19 Micro-Apartments Finessed to Feel Larger Than Just 500 Square Feet

19 Micro-Apartments Finessed to Feel Larger Than Just 500 Square Feet

By Kate Reggev
Out-of-the-box solutions make these tiny apartments feel grander—despite being 500 square feet or less.

They say good things come in small packages, and when it comes to mini apartments, that often proves true. In major cities across the world, from New York to Paris, and Taipei to Warsaw, homeowners devise clever ways to make the most of their small spaces. Read on to see how transforming furniture, lofted bedrooms, and moveable partitions are just some of the ways to make a bite-sized home as flexible and efficient as possible.

A Family of Five Thrives in This Ingenious, 366-Square-Foot Apartment in Shanghai

L&M Design Lab leveraged the diagonal axis of an L-shaped, 366-square-foot flat in Shanghai to make it feel more spacious, carving out room for everyone’s hobbies—including a mini singing hall. The home, which is on the top floor of an older building, can be traversed in just 13 steps from north to south, say the designers, giving the project its name, A House Within Thirteen Steps. This view shows the diagonal axis of the apartment, looking back to the kitchen.

In Yuen Long, Hong Kong, a 452-square foot residence is designed to accommodate a young couple, one of their mothers, and their pets: a cat and a parrot. The home features transforming furniture and nooks and crannies that are perfect for the pets. A bench by the door doubles as a litter box.

At 193 square feet, this former maid’s quarters in the 18th arrondissement in Paris feels much larger than its postage-stamp size. Lots of sunlight, bold colors, and geometric shapes give it a punch of life, and light oak shelving delineates the bedroom area to create a nook-like feeling.

A third floor walk-up, sized at only 376 square feet, has been renovated into the home for Jack Chen of Tsai Design. A multifunctional built-in conceals this TV screen, and a pull-out work station and computer monitor are hidden in the adjacent cabinet.

Graham Hill, a sustainability advocate whose TED talks have delved into the benefits of living small, put his own lessons into practice at his 350-square-foot apartment, which he shares with his partner and two dogs. Quick transitions, like drawing the FilzFelt curtain, convert the living space into a bedroom. The Drop Hat pendants are by Plumen and the convertible sofa is by Resource Furniture.

Teacher and resident Eric Schneider’s 450-square-foot space needed to be able to accommodate individual areas for cooking, storage, sleeping, entertaining, and, of course, working—without filling the diminutive abode with furniture, or eliciting claustrophobia by chopping it into tiny spaces. The simple and elegant solution was to knock down most of the apartment’s walls, and concentrate all of the living space’s functionality—kitchen storage, closet, bar, bed, lighting, and office—into a single, transformer-like cabinetry unit. 

Budapest design studio POSITION Collective employed clever storage solutions—including a wardrobe rack, modular walls, and a storage-filled bed—in order to maximize the pad’s 323 square feet. The studio was designed to act as a short-term rental for design-oriented travelers to the city.

After successfully reconfiguring his own tiny New York City apartment, Robert Garneau, partner at Architecture Workshop PC, reinvented a 400-square-foot studio for neighbors just a few floors down. Called the Pivot Apartment, the highly efficient residence now serves multiple functions, thanks to a central modular unit that can be arranged to create distinct stations for living, sleeping, and entertaining.

The New Project Group renovated a cramped, uninviting space on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The company gave the 400-square-foot apartment a gut renovation, with a new kitchen and bathroom designed for efficiency. A parallelogram-shaped window pane, rescued from an architectural salvage yard, was outfitted with steel edges and casters, and repurposed as a coffee table.

A lesson in efficiency, this flexible, 237-square-foot apartment in Trnava, Slovakia, uses custom-made storage and furniture to its full advantage. A young couple enlisted local studio Minimalic to renovate a small space with a budget of €15,000, or about $17,400. The emphasis lies on simple, natural materials that are easy to clean: poured concrete floors that are painted white, natural oak veneer wardrobes, cement-bonded particle board, and a Cor-Ten steel entry door and shower.

In an apartment of only about 350 square feet, Madrid–based architectural firm elii has designed a functional layout with a bright palette that emphasizes light and views to the streetscape outside. The light green cabinetry keeps the apartment feeling bright, while the wood gives texture and a natural feeling to the space.

Architect Lukáš Kordík gave his own 516-square-foot flat in Bratislava a modern makeover. For just a little more than $23,000, he transformed his home from a thicket of small rooms into a continuous, light-filled abode. Busting through a few walls took up much of the scant budget, but Kordík—who works for the Bratislava firm Gut Gut—also managed to redo the electrical, pipes, sewage, and heating while imbuing the place with a hip, old-meets-new vibe.

Hidden storage and flexible living are prioritized in this modern apartment of just 500 square feet in Taipei. Clever space-saving strategies and smart style choices by Taiwanese firm KC Design Studio created a chic, multifunctional home. The pegboard wall makes it easy for client Mr. Xiao to reorganize whenever needed. Anchoring the office is a chic Paulistano lounge chair by Objekto in the corner.

Like much of the Italian Riviera, La Spezia on the Ligurian coast has a long maritime history. It was precisely this seafaring legacy that inspired the design of this tiny home, a 377-square-feet apartment that was reconfigured to clearly separate the living and sleeping areas. A cabinetry wall is constructed with marine plywood.

Completed on a budget of $35,000, this 355-square-foot apartment has been designed with young professionals in mind. Nestled in a 12-story residential tower, the tiny one-bedroom apartment has been revamped by local design practice Phoebe Sayswow Architects to display how small-scale living can be effortlessly chic.

In Greenwich Village, design practice Messana O’Rorke uses a minimalist yet luxe material palette to give a compact studio apartment the illusion of spaciousness. The 430-square-foot studio apartment, located in a post-war co-op at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street, ensconces the bed in a brass cube whose doors can be closed when guests visit and whose metallic sheen bathes the living area in golden light.

Using multifunctional furniture, designer Bogusz Parzyszek's apartment in Warsaw rearranges at a moment's notice. So many surfaces in his 500-square-foot studio apartment fold, open, roll out, slide, and serve multiple functions. Even the largest object in the flat, a nearly 10-foot-long, white quartz-topped kitchen island, can move around the apartment. The custom island rests on a steel frame with wheels.

After buying a worn-down, 244-square-foot apartment in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, the owner of Achille—a young bachelor—stripped away the wallpaper, hauled in his temporary furniture, and spent a couple months living in the small space to let it guide the design direction. After some time, he envisioned a renovation with space-saving solutions that would retain and celebrate the rough-hewn character of the original apartment. A "space cube," made of Fenix NTM's matte nanotech material combined with warm oak, serves as sleeping nook and storage.

Clay Anderson of Olson Kundig and Alex Almerico of NBBJ give their 505-square-foot home in Capitol Hill a serious upgrade on a strict budget. Adding built-in plywood bookshelves to the living room side of the kitchen island was a logical way to add storage and display space. Anderson also built a coffee table to match, using a remnant piece of blackened steel from his office, building a plywood box, and adding caster wheels. The pendant lights are simple matte black metal pipes that the couple ordered off Etsy from Greece. They also chose a Brizo matte black faucet to continue the "pipe look."

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