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Micro-Apartments in the Big City: A Trend Builds

U.S. cities are developing residences under 400 square feet
A 300-square-foot Vancouver apartment
A 300-square-foot Vancouver apartmentPhotograph by Martin Knowles Photo/Media

Imagine waking in a 15-by-15-foot apartment that still manages to have everything you need. The bed collapses into the wall, and a breakfast table extends down from the back of the bed once it’s tucked away. Instead of closets, look overhead to nooks suspended from the ceiling. Company coming? Get out the stools that stack like nesting dolls in an ottoman.

Micro-apartments, in some cases smaller than college dorm rooms, are cropping up in North American cities as urban planners experiment with new types of housing to accommodate growing numbers of single professionals, students, and the elderly. Single-person households made up 26.7 percent of the U.S. total in 2010, vs. 17.6 percent in 1970, according to Census Bureau data. In cities, the proportion is often higher: In New York, it’s about 33 percent. And these boîtes aren’t just for singles. The idea is to be more efficient and eventually to offer cheaper rents.