within a few hundred square feet.

A number of compact homes went on display at the recent Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles. As designers experiment with novel space-saving solutions and employ modern, minimalist techniques to do so, the homes have become works of art, as well as viable housing solutions.

One of these innovative designs is the Manhattan Micro Loft created by Specht Harpman Architects, which inspired entries to the NYC micro-units competition. The 425 square foot apartment, stretched vertically across 25 feet, was originally so small there was no space to put a bed or sofa. Specht Harpman describes how ‘every inch of space is put to use’ in his design, the stairs feature built-in cabinets and drawers and the kitchen has fully concealed appliances.

micro living
A micro-home designed by Holden Cherry Lee Architects and Haack + Hopfner

The micro-living phenomenon is not just being implemented in the US. Recent statistics from the Dubai Land Department have shown that people are now choosing to live in smaller homes, opting for more manageable, modernized spaces instead of occupying space they don’t need.

In Hong Kong, property developer Li Ka-Shing is building the Mont Vert tower in the suburb of Tai Po. Each apartment in the complex will consist of a 97 square foot bedroom and living room, a 13 square foot kitchen and a 31 square foot bathroom. These homes have proved to be high in demand, with 4,200 applicants vying for 196 available units.

However, buyers are not necessarily interested in micro-homes as a primary living space. Micro apartments being built in San Francisco are expected to become the domain of highly-paid suburbanites who travel into the city and need a place to stay overnight.

Using small spaces as overnight stop-offs is not an entirely new concept, as most airports now have sleeping pods that passengers can book for naps or overnight stays. For example, the SnoozeCubes at Dubai International Airport, which are soundproof and equipped with twin beds, touch screen TVs and Wi-Fi access and Abu Dhabi’s GoSleep pods, which are simply reclining chairs with a sliding shade for privacy.

These tiny spaces have been adapted to meet our contemporary needs. Often equipped with wheels, or easily transportable, micro-units suit our transient, modern lifestyle.