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24 Hours in a 325-Square-Foot Apartment: The Night Shift

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[Photo by Will Femia from the opening of the "Making Room" exhibit.]

Welcome to hour 7 of our 24-hour live blog from the Museum of the City of New York's 325-square-foot micro-apartment. In the first installment of our adventures here, we've observed museum visitors come and go, gawk at the space-saving furniture, and compare their own homes with our tiny temporary dwelling, designed by Pierluigi Colombo. Now we're going to host a small dinner party, get the apartment expertly appraised, and speak with a woman who lived in just 90 square feet to give her views. Let's roll.

6:00 p.m.: All the prop books in the unit are real books with their covers painted white or gray. "Proof that you can't judge a book by its cover," J. Millz remarks.

6:14 p.m.: We just learned that you can clean the floor with Windex (!). Insert My Big Fat Greek Wedding reference here. It's actually designed by Jean Nouvel and made entirely of materials drawn from soybean oil. It's almost 100 percent recyclable.

6:32 p.m.: Here's a panorama of the kitchen and living room. Hand drawn Actual floorplan coming up!

7:01 p.m.: As we prepare for dinner, we've been reviewing the small kitchen cooking tips we learned at the earlier demo:

7:10 p.m.: Designer Daniel LiCalzi, who lives in a 271-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn (and designed that AC lawn that's been making the rounds on the internet), just stopped by. First impression: "It's so big! And much cleaner than my place." He also noted that if it was his place, he'd just leave the bed down because "it's just so spacious anyway." The bed system used in the micro unity costs around $10,000, but LiCalzi designed and built his lofted bed with the help of a friend for around $900.

7:17 p.m.: We should have paid more attention to the Resource Furniture people when they took apart the stools and put them back together. It's more complicated than it looks:

7:28 p.m.: Pizza time!

8:03 p.m.: A tipster writes in to report that a similar structure to the desk chair that turns into a stepstool (so that height-challenged "tenants" of the micro-unit can reach the higher-up shelves) has been recalled. But don't worry guys, because our chair is not that one and we are blogging from it safely without fear of collapse.

8:12 p.m.: Preparing for dinner:

8:20 p.m.: We gave up on our hand-drawn floorplan once we knew there was a real one. Here's the layout and dimensions of the unit:

8:28 p.m.: As we listen to Lady Gaga's new single and night falls over Central Park, the museum is very, very quiet. There are occasional sounds of scraping and moving items. We do not think anything has come alive yet. We notice a bookend looks like an artichoke. Museum COO Jerry Gallagher stops by to tell us about the two times he slept at the museum. Once, during Hurricane Irene, to make sure nothing flooded or broke. An alarm went off. The second time, the security system was broken, and so he slept on an office couch to protect the collection. That's our job tonight.

8:54 p.m.: So, how much is this place worth, anyway? We asked expert appraiser Jonathan Miller to give us his three cents worth, and he gave us even more than that:

So the apartment is 325 square feet. Right now, in Manhattan, the average price per square foot of a studio runs between $1,000 and $1,100 per square foot, on average. That brings you to the mid-$300,000 range. What's kind of crazy about the micro-unit concept is that in many ways it's being treated as if it's new to the city. But last time I checked, something like one out of eight studios in Manhattan are this size or smaller. Studios in Manhattan represent about 15 percent of all sales, and the average studio is about 525 square feet. The smallest studio our firm has ever appraised was 130, on the sixth floor of a walk-up in the Village. In our history, we've appraised probably a dozen apartments that are under 200 feet, so they are out there. In fact, my parents have a studio on the West Side that's smaller than this. It's 300 square feet on a good day. My sister and I nicknamed it "The Kitchen." A whole wall is a kitchen, and there's a couch. They love it.

It's not unique to New Yorkers. You're seeing this across the U.S. And one of the reason is that prices across many markets are rising, and cities are trying to jumpstart their economies, and they don't want people who are trying to work to be priced out. The whole point is to provide nice living accommodations at a reasonable price. So it's not just about price per foot.

It's not new as a concept. but it's new in terms of new construction. Over the next decade, the city is likely to see an additional 600,000 people added to the population. And development here is largely targeting the high end, because land is so expensive. This is all a great concept, but with the market dynamics, it's not feasible for developers today [to build something like this] yet without some kind of incentive?from the city, or tax breaks. There has to be a financial incentive to build this housing, which brings more people into the city.

