DC Almost Had 275-Square Foot Apartments

by Shilpi Paul

DC Almost Had 275-Square Foot Apartments: Figure 1
Three micro-studios. Image courtesy of R2L Architects. Click to enlarge.

People have been buzzing about small space living for a while. Even the mayor of New York City entered the mix this week, announcing a contest searching for a developer who can design a building with desirable units between 275 and 300 square feet. That doesn’t quite reach the size of Japanese “one room mansions” — which are a mere 100 square feet — but for a U.S. city, it’s tiny enough to be novel.

With all this news, UrbanTurf was surprised to learn that one DC architecture firm had not only sketched out a project with “micro-units” at this size, but that the plans were in motion and, if not for an abrupt cancellation, would be on the market now. R2L:Architects was hired to design twenty-four 275-square-foot apartments at 600 F Street NW (map), a historic building owned by Douglas Development.

Rather than leave residents to make a small space livable, R2L’s design accounted for the difficulties of tight quarters. Complex built-ins are constructed along the walls, like a fold-out desk, a sofa that disappears when a Murphy bed unfolds and a built-in refrigerator. Besides fold-out cabinets and closets, the units have washer/dryers, combination microwave/convection ovens and rangetops. There are no interior walls other than those enclosing the bathroom. (Similarly sized spaces exist in some other cities, Lenar said, but most felt too utilitarian. The architects wanted their units to have desirable amenities.)

The units were going to be billed as temporary housing, perhaps for out-of-town employees who didn’t want to stay in a hotel. Douglas was hoping to sell the concept to some of their office and retail tenants. The idea of finding permanent residential tenants for the units still felt risky.

R2L had gone as far as coordinating the plans with the HVAC systems when Douglas pulled the plug. Douglas Development’s Paul Millstein told UrbanTurf that they decided to fill the space with office tenants instead.

“I think there are a lot of people who aren’t sure whether or not DC is ready for a 275 square-foot product,” Tom Lenar of R2L told UrbanTurf.

DC Almost Had 275-Square Foot Apartments: Figure 2
Built-ins for the living area. Courtesy of R2L Architects.

Perhaps DC just wasn’t ready for such small homes at the time. But with more and more young people moving into DC and rents at such a high, smaller options may soon become tolerable. Lenar told us that several of their clients were willing to test out the popularity of tiny apartments within a larger apartment development. And, earlier this week, we polled readers to find out if they thought Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for tiny apartments would work in DC. More than half said yes.

**Note: Thumbnail image not a photo of one of the planned units.

See other articles related to: smaller homes, r2l, micro units

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dcs_near_future_with_micro_studios/5761


  1. Daniel said at 2:31 pm on Friday July 13, 2012:
    If there was one place that 275sf apartments would work, it would be in this section of the city. Hope that larger buildings try out the concept. Would be cool to see if it works.
  1. andy(2) said at 2:38 pm on Friday July 13, 2012:
    those bathrooms look dispraportionally large compared to the rest of the aparment - you think they could come up with some space savings there.
  1. Joe said at 3:17 pm on Friday July 13, 2012:
    Hey USA...I live in Paris...and my "elegant studio" of 25m2 is great!! We learn to adapt...everything has its place, has all the amenities of a larger space. Gave dinner parties up to serving 8, preparing gourmet meals on a 2 burner cooktop!! Vivre la France!! Joe
  1. Catherine Baum said at 6:12 pm on Friday July 13, 2012:
    Would be fabulous for affordable housing for single person w/challenges!
  1. U.B. said at 6:44 pm on Friday July 13, 2012:
    They missed out on a fantastic opportunity! What do I do in an apartment other than sleep? The rest of the time I'm at work, dinner, meetings, events, etc. Few people entertain in their homes these days, especially us single guys. I would have bought one of these.
  1. N Steven said at 8:24 pm on Friday July 13, 2012:
    Andy - I believe the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible (thus the large size) - nice idea! I bet these would have buyers/renters in D.C.
  1. AJS said at 8:34 pm on Friday July 13, 2012:
    I bet a bunch of highly-paid partners at law firms that live out in places like Sterling would love a place to crash when they work late nights, a place to stay on weekends to go to events and fancy dinners, and a place to put up their mistresses...
  1. Natalie said at 5:55 pm on Sunday July 15, 2012:
    I would have jumped on a rental like these when I moved to the city! I hope someone is able to follow through on the idea someplace downtown.

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