7 Important Small-Space Lessons to Learn from Micro Apartments

Micro apartments, shoebox condos, tiny homes… Whatever you like to call them, they have one thing in common—a lack of square footage (they are typically less than 500 sqft). But as these micro homes below illustrate, a lack of space doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. If you are struggling with fitting everything in your small space, you might want to get a lesson or two on compact living from these micro apartments.

Lesson 1: Make full use of vertical space

Go full-height for wardrobes and cabinets. Incorporate storage in common ‘dead’ spaces like that area above the toilet or along the walkway. If you have an unusually tall ceiling, building a loft doubles up your living area.

In this one-bedroom condo (size: 495 sqft), a loft built using plywood serves as a guest room (it fits a queen-sized bed!) and a lounging area, with a safety barrier that doubles up as a side table.

Design by homeowner

» Read more about this home

Lesson 2: Rethink the home office

In small spaces, home offices and workspaces often take on secondary importance. But if remote working is in your future, it’s important to accommodate space for a conducive working environment even if you don’t have a lot of room to play with. Pro tip? Throw out common notions of what a home office should look like.

In this micro apartment (size: 409 sqft), a wall-mounted desk and a ‘floating’ bench were built at the end of the bed to serve as a workstation. It uses up space that would otherwise have gone unused, while the sleek lines, proper cable management system and the ‘floating’ designs reduce visual bulk and clutter. If the seat looks too uncomfortable for you, you could always include a ‘zaisu’ style chair that comes with a backrest.

Design: Monocot

Lesson 3: Think of convertibles

Furniture not cars, that is. Flexibility needs to be a big part of your small space and convertible furniture, one that can be transformed from something into another, is the epitome of flexibility and can be a huge plus for a micro home.

When it comes to micro apartments, no one knows them better than land-scarce Hong Kong. This Hong Kong apartment (size: 492 sqft) comes with a number of creative convertible furniture, including a drawer that can be converted into a dressing table and a platform storage in the living room that conceals a lift-up coffee table.

Design: Sim-Plex Design Studio

Lesson 4: Have spaces do double (or triple!) duty

When space is limited, make each zone perform more than a single function. A kitchen could also work as a home office. A living room could serve as an extra bedroom.

This “do it all” room of a small apartment (size: 463 sqft) fits in a living room, a home office, a bedroom, a walk-in wardrobe and a dining area. A staggered effect demarcates each zone while creating more seating room for guests, and a mobile table lends extra versatility to the use of space.

Design: Metre Architects

Lesson 5: Don’t neglect prep space in the kitchen

If you cook regularly, you will want to make sure you have a functional kitchen. One of the main issues we usually see in smaller kitchens is the absence of enough prep space. They tend to prioritise the hob and sink, while neglecting countertop space. And this becomes problematic, because a big bulk of cooking is in the prepping.

Learn from this small space dwelling (size: 500 sqft) that prioritises its prep space by extending its kitchen countertop all the way out into the living room. The prep counter also functions as a dining spot, so there’s no space wastage.

Design: Habit

Lesson 6: You don’t need to fill up every space

This might seem a bit counterintuitive, since you are asked to maximise your limited square footage. But having visual breathing room does help a small home feel larger and less claustrophobic.

Take for instance this avant-garde style home in Bukit Batok (size: 506 sqft), where the different elements of the home are concealed behind “cuboids” to minimise visual clutter. A minimal palette and clean walls create plenty of visual breathing room.

Design: Spaceedge

Lesson 7: Don’t be afraid to use colours

Neutrals may be the go-to hues for a small home, but if your personality is bigger than your square footage, you shouldn’t shy away from colours. You could add multi-hued accents to a neutral backdrop or stick to a bold monotone statement. Otherwise, take a leaf from this micro apartment:

This multi-coloured one-bedroom condominium (size: 441 sqft) feels like a burst of sunshine. To make things work, light pastel shades are used as a neutral backdrop here, while bold and fluorescent shades serve as an accent to prevent things from feeling too overwhelming.

Loft style window frames

Design: The Scientist


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