The hustle of bustle of New York City can be at once exciting, intellectually stimulating and overwhelming for the millions of people who call it home. Despite the perks of living in a bustling metropolis, research shows that the stress caused by being around other people constantly can overrun these health benefits. The solution? Entrepreneurs Julien Smith and Caterina Rizzi are repurposing vacant real estate through their buzzworthy new app Breather, a free application and web platform that allows users to rent out a peaceful space when they need it most.
“It’s weird to say, but you only have two places you can go that are really private at any time, which are your house and your office," Smith tells The Huffington Post. “All the rest of the space in the world does not belong to you. But we found a way to give you a little space that you for a short period of time.”
Passionate about both technology and private space, Smith always had an instinct about their combined potential. Along with Rizzi's flair for creating retail space, the duo set out to unlock the potential behind the empty, hidden spaces within a cramped, densely populated city.
Partnering with local property owners and landlords, Breather has transformed commercial office spaces into clean, simply decorated rooms for its members to use anywhere from an hour to an entire day. Members log into the mobile app or website, and select their preferred Breather space and available time. Upon arrival at the space, the app displays an access code that unlocks the door, charges the user’s credit card and welcomes them into their room.
“They can click three times, the space is reserved, and they know that it will do what they need without really thinking about it,” says Smith.
After a run in Montreal, the app launched in the U.S. in late February, starting with three spaces in New York City. Members can currently reserve time in SoHo, Flatiron and Penn Station for $25 per hour, with more locations opening this month. Breather is slated to arrive in San Francisco and Boston later this year.
Smith said the “agnostic nature of the space” allows members to use it for a variety of needs, from taking phone calls to hosting meetings to simply working in silence. After each reservation, a cleaning crew arrives and refreshes the room for the next user. If a user partakes in any “questionable activities” or misuses the space, he or she will be banned from using Breather in the future.
Smith experienced firsthand how helpful the temporary, private spaces can be during a recent trip to New York from Canada. With a few hours to kill and no place in particular to go, he took refuge in one of his very own Breather rooms instead of hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop or wandering aimlessly through the streets.
“It’s psychologically relieving to know you have a place to go,” says Smith.
While the space comes equipped with power outlets and free WiFi service, productivity is not required. Each Breather room also contains a yoga mat and comfy couch so you can meditate, take a nap or simply find some midday peace of mind in the city that never sleeps.
“Private space is a universal need, and it’s now an unlocked opportunity,” says Smith. “We are just at the right place at the right time, and we get to make it available to people at an affordable cost. We’ll see how big it becomes.”
Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski are taking The Third Metric on a 3-city tour: NY, DC & LA. Tickets are on sale now at thirdmetric.com.