The first thing you notice when you enter the model unit at Carmel Place, the city's first all-micro-unit building, is how big it feels. Despite measuring only 302 square feet, the apartment seems much larger, thanks to clever staging and the use of transformative furniture, which can turn a living room into a bedroom with the pull of a lever. "It's not just one room—this functions as a multitude of rooms," explains Tobias Oriwol, a project developer at Monadnock Development. But there's also a palpable sense that the parties involved in the building, which won the city's My Micro NY contest in 2014, are determined to get this real estate experiment right. "There's so much attention on this project, and the stakes are so high for small living," explains Chris Bledsoe, the founding partner of Stage 3 Properties, which is working with Monadnock on the building. "It was really important for us to show what we know: that small space does not have to mean a degradation in quality of life."
One thing that helps the tiny room feel less claustrophobic is the amount of vertical space—ceilings are all more than nine feet high. "If you're taking away two dimensional space, what can you give back? Light and air is the first thing," says Tobias. To that end, units are also equipped with large, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, with a sliding door that leads to a Juliet balcony. Meanwhile, the furnishings you see here aren't typical of the building as a whole; of the market-rate units, only 17 come furnished—they're typically smaller units that won't fit traditional furniture—while the other, larger 15 are unfurnished. There are also eight units set aside for homeless veterans, which also come with the Ollie system and furniture that are also offered to the maret-rate units.
About that whole Ollie thing: the program, which its founders call "an all-inclusive living experience," is intended to give residents a better living experience, even as they've downsized to a much smaller space. The units even come with a "home manager" (akin to a butler—yes, really) who functions as a super on steroids: they'll stock your fridge, make sure you have necessities like toilet paper, and other day-to-day functions. "Small spaces can fuel an improvement in the quality of life," says Bledsoe, whose company developed the Ollie system. Their thinking is that when you spend less on providing a larger space, you can spend more on amenities like a communal lounge or laundry service. "It's expanding this concept of modularity to your life: you have access to all of these different things only when you need them and want them," explains Oriwol.
But even with all of those services, there's no getting around the fact that the apartments are small. "You're not getting a family in here," Oriwol acknowledges, and indeed, the whole point of the My Micro NY competition was to address the need for apartments that can accommodate the city's growing population of single people. But the developers also see one commonality in the type of renter they think will be interested in the units. "They value of a quality of life or a living experience outside of their own apartment," Oriwol explains. And it's clear that demand is high: there were 60,000 applications through the city's affordable housing lottery for Carmel Place's 14 affordable units, or 4,300 applications per apartment—a mind-boggling number, considering that we're talking about units that are smaller than your average studio.
Rents for the market-rate units begin at $2,650 for a 265-square-foot unit, and will rise to more than $3,000 for a 350-square-foot unit, with occupancy expected to begin early next year. Take a look around, and see how some of that transformative furniture works, below.
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The desk unfolds into a table that can easily accommodate four people. Sleek folding chairs, which stack together in the hall closet, offer plenty of seating.
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The bed, which comes from Resource Furniture, is a "transforming wall bed" by Italian manufacturer Clei. It folds from a couch to a queen-size bed, and the coffee table in the living room easily fits underneath.
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Speaking of that coffee table, it also does double-duty as a bigger tray table, for those times when you don't want to unfold the desk/dining room table combo.
All Carmel Place Coverage [Curbed]