Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Compact Convenience or Craziness in Harlem?

A new project in Harlem is offering apartments as small as 100 sq ft that rent for $1275/month. The building at 14 Convent Avenue is a former SRO, a designation that allows a dwelling unit’s primary room to be smaller than 150 sq ft, the standard minimum size for a normal apartment.

Rumor has it that Shanghai Holdings, the company behind the project, did not get the Department of Building’s approval to change the building’s status from SRO to regular residential building. Of this, DOB spokeswoman Kelly Magee told the NY Daily News, “If [DOB] inspectors don’t rubber-stamp the conversion, Shanghai could be in trouble.”

Legal compliance issues aside, 14 Convent raises some dicier questions about tiny living. At 100 sq ft, these studios are 36% the size of the 275 sq ft adAPT NYC micro-apartments. They can barely fit a non-twin-sized bed. Is this just just too damn small?

Perhaps the more appropriate question is whether the $1275 rent is too damn high for this type of place? People should be able to live however they choose to live. But one of the promises of going micro is some sort of savings. For example, some of the aPodments in Seattle are just as small, but they rent for as little as $350/month. In fact, their most expensive units are around $500 cheaper and considerably larger than 14 Convent. Sure, Seattle might be an orange to NYC’s apple in terms of property values, but it’s important to note 14 Convent is not in the middle of Soho–it’s in Harlem where rents are historically cheaper than the rest of Manhattan.

History is changing. A quick survey of Craigslist shows that $1275 for a studio in that neighborhood is a steal (though none appear to be this small). It should be noted that prices do get much cheaper per person and space gets much larger for multi-bedroom apartments (e.g. two people splitting a two bedroom).

It also should be noted that there are numerous one bedrooms in the area selling for under $200K. We found one pretty basic unit for $130K a couple blocks from 14 Convent. With a 20% ($26K) down payment, a 4% 30 year mortgage and a $370 coop fee, monthly payments would be $865. This is for a much larger one bedroom.

We realize not everyone has the $26K and other monies necessary to buy an apartment, nor may they have the inclination to do so. It’s more to illustrate that Shanghai Holding’s prices might reflect ambition as much as they do market value.


Apparently, Douglas Elliman, the firm listing the apartments, wrote that they feature “”robust sunlight” and “generous” cabinet space. These descriptions are reminiscent of the King’s Cube parody video from Hong Kong, where the narrator dresses up the fact that he’s trying to sell a closet as an apartment.

We use the word “apparently” because the Elliman listing was taken down last night. Perhaps the none-too-flattering press (Curbed called it “The Smallest, Saddest Apartment in the City“) brought attention to the questionable code compliance. Or perhaps it led to people immediately renting the apartments out.


  • Jay Bee

    My thoughts on this, really, is that the rent is too high, particularly when you found the alternatives that are *incredibly* affordable for something larger.

    But for kicks, I love to figure out how I might live in a place like this (say, the rent was . . . oh, $200/mo.

    First, I think that I could do it alone, but not with another person and certainly not with my son. The three of us need enough space to sleep, and this room doesn’t have it.

    Second, the whole thing calls for some serious minimalism. Luckily, I’m most of the way there. I have a few book collections (harry potter, hunger games, pullman’s dark materials, etc); I wear a uniform which means my wardrobe is tiny (fits in a carry-on suitcase. . . yes, the whole wardrobe including shoes, accessories, undies, and workout clothes (which consists of a bathing suit, swim cap, and goggles).

    So, I think that if i got those fold-out shoe containers from Ikea and put them along the wall opposite the kitchen, with some hooks above and a shelf just above the top like of those bins, I could do well — shoes, entire wardrobe kept inside the bins; dresses on hangers on a hook; coats on hooks.

    Third, I’d probably sleep in a hammock. I really love hammocks, and it looks like it could be hung in several ways across the room. Once the main hooks are in, you can just unhook it, fold it and put it away during the day, along with the linens that you might want or need depending upon the season.

    I do kitchen and bathroom minimalism — so no worries — that kitchen has a *lot* of storage for food and for whatever one might need. The only remaining thing would be a table of some kind, and i’d probably just get some lap trays that could be individual tables for people while sitting on the floor.

    A book case along the fridge there for my books. A few cushions for people sitting on the floor (which could be piled up in the “nook” corner as well), and basically it’s live-able.

    Might be a fun way to live.

    But, i’d rather get the bargain. We are looking at live-income properties in that price range ($130-200k), and are finding it easy to save up. We like living with less space.

    DH doesn’t want to go the hammock route for our family, but we are doing the roll-up bed route (rather than murphy, it’s less expensive), which allows us to have fewer rooms and more functionality — saving a lot of money. :)

    • di

      Very helpful.

  • di

    Construct a long daybed beneath the windows. Store a wardrobe in pull-out baskets beneath the bed. Iron your clothes, as needed, on a thick towel on the kitchen counter top. Store convenient items on the window sills. For privacy and light, try sheer curtains.

    Store a set of stackable pans in the oven. Store a utensil basket on the counter. For additional counter space, place cutting boards over the sink and stove. Store decorative baskets on top of the cupboards and fridge. Eat with a plate in your lap.

    Stack bed linens and towels in the kitchen cupboards.

    Convert media to a handheld computer.

    Add a few hanging plants in the window. Decorate with a few decorative dishes or paintings on the wall to view while sitting in different directions on the daybed.

    • di

      Place baskets on the counter top or daybed to find items or put things away. Take a wardrobe basket to the laundry mat.

      To reach the upper cupboards, store a folding step ladder behind the entry door.

    • di

      For privacy and light, add sheer curtains and a few hanging plants. Shades are easier to clean, but mini blinds are more versatile.

      Decorate with a few decorative dishes or paintings on the wall to view while sitting in different directions on the daybed.

      For a different perspective, layer several images into the same picture frame and change them periodically.