Around the world, people routinely live in small spaces. In urban centers like Hong Kong, Singapore, Stockholm, and even Paris, small space living has its own moniker: “shoebox apartments.” This concept is enjoying some renewed attention stateside. Recently, NPR highlighted The Museum of the City of New York’s exhibition, “Making Room” which examines the need for, and viable solutions to, the housing crunch. Specifically in New York, current outdated zoning restrictions, which were designed to keep families living in Manhattan in the 1950’s and 60’s, have combined with ever-rising rents to create a situation where there are almost no affordable apartments for single working professionals. In recent years this situation has created a Craigslist economy of roommates and sublets. At worst, people sometimes find themselves living in crowded, illegal even, apartments, or commuting ridiculous distances because they have been priced out of the city. Experts agree: in order to have thriving dynamic cities, thriving and dynamic people need to work and live there. And, since the city projects that by 2030 a full 1,000,000 more people will call themselves New Yorkers, they are looking hard at how to offer safe and affordable housing in a city where every square foot counts.
Though the national focus is on New York, San Francisco, a city not known for its low rents, is also grappling with the housing crunch. In San Francisco, where the average studio apartment rented for $2075 per month, the City Board of Supervisors approved a plan for 375 “micro-apartments” which must be a minimum of 220 square feet and will rent for $1300 to $1500 per month. Living in 220 square feet is not for everyone, but whether you live in a micro, or a shoebox apartment, the difference between this and, say, moving all your belongings back into your room and your mom’s house, is that these units are designed efficiently and with maximization of space in mind. Each unit has a small kitchen, a living room, a dining area, and a sleep area, often combined in a convertible murphy bed/dinette contraption. Some units even have laundry, a luxury in many cities around the country, shoebox apartment, or not. It strikes me as very similar to living on a ship—a place for everything, and everything in its place. Some designs incorporate dining chairs that fold and store under cabinets or slide into a slot in the wall. I have even seen one clever designer place the bed on top of a walk in closet (a walk in closet in a 250 square foot apartment!).
Do you live in a shoebox apartment? What tips can you share? My new room is more or less the size of a bathroom, so I’ll take all the tips I can scrounge!