What's different about the micro-unit concept is that a big part of the design is built-in furniture, which probably adds another 25 percent to the usable floor area and which makes a world of difference in terms of the enjoyment of the space. The challenge is that built-ins can be highly personal on the resale market. I remember some [bad] purple built-ins.

9:22 p.m.: Several museum staffers share stories of ghosts in the museum spotted in years past. These ghosts seem to follow the movements of the museum's costume collection, which used to be on the first floor and is now on the ground floor. One of the security guards, Scott, told us he once saw a ghost on the first floor wearing a yellow blouse. So if this liveblog stops mysteriously...

9:44 p.m.: The Resource Furniture employees who staff the exhibit are pros at quickly assembling and disassembling the furniture. We... need a little more practice:

(This is something called the cubista.)

10:10 p.m.: A curious writer from Time Out New York wants to know: "[D]oes that futuristic-looking toilet actually work?" Unfortunately, no, even though the fixtures up in there are fancy-schmancy Philippe Starck, the plumbing isn't hooked up because the micro-apartment is in the middle of an exhibition hall. We've gotta walk down the hall in our pajamas and use the same communal bathroom that museum visitors use. There's a staff shower we might brave. The price we pay, right?

10:39 p.m.: When you're spending the night in a 325-square-foot apartment that is not yours, you have to come prepared with the essentials. They are:

11:00 p.m.: As we mentioned earlier, the books in the micro-unit are all real books, even though they've been covered in fake-looking grayish-white covers. Here are a few of the titles:

?The Real Republican Dictionary?
?Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates?
?Bech at Bay?
?Passenger to Frankfurt?
Death Be Not Proud
?American Pastoral?
?Pigeon English?
?Universal Father: The Life of Pope John Paul II?
The Dragons of Eden
The Broker

11:21 p.m.: We have yet to see any ghosts and, unfortunately (or fortunately), the Museum of the City of New York exhibits aren't the kind that come alive and visit us in the night. The museum right now looks something like this:

11:40 p.m.: All is quiet in the museum, and we've gotten our furniture opening down to a science, so we're signing off for a few hours of sleep. We'll be back early in the morning, unless the ghosts get us first.

6:23 a.m.: When the overhead track lighting goes on, it's hard to stay asleep! The a.m. view of Central Park from Upper Museum Mile is lovely, though.

7:15 a.m.: This apartment is missing two things: a full-length mirror (which could easily fit on the back of the bathroom door if the bathroom had a door) and a trash can, which would also be fairly easy to tuck away in the kitchen or bathroom.

7:53 a.m.: Well, it's back to work we go, and here's a shot through the "window" of the micro-unit at our fold-out desk. Many visitors and experts have pointed out that light and ceiling height makes a big difference in a small apartment.

And now we must make the Murphy bed (not without a bit of difficulty) so that we can push it back up into the wall and get ready for our next morning activity...

8:28 a.m.: After a few sun salutes?yep, there was room for two of us to get some yoga poses in?we're ready to entertain a couple of morning visitors.

8:47 a.m.: So it turns out that we're just the first of a few overnight guests here at the micro-unit. The museum has invited a couple of other lucky folks who will inhabit the very same 325 square feet over the next week. A pair of roommates, a couple, and a single person will take turns sleeping over. We look forward to comparing notes with them.

8:54 a.m.: Our time spent in this small space (which isn't really that small, or anything that new?we hear you, commenters!) compelled us to think about what other kinds of microdwellings already exist out there. Besides the myriad proposals in NYC, in other parts of the country and the world, our sister blog Curbed National has scouted out cocoons made of yellow fabric, prefab units under train stations, mobile homes on the backs of scooters, a 42-square-foot wooden cabin designed by Renzo Piano, and so many others.

Curious about what happened next? Check out the last three hours of our liveblog here.
· Liveblogging 24 Hours in a 325-Square-Foot Apartment: The Adventure Begins (Part 1) [Curbed]
· 24 Hours in a 325-Square-Foot Apartment: The Night Shift (Part 2) [Curbed]
· 24 Hours in a 325-Square-Foot Apartment: A New Day (Part 3) [Curbed]
· We Survived 24 Hours in a 325-Square-Foot Apartment (Part 4) [Curbed]
· All Microdwellings coverage [Curbed]

Museum of the City of New York

1220 5th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10029 (212) 534-1672 Visit Website