Going micro: Small spaces can offer a lot

tiny studio yville

BY MARTHA WILKIE | Years ago, I saw an art installation that consisted of a life-size model of a Rikers jail cell. You stepped inside and heard a recording of voicemails from dozens of people calling about an ad the artist had placed offering an (imaginary) Manhattan apartment for rent. She described it exactly like a jail cell: a 7-foot-by-10-foot room with a bed and a toilet. People were clamoring to pay good money to live like a prisoner. Only in New York!

The legal definition of a “bedroom” in New York City is a minimum of 80 square feet. (So a Rikers-size one wouldn’t pass muster.) With some exceptions, the smallest an apartment can be is 150 square feet (plus kitchen and bath, so around 300 square feet, total). However, on St. Mark’s Place, tiny (around 80-square-foot) rooms in an SRO (or former SRO?) rent for more than $1,000 a month. It’s marketed as “dorm style,” with shared baths down the hall.

In the early 1990s, I once looked at a windowless space in a Tribeca loft. I said, “Oh, nice walk-in closet!” and the would-be roommate said, “Uh, that’s actually the room.” I couldn’t stand up in it.

On the tippy-top end, you can buy a 300-square-foot studio at 515 Park Ave. for a cool $1.45 million. (Sale restricted to owners already in the building.) Tiny apartments like this in luxury buildings are intended for staff, but can be used for storage or guests. One like this at the Dakota went for $76,000 in 2013.

Under the Bloomberg administration, the city encouraged developers to build “micro apartments” with well-designed small-space elements such as Murphy beds and built-in storage. The first example was Carmel Place in Kip’s Bay and more are in the planning stages.

Outside of New York City, the “tiny house” movement is huge. If you live in Manhattan, you can easily eat out every meal and spend all your waking hours out and about. Who needs a chef’s kitchen when you’re only going to store your shoes in the oven?

Could you be happy in one of these tiny homes?

At 5 Tudor City Place, a studio for $299,000 has the teensy-est kitchen tucked behind shutter doors: dorm-sized fridge, two-burner stove and a mini-oven. A beamed ceiling and beautiful casement windows add architectural interest.

This Yorkville studio may be small, but that doesn’t stop it from breaking all the rules. (Courtesy Douglas Elliman)

In Yorkville, a studio breaks all the rules of small-spaces design with an extravagantly bold look: large-scale furniture, dramatic black-and-white color scheme with pops of bright color, patterned textiles and a fabulous kitchen with a pressed-tin backsplash. $335,000.

The long and short of it: This Hell’s Kitchen studio has a lot to offer, including generous overhead storage space. (Courtesy Douglas Elliman)

A Hell’s Kitchen studio offers high ceilings, a decorative fireplace and generous overhead storage space accessed by a pretty library ladder. There’s laundry facilities in the basement plus lovely shared outdoor space. $445,000.

Near Gramercy Park, the Petersfield has a rental studio for $2,950, with a doorman, elevator and gym. The elegantly designed kitchen has white marble countertops and new-looking steel appliances. (https://streeteasy.com/building/the-petersfield-301-east-21st-street-new_york/06a)