The Design of DC’s Tiny Homes on The Wharf

by Shilpi Paul

The Design of DC's Tiny Homes on The Wharf: Figure 1
Rendering of a micro-unit at The Wharf. Courtesy of PN Hoffman.

As the micro-unit trend sweeps through urban areas, one DC developer has begun finalizing the design of a few tiny homes that will be coming to the city in 2017.

Around 150 of the 875 residential units at the massive waterfront project The Wharf will be extremely small studios. Though they aren’t quite as teeny as NYC’s 275-square-foot apartments, they will be tighter than your average home, at between 330 and 380 square feet. Because of the limited square footage, the developers Hoffman-Madison Waterfront and architects Perkins Eastman-DC are working to create design elements that make the space comfortable and useful.

“We’ve been thinking about every square inch and making it as flexible and user-friendly as possible,” Hoffman-Madison Waterfront’s Matt Steenhoek told UrbanTurf.

The Design of DC's Tiny Homes on The Wharf: Figure 2

Some of the features reminded us of Graham Hill’s “LifeEdited“ apartment, which manages to fit 8 rooms into a 420-square-foot space by creating multi-purpose spaces, built-ins and moving walls. At The Wharf, built-ins will fill up one entire wall, from the doorway to the window. Shelves for books, an armoire for clothing, a sleek kitchen and a Murphy bed that turns into a couch and shelf at night allow residents to make better use of the available floor space.

The Design of DC's Tiny Homes on The Wharf: Figure 3

Steenhoek assures us that the Murphy bed will be “sleek and modern,” and that the refrigerator will be smaller than one you might find in a rowhouse or two-bedroom condo. “You’re not shopping for a family of four, so you don’t need a massive fridge,” he noted. Rather than swinging doors, the Wharf units will have a sliding barn door. The bathroom will have natural light coming through a translucent glass wall near the shower.

In addition to built-ins, the designers made sure that each unit has some sort of interaction with the outdoors and the waterfront views. Some units will have floor-to-ceiling windows, with bays looking out into Virginia, while others will have double glass doors that open to a juliet balcony.

The Wharf is estimated to break ground at some point this year, but these miniscule units won’t be available until 2017.

See other articles related to: the wharf dc, micro units, dclofts

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/micro-units_at_the_wharf_will_have_built-ins_and_multi-purpose_areas/7229


