THE BLOG
08/06/2012 01:33 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Small Space Living: Ron Barth From Resource Furniture Offers Tips To Keep Up With This Growing Trend

With New Yorkers increasingly opting to rent rather than buy and overall vacancy rates at less than one percent, affordable rentals are scarcer than ever. Like a domino effect, most renters are settling for smaller spaces to save money and are facing what most people like to call "the compromise."

small space living

Photo from Shutterstock.

The compromise is the constant debate city-goers - particularly young New Yorkers - face: dishwasher vs. no dishwasher, elevator vs. walk up, doorman vs. no doorman, big bedrooms vs. more common space, and roommate vs. studio. Often these individuals choose to forfeit amenities as a cost-saving tactic.

For many, the most expendable amenity is space, though not always by choice.

With this in mind, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made national news earlier this month by challenging New York City real estate developers to create an apartment for the future - smaller in size, and geared towards single, young New Yorkers. Known as adAPT, the initiative targets a major need of the market, which presently fails to address lifestyle and cost factors for singles, who make up a large and visible demographic in the city.

With this initiative, New York City is just the latest urban area to fall in line with the growing demand for smaller living spaces. Markets such as Seattle and Vancouver are prime examples of cities that are accommodating the needs for pied-à-terres, empty nesters, retirees and couples with adaptive housing projects.

With ever growing mobility, one is no longer tethered to their living space. In cities, such as New York, the world is your backyard. Friends are instantly connected, virtually or otherwise, and a wealth of constant information lies at your fingertips, allowing for greater freedom to move about and not be confined to the four walls that make your home. Public spaces become an extension of your own. This is supported by recent initiatives in New York City that call for increasing green space, and never at a better time.

But Bloomberg's proposed model micro-units measure 300 square feet - and at first glance appear to be pared down to the bare necessities, leaving no room for enjoying one's home - entertaining friends, housing guests or even storing books. Building off of the Mayor's challenge, we at Resource Furniture decided to challenge ourselves to not only make a 300 sq. foot space functional, but truly livable. We replicated the floor plan parameters of Mayor Bloomberg's micro-unit, and outfitted it with our own furniture. And what we found is that with the right strategy and, for lack of a better word, resourcefulness, one small room can easily function as four.

Here are some basic tips:

Transform your thinking: For apartments lacking significant storage space, it is crucial to pick pieces that fold and unfold, expand and retract, etc. based on your needs. For instance, the Cubista is an ottoman that, when taken apart, provides seating for up to five individuals. After your guests leave, it can easily be turned back and tucked away until your next gathering.
Be multifunctional: Since furniture takes up the bulk of your space, it's important to assign each piece as many functions as possible. Your bed, for instance, is taking up valuable real estate when you aren't sleeping. So why not make it a loveseat or a workspace during daylight hours? There is an entire line of furniture that is made to function exactly this way so that bedrooms can instantly become sitting rooms, home offices or dining rooms.
Utilize your walls: apartment-dwellers tend to focus on the square footage (length by width) of their space, forgetting that much surface area is actually determined by the height of their dwelling. If you're not using your walls, you're forgoing more than half of your available space. Wall shelving provides an incredible amount of efficient storage and bunk beds that fold up and mount to your walls optimize your space, while providing ample sleeping room for residents and guests alike.

With some outside-the-box-thinking and the right pieces, you can easily turn a 289 square foot room into a 750 square foot living space that sleeps three with spare room and hosts a chic dinner party for eight.

Necessity in a world of expanding populations and exploding urbanization are creating more and more scarcity of resources and are leading the shift in perception. We are confident that these are the tools and concepts that will make initiatives like the Mayor's possible. In fact, that we recently issued a public letter inviting Mayor Bloomberg to view our suggested 289 square foot apartment plan located in our showroom - and invited him to throw the first dinner for his choice of glittering guests.

Smarter design is what will help to solve New York's (and the world's) big- yet small- space problem. So forget about "the compromise" and focus on the solution - with the right approach, you can unfold your small space and unleash its full potential.