New Yorkers have long been innovators and definers of how Americans can live well in small spaces. Now more than ever, the global appeal of small, efficient living and the need for 1 and 2 person residences in NYC has skyrocketed. Creative design has stepped up to build a community and quality of life based on the philosophy of ‘keeping it simple’.

Not just for grad students or 20 somethings anymore, micro living is appealing to singles and couples of all ages and walks of life – childless professionals, service workers and retirees. The affordability of micro living is once again making room for diversity in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn; offering an appealing alternative to getting pushed into outer, less expensive boroughs and the prospect of a long, expensive and annoying commute into the city.

By using design and efficiency as the model, an emerging movement of mixed use furniture and decor for small dwellings is taking off in a big way. Furniture designed for minimal space is increasingly stylish, comfortable, and utterly livable. Have some fun creating chic and clever solutions to individualize and bond to your new living space, while impressing friends and family in the process.

The New York Times stated earlier this year: “With 2 years of waiting and speculation, My Micro NY, Michael Bloomberg’s project of encouraging NY designers to create small spaces with the quality of life in mind, a place to live, enjoy, prosper…instead of settling for simply existing.”

tm adHistory of small living in the Big Apple

The cycle of small housing in New York has occurred through the decades. Since the Industrial Revolution brought the first large wave of immigrants to the shores of New York Harbor, when the population grew by over 600 percent from 1820-1860, the city has been at the forefront of innovative ways to live small.

Unable to accommodate the astounding growth, residents flocked to downtown tenements, squatters’ shacks in midtown, and hilltop shanties uptown. City planners took over, and the innovation of small living has been evermore an integral part of urban life.

The practicality of shared living is often times pushing people into spaces that are cramped and inefficient- making living in the city a grim prospect, at the same time pricing out families from spaces that can accommodate their needs. The new ideal of having private quarters and shared common space, paired with the growing philosophy that downsizing is a quality of life issue, micro design is getting smarter and more creative – while opening up larger spaces for families.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Forbes recently gave the public a private tour of what upscale small living looks like around the country. Highlights include design solutions that are fun and innovative – such as stairs that double as drawers, bars that act as desks, and kitchen workspaces and dining tables with hidden storage.

Small and versatile media solutions allow a whole entertainment center to be suspended on a wall, or in a hutch – starting with a wall-mounted TV, digital music and programing on-demand. Murphy beds, once considered a lumpy necessity to be uncomfortably tolerated, have gotten really cushy and very fashionable – the perfect solution for opening up a limited living space.

Inexpensive, creative design solutions and inspiration for multi-use storage can be found at Ikea, thrift shops, dollar stores, flea markets and yard sales. Curbed talked to a young fashion professional living well in 90 square feet.

Her fun and functional solutions included a bistro table with folding chairs that can be hung on the wall, and installing pipes perpendicular to the wall to maximize clothes hanging space without a closet. Adhering to the creed of get something, give something, keeping an uncluttered home is simply a matter of constant trade – lose an item every time you bring one home.

An inexpensive and super easy solution for switching out seasonal wardrobe items, personal mementos and keepsakes like yearbooks & family photos is MakeSpace. Starting at $7 a month, MakeSpace arranges drop off and pickup of storage bins right to your front door! Their durable storage bins are commercial-grade, durable plastic that holds up to 50 pounds, measuring 27” length x 17” width x 12.5” height.

Another Manhattan micro dweller decorated a small space using vintage medicine cabinets, creating an interesting artistic statement – bringing texture and spaciousness with the mirrors, while simultaneously providing a clever and unexpected storage solution.

Renovations that could free up space include baths with glass-doored corner showers, washer/dryer combos that can fit on a built-in shelf top, and pull out hampers that prevent dirty clothes from going astray. Wall cabinets with secretary drop down desks and guest bunk beds can drop down for automatic guest quarters – staying neatly hidden away to deter unwanted guests!

The current gold standard at mixing beauty and functionality, Resource Furniture, serves as as forerunner in innovative and transformative multi-living systems. Resource specializes in tastefully modern, space-saving and sustainable products.

Totally Modular

The much discussed launch of My Micro NY, the city’s first micro-apartment complex at 335 East 27th Street, has finally arrived. Offering 55 units sized from 260 to 360 square feet at an estimated cost of $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

Made up of prefabricated modular micro units built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the apartments feature kitchenettes, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms with a closet, and 70 cubic foot storage lofts. The units are built by New Yorkers, transported in trucks, then stacked and locked together, creating a high rise in pieces.

Praising the project, Forbes has said: “Efficiently designed, the ‘My Micro NY’ units have a 16-foot long overhead loft space, a full-depth closet, a ‘toolbox’ with a compact kitchen with a full-height pull-out pantry and pull-out counter, a bathroom, plus a ‘canvas’ of flexible space for living and sleeping.” Mimi Hoang, a principal at nARCHITECTS, noted that “high ceilings add a feeling of spaciousness. Sliding glass doors to Juliette balconies will make renters feel like “they are part of the city.”

“There is an unmet demand for small units, because the number of one-bedroom households has grown,” said Tobias Oriwol, My Micro NY project manager. My Micro incorporates cutting edge technology to make small spaces both efficient and livable, New York has experienced modular construction before in the 80’s and 90’s, developed by DeLuxe Building Systems, building thousands of urban infill housing units.

Jeffrey M. Brown Associates is currently working on an upscale, modular apartment rental building in Manhattan. Jeff Brown, CEO of the development firm, explained the choice to use modular. “I have always thought that modular makes a great deal of sense. There is time savings, improved quality and cost control. It is more sustainable – more efficient, cleaner and has less waste,” he said.

The benefit of the cost savings associated with modular construction means 40% of the My Micro NY units will be below competitive market rents, and 50 percent of the 362 apartments in the upcoming Brooklyn project will be set aside as affordable.”

Location, Location, Amenities. And MORE Amenities.

New Yorkers have traditionally valued location over space, and great amenities don’t hurt. Newly constructed micro dwelling communities are boasting multi-purpose community space, studies, and media rooms. High end gyms, bicycle storage and rooftop gardens are becoming the norm. Providing efficient privacy and a sense of community is the new wave in shared living – without the hassle of dealing with messy housemates.

The efficiency and affordability of micro living is the perfect solution to New York’s housing crunch. Smaller and highly livable developments for singles and couples change the problematic trend of shared living driving up the cost of larger units, squeezing out families. This wave of desirable dwelling will bring rental costs down- keeping New York fun, funky and eclectic.