  1. BHDC said at 5:29 pm on Friday June 21, 2013:
    OK, I am fine with a few of these micro-unit buildings, but I think it is short sighted. I just do not see the demand for them being that great. What is needed in this city are more 1BR+den and 2BR+ condos. Many people work from home in DC and even more outgrow their smaller condos as they start relationships or families. I really do not see the demand for these...you can barely sell a studio, so why do they think this is a good idea??
  1. LaCapHill said at 5:34 pm on Friday June 21, 2013:
    I agree with BHDC. If these units are priced well below market then fine. Otherwise these are just luxury dorm rooms.
  1. kathy said at 7:29 pm on Friday June 21, 2013:
    are there other mini places available now? I am interested
  1. youandmeandwalliemakethree.com said at 7:30 pm on Friday June 21, 2013:
    For me, living small (I was in 270 sq. feet for 3 years in Logan Circle)was not so tough with DC at my doorstep, even though I did not have any of the built-in amenities of these types of units. I think there is definitely a market for this type of unit but I agree that the price would have to be right. I now live in SW DC and there are a lot of affordable (compared to say, NW DC) vacant apartments on the waterfront, simply because it is not a highly sought after area to live in for many folks. Given that many buildings are struggling to fill affordably priced, more spacious units (even studios) close by, I am curious to see how the developers will draw people in.
  1. tim said at 3:17 pm on Monday June 24, 2013:
    Personally, I could see living in a microapartment. But, I wouldn't do it in this location. For me the attraction would be to live in an area you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. As youandme... said SW doesn't throw off the city at your door step feel. Yes, this Warf Development will add some ammenities to the area. But, it will never rival the prime Logan/Dupont/U Street area. Nonetheless, I wish the developers the best.
  1. Anon said at 5:25 pm on Saturday June 22, 2013:
    ^^^kathy Not yet. The micro-units apartment is a new type of dwelling just now gaining a toehold in certain cities, such as San Francisco, NYC, and, soon, if everything go according to plan, Washington, DC. Is there a market for these units? Of course. if the price points are lower than a typical 1-bd or studio, they'll lease up quickly. While there is a lot of apartment development occurring, numerous condos are being built as well. Developers and their financial backers will build what the market can support. If they sense a growing demand for condos, they will build and build until the market softens. Check out Lock 7 Development or Capital City Real Estate, DC. Both are endeavoring to put new condos on the market are fast as possible.
  1. Eric K said at 5:23 pm on Monday June 24, 2013:
    I could definitely see these working as rentals, probably not condos. I wouldn't mind living in a space this small, but I wouldn't want to own if for the long term. I also think that though this area is probably not desirable enough for these sorts of units now, it could be in a few years with all of the development going on in SW and near SE.
  1. PCC said at 8:54 pm on Monday June 24, 2013:
    Not mentioned in the article: the micro-units will be rentals, not condos. Studio condos have never really been a great investment, anyhow. Not sure where all these "vacant apartments on the waterfront" are -- the market in Southwest Waterfront apparently seems healthy enough to me (Redfin says listing prices per foot are up 42% in 2013), and to the developers who have several high-rise apartment towers planned.
  1. Raf said at 4:51 pm on Tuesday June 25, 2013:
    Disagree, I think studio condos can be a pretty good investment depending on the area. Maybe not in terms of re-selling it, but with regard to renting it out? There's a huge market for that, and DC is a revolving door of 20s/young professionals looking to be in the city.
  1. Judith Claire said at 1:23 am on Thursday June 27, 2013:
    Viewing the Washington Channel is a luxury to behold! Commuters can enjoy the waterfront M-F and keep their "country house." Short term rentals are always popular for visitors, business people! Great idea!
  1. EJF said at 5:20 pm on Thursday June 27, 2013:
    I think there's a convenient cross subsidy going on here. These units will probably be priced at considerably lower rents than even your typical studio in SW (Currently going in the $1500-$1700/month range, ~525 sq ft). You'll have to significantly undercut that price in order to sell these - Maybe $1100 / month? But the upside for the developers is that the micro units could help jump start the young professional area they are trying to build. You'll have a lot of 20-somethings who can't afford a 1b, but would live in one of these. Those people will help drive demand for the bars, restaurants, and other amenities that the Wharf is trying to attract.
  1. 20011 said at 5:33 pm on Friday September 13, 2013:
    "I now live in SW DC and there are a lot of affordable (compared to say, NW DC) vacant apartments on the waterfront, simply because it is not a highly sought after area to live in for many folks." This is absolutely false. Yeah, SW may be "affordable" compared to say Logan, Dupont, Upper NW and those parts of NW, but it is no cheaper, and in some buildings, it is more expensive to live in SW than many parts of NW, especially those NW 'hoods without good transit access like Brightwood, Brightwood Park, 16th St Heights, parts of Manor Park, etc. I should know, I lived in SW for many years before moving into my current place near 14 and Spring NW. I used to have a subsidized apt at Capitol Park Plaza in which I had to move out of when I lost my job. After moving to god forsaken Rockville and getting a new job, I decided to consider apartments in SW and around the Mid-City area, both at market rents. I was shocked to find out studios at Capitol Park were MORE expensive than my current place at 14 and Spring. It really isn't that surprising. SW is attractive to many people who work on the south side of the Mall and even the north side and downtown due to the short commute. SW is also full of Hill staffers who can't afford to live in prime Hill 'hoods but still wnt to be able to walk when necessary and have a short Metro commute if they choose. Metrorail access is also a huge plus and being able to walk up to L'Enfant and catch four different lines is a huge, huge bonus. And if you're driving, access to 395 is a breeze. Plus SW has beautiful high rise housing stock and many apartments that have beautiful views of the Channel and the Potomac. SW is simply a lot less dense than many to most parts of NW and thus doesn't have the hustle and bustle of other hoods. It is great being able to walk around SW and not have to walk over or around every a-hole in the neighborhood. Finally, DC housing is absurdly expensive just about everywhere west of the Anacostia and SW is no exception. Once they get the Wharf and Near SE developed, SW will be in even more demand and prices will continue to increase accordingly.
  1. Craig Friedman said at 10:50 pm on Sunday November 3, 2013:
    The micro apartment trend is growing throughout the US. We are the distributors of Blomberg Appliances from Europe. These applainces are very popular because of thier slim fit design and energy efficiency. NYC,Boston,and yes DC will see a boom in Micro apartments. Smart and Efficient spcae.
  1. smn-dc said at 11:28 pm on Wednesday November 20, 2013:
    20011 --thanks for highlighting your love of the SW gem! When I visited DC 7 yrs ago, SW was the neighborhood that peeked my interest most. More space yet your right in the city--peaceful waterfront, fish market, steps away from the capitol, monuments, and museums, all the metro lines and 395--if we ever needed to vacate the city in a rush. I finally bought a place in SW 2 yr ago and can't imagine being anywhere else.

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