8 Clever Modern Micro-Apartments That Live Big

Micro-apartments are becoming more popular in cities where the demand for housing is growing, and the supply of affordable real estate is shrinking. From New York, to San Francisco and London, micro-living spaces that measure 500 square feet or less are becoming a trend, offering renters and buyers something smaller but less expensive. Nevertheless, these tiny spaces often packed with built-in amenities like transformer furniture, or if they are part of a multi-unit development, generous communal spaces to compensate for the tinier private quarters.

of 8

Domino Loft System

credit: ICOSA

Our first look is at the Domino Loft system, designed by Charles Irby of ICOSA and Peter Suen for a young couple. The system consists of prefabricated concrete panels, wood slats and custom-made cabinetry, and is configured as an all-in-one unit that can transform into a dining room, workspace and guest room on the bottom level. On top, one can find the sleeping loft, which also doubles as a perch to watch films projected onto a wall on the other side of the space. Multifunctional designs such as this help to give more privacy to each occupant and augment what would be an other tiny space.

of 8

Adaptable "Sleeping Box" Apartment

credit: Studio Bazi

Micro-apartments are generally quite small, about 500 square feet or less. Here, in this 376-square-foot apartment renovation by Studio Bazi, instead of leaving the bed out in the open as in a typical studio apartment, the strategy was to increase useable space by ensconcing the bed in an elevated and adaptable "sleeping box" that offers more privacy to the designer and his wife. This move also adds some much needed storage space underneath this giant box -- and a closet that rolls out. Yet another visual decluttering trick: create a full wall of cabinets. Very clever indeed.

of 8

Micro-Apartment With Transforming Wall

credit: Atelier Miel & Michaël Martins Alfonso

The "full wall of storage" idea is taken to another level in this brilliant little apartment remake by French architect Elodie Gaschard of Atelier Miel and Michaël Martins Alfonso. At 484 square feet, it's not very big, but is enlarged by a multifunctional wall that not only has shelves, but hides a swing-out dining table, and off to the left in the alcove, becomes a desk. We note:

European cities are quite a bit older than those in North America; generally, apartment buildings are more aged and densely packed in, making small apartments the rule rather the exception. As we've said before, living in a small space doesn't have to be a hardship; in fact, it's what you do with the space that counts.
of 8

Doorman's Residence Micro-Apartment Conversion

credit: Atelier Architecture Jérôme Vinçon

This little gem is yet another small apartment in France, actually a former doorman's residence that has been converted into a 269-square-foot apartment by architect Jérôme Vinçon for two friends, a chef and a restaurant hostess. Arranged over four overlapping levels that are mostly open to let in more natural light, this design is full of brilliant (and surprising) space-saving ideas. The suspended shower, right over the kitchen, adds to the quirkiness of this smart design. Says Vinçon:

We often say that architecture is a matter of 10 centimeters. Ten centimeters less here (he says pointing out the bedroom stairs) and my shoulders don’t fit anymore. Ten centimeters are fundamental here. So I’m not working within 10 centimeters here, but one centimeter. So here I had to work more with the human body. So it required a lot of thought to find the best solution each time.
of 8

Zoku Hybrid Live-Work Hotel

credit: Zoku

Thanks to new advances in tech that allows us to be connected and work from almost anywhere in the world, there is now a burgeoning "global digital nomad" movement going on. Zoku is a new establishment in Amsterdam catering to these intrepid location-independent workers and travelers to stay-in-place, comfortably, over a longer period of time. Zoku's apartments are a "live-work hybrid" derived from their research, which found that conventional hotel rooms don't suit this subset of clientele. Their long-term stays require a desk to work from, a bigger kitchen, and a place for guests to hang out or brainstorm ideas on a work project. A smart, modern design, with the cherry on the top being the retractable stair leading up to the sleeping loft.

of 8

355 sq. ft. Micro-Apartment Expands With Adaptable Mini-Loft

credit: A Lentil Design

Taipei, Taiwan based A Lentil Design completely transformed a cramped, dark apartment by knocking existing walls down, and placing a new mini-loft in the centre to help expand the usable space for a couple and their cat. The new design feels much more open and well-lit. It also employs one of those tried-and-true small-space design strategies of hiding some extra storage cabinets within the stair leading up to the mini-loft, which is intended for storage -- or for a future child.

of 8

Freeform Modulor Micro-Apartment

credit: Zooco

Who says small can't be fun? In this quirky redesign of a 365 sq. ft. apartment in Madrid, Spain by Zooco, we get to relish in these freewheeling forms that liven up (and partition off) the living space, defining a work space, a space for sleeping, bathing, getting dressed and so on. It's a neat design that also incorporates yet another small-space design trick: adding some full-wall mirrors to give the illusion of greater space.

of 8

Ori: Smart Robotic Furniture For Micro-Apartments

credit: Ori Systems

Now, not everyone will necessarily want to do a renovation for their micro-apartment, or use transformer furniture that they have to manipulate, unfold and refold themselves. Another option is to install Ori, an automated smart robotic furniture unit that can shift, move and reveal different functions and be programmed to reconfigure itself according to your schedule. It's not cheap, but it's convenient. We wrote:

The system is conceived of as both a partition and an all-in-one unit for spaces under 300 square feet, consisting of closet, storage, a desk that can retract, and a bed that can glide away effortlessly underneath in the morning with the touch of a button. [..] The actuators that do all the heavy lifting, in addition to the underlying electronics and software that enable the Ori system's Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.

Designed by Fuseproject and MIT's Media Lab, the concept could be the next evolution of how small urban living spaces could be made more comfortable, yet efficient, and without too much effort.