August 22, 2013

Developing for small spaces; innovative design with space in mind


If you have all of the land and money needed to develop homes or apartments, you may not be thinking less is more. However, urban development and affordable housing often call for maximizing every inch of a home. Renters and homeowners would prefer not to do without necessities, so how do you fit it all in a small space? Check out this article by Megan Durisin over at Business Insider. It features minimalist millionaire Graham Hill’s “LifeEdited” apartment in SoHo Manhattan. Hill has gotten a lot of publicity for this living space and philosophy of late, having abandoned the typical mansion-full-of-stuff lifestyle that he tried on after selling a tech startup for great big wheelbarrows of cash (estimated).


Hill downsized not only his lifestyle but also his living space, managing to ingeniously develop a 420 square foot apartment into a flexible multi-room space thanks to clever moving walls, collapsible beds and tables, recessed cabinetry and other tweaks. The Business Insider article does a good job of charting out costs to estimate Hill’s expenditure, but he’s quick to dispel any notion that his is The Way To Do It. It seems like he’s approached the entire exercise as a “showplace” setup, and there certainly are even smaller apartments that pack more into the living space, such as this 344-square-foot apartment in Hong Kong that can be converted into 24 different types of living space.

While these are extreme examples, both in terms of minimized space requirements and the engineering and workmanship needed to make them functional, we do see a great lead-by-example demonstration of a reprocessing of the American Dream of homeownership. I like the term “right-sizing” as a way of aligning wants and needs in ways that make better sense for our budgets, our environment and our sanity. Closer to home, VHDA was involved in the financing for the 2001 E. Broad Street downtown apartment development in Richmond. These downtown apartments offer 550 square foot efficiencies and 700 square foot one bedroom dwellings without sacrificing necessities. Another example located in Arlington County is The Shelton, an award-winning development that offers 537 square foot efficiencies and one-bedrooms at 604 square feet.
2001 E. Broad Street apartment interior
2001 E. Broad Street apartment interior
VHDA continues to encourage developers to look at creative ways to add value to small properties. What limitations do you see in designing for small spaces?
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