Micro-apartments: Just how tiny are they?

As you embark on your apartment hunt, you may come across real estate listings for dwellings called “micro-apartments.” These tiny spaces usually have a combination living room and bedroom, a small kitchen and bathroom, and sometimes a balcony or patio. The best ones are designed to maximize living space per square foot without sacrificing amenities like an efficiency apartment.

Micro living is growing increasingly popular not only because it can save on cost and accommodate more housing in large cities, but because micro-housing itself is becoming a desirable way of living for many people, especially young professionals.

Interior of a decorated micro apartment with a small staircase and a couch.

Table of contents

What is a micro-apartment?Where are micro-apartments popular?Pros of micro-apartmentsCons of micro-apartmentsFeatures that make micro-apartments feel largerHow to adapt to micro-apartment living

What is a micro-apartment?

Micro-apartments are exactly as they sound—tiny, space-saving units that usually land in the 100-500 square footage range and are smaller than most studio apartments. Think of a micro-unit as the apartment version of the tiny home craze in which people economize their lifestyle, often to have their own living space when larger homes are out of their price range—or because they prefer to be more minimalist.

Micro-apartments are becoming more common and more desirable due to the housing crisis in places where housing is very expensive, hard to find, or both. This means that big cities, especially those with booming populations, are places where you’re very likely to encounter these small spaces on the rental market. 

Thanks to their high cost of living, New York City, San Francisco, and Hong Kong are all prime locales for rentals of this unit size—often around 400 square feet. And for those hoping to move to these cities, these tiny spaces can be a great option when larger and older homes rarely enter the rental market or are very expensive.

Pros of micro-apartments

Living economically and in the city of your choice are a few of the benefits of micro-apartments.

  • Renting a micro-apartment may be the best way to land a spot in your city of choice, especially if it’s a high-density city where traditional housing is hard to come by or out of your price range. 

  • Opting for a micro-apartment may allow you to be closer to the heart of a city, or in an exciting neighborhood you otherwise might not be able to find housing in.

  • Micro-living often means downsizing and economizing your belongings. For many people, this is a rewarding and less stressful way to live, where every one of your belongings is something you like and that is useful. 

  • Like those who are part of the tiny house movement, many people opt for this way of living because it can have less impact on the environment.

  • Many micro-apartment buildings have built-in communal living aspects that increase the sociability of a living situation, such as communal kitchens, gathering spaces, and even live and work environments, adding a sense of community.

Cons of micro-apartments

Downsizing to a smaller space can be challenging. While its size is its appeal, it is important to accept that your living space will be very small. 

  • Think about if such diminutive floor plans are the right living situation for you. If you desire a large sleeping space, own a lot of things you don’t want to get rid of, have a big dog, or any other factors that could make such living uncomfortable for you, then a micro-apartment may not be the right choice.

  • Some micro-apartments don’t have full kitchens or don’t have kitchens at all, providing a communal cooking space instead. If you love to cook and need a full kitchen with a stove, range, and a full-size refrigerator, some micro-apartments won’t be a good fit for you. 

  • If you’re moving as a couple, really think about if a micro-apartment provides enough space for you both. Living in close quarters can be challenging for the happiest of partners. Is there a patio or a communal gathering space where you can easily get away for some alone time? Is there a cafe or a park nearby where you can step out for a breather? These are things to think about if you’re planning to live in a micro-apartment with another person.

  • If you value having a social component to your home life, micro-apartments might feel lonely. Finding shared housing with roommates might be a better fit.

Interior of a micro apartment featuring a bed and a desk using a bookcase as a divider wall.

Features that make micro-apartments feel larger

Micro-apartments are all physically small—that’s the point! But certain architectural features that can make them feel a lot bigger than they are, and you can keep an eye out for these when looking for one. 

  • High or vaulted ceilings: These give you a nice, lofty feel of not being in a box. 

  • Natural light: Are there large windows? Which way do they face? During what part of the day does the apartment get the most light? 

  • Outdoor space: A patio can add more living area to a small space. Leaving the doors open on a warm day can make the place feel bigger, as can curating a distinct outdoor space for gathering or relaxing. 

  • Built-in storage: Vertical storage space that’s built into the wall allows you to store the maximum amount of stuff without losing floor space. 

How to adapt to micro-apartment living

Chances are you’re going to have to make a few changes to get used to living in a tiny space. But there are lots of ways to make micro-living work for you. 

  • Downsize your belongings before moving in. That means eliminating things you don’t use, don't need (and don’t have a sentimental attachment to), and discarding duplicates. You probably don’t need two sets of weights if they’re the same size! 

  • Think strategically about how to use space. Use a kitchen counter that can also be a dining bar. Choose a bed that folds up into a couch when you’re entertaining. Look for a table that can double as your dining space and your work desk.

  • Consider furniture items that have built-in storage, like couches with hidden compartments and beds with drawers underneath. Thanks to the popularity of small space living, more and more furniture makers are building such options into their products. 

  • Try creative shelving. Opt for off-the-ground solutions like vertical shelving that takes advantage of a whole wall (or walls) and store things you don’t use very often in high places, such as on top of cabinets. 

Want a living space that’s bigger than a micro-apartment? Bungalow is the best way to live with roommates. Our homes are designed for shared living, located in the best neighborhoods, and take care of the details—like furnishing common spaces, scheduling monthly cleanings, and handling payments. Whether you already have roommates or are looking for new ones, there’s a Bungalow with your name on it. Find your Bungalow.

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