Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Living Small in the Big Apple

Making Room exhibit
Museum of the City of New York

Sometimes it takes a big city to remind us how small we can live.

Life has been hectic here the last month, with the end of school, a busy workload and a trip to New York City. My daughter headed there for a week at a pre-college program, I had three days on my own to visit family and friends, and my husband arrived for five days of non-stop activity. We are home now, and our 1,800 sq ft house seems huge after my 10 glorious days in a small city apartment.

The borough of Manhattan, with more than 1.6 million people in just under 23 square miles, is a testament to tiny living. The challenges are met head-on in an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. Called Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers, it features a 325 sq ft studio apartment, a size prohibited in most areas of the city. 

Exterior and interior of the Making Room micro-unit
at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) •
the cube in the foreground coverts 
to four stools and a table
The comfortable and beautiful micro-unit, as the apartment is billed, takes advantage of innovative, space-saving design and appliances that can morph throughout the day. People wandered in and out continuously as a museum staff member showed how each item did double, and sometimes triple, duty. What looked like a footrest turned into four chairs and a table. The TV slid to reveal storage and display space. A step-stool converted to a beautiful chair.

The show presents architectural solutions from a look at New York City’s emerging housing needs by research organization Citizens Housing & Planning Council. Creative displays illustrate a myriad of data about trends in demographics that call for new ways of living. The issues are the same as the ones faced in smaller cities and towns all over the country: “how zoning and policy inhibits the development of some new housing options.”

Much like the tiny house movement, the ideas include new ways of thinking about what we need in a dwelling. From mini-studios for singles of all ages to add-on units for extended families, it is all about making room without taking up more room.

My cozy rental apartment in Manhattan
I’m a native New Yorker, and the Museum of the City of New York was just one reminder last week of why I love the Big Apple so much. I would love to reserve a retirement micro-unit in Manhattan, hoping by then the zoning laws have changed to fit the times. 

“The rules and laws that govern the size, shape and occupancy 
of our housing have not kept pace with the changing needs of our population.”
Making Room, Citizens Housing & Planning Council

For more pictures of the exhibit, see below. For info on the museum, see here. And for more on the Making Room initiative, see here and here.

325 sq ft apartment at MCNY, clockwise from top left: storage and wall bed behind couch; chair that coverts to step-stool; visitors seen through the entrance; TV slid over to reveal glass shelving; kitchen sink and prep area; kitchen storage, including rolling table; TV and storage

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