TODAY   |  January 25, 2013

Tiny apartments pack NYC life into 350 square feet

In response to skyrocketing rents in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a challenge to the city’s best architects: to design a space no bigger than 350 square feet into a comfortable and affordable micro-apartment. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> know they tend to be on the smaller side. some about to get even smaller. here is nbc's stephanie gosk.

>> reporter: in new york city , we live stacked up and forced into some of the smallest apartments in the world. especially in manhattan.

>> you know you're blocking the bathroom door.

>> reporter: there isn't a lot of space and a lot of people want to live here. mayor michael bloomberg proposed a challenge to the city's best architects.

>> there's enormous demand for apartment that is people can afford and are right sized for some.

>> reporter: design a space no bigger than 350 square feet into an affordable and comfortable micro apartment. one model looks more like the interior of a boat than a house. the couch is also a bed. a wall doubles as a counter. eric 's team won the contest and now gets to build an entire apartment block .

>> this administration is trying to offer options to people who are currently priced out.

>> reporter: jason sash lives in a micro apartment in manhattan, 250 square feet . that's his only closet. the average suburban garage is bigger. the secret, he says, is creativity, like removing the kitchen cabinet doors, and minimalism.

>> you definitely need to consider each piece of the apartment and make sure it serves multiple purposes and functions.

>> each inch?

>> each inch of the apartment.

>> reporter: there are well-designed small apartments for people, even though people aren't well designed for small apartments. in this city, there is a growing number of people who are looking for them. because space is extremely expensive. consider this comparison. the average price of a square foot in new york city in lincoln, nebraska. gary, indiana.

>> every year, i say that is as high as it can go. every year, i'm wrong.

>> reporter: leonard steinburg has been a real estate in new york for years.

>> you can make the spaces very useable.

>> reporter: useable is all what most new yorkers are looking for. after all, it's everything outside their apartment that made them move here in the first place. for "today," stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york .

>> how do you live in one of those places? eric boonguet decrsigned one of those apartments. this is the entrance to 300 square feet . i'm standing in an apartment and i don't see a bed. where is the bed, eric ?

>> the way my partner and i design this had, this is a tool box , that's your canvas. this is what we give you. this is what you do with it.

>> al and natalie will show us how this desk becomes a bed. see it? that's clever.

>> i can see that.

>> and you guys do other adaptations if you want to live this way. while we're talking, we'll let al and natalie do this.

>> al and natalie are doing all the wiork.

>> that's true. they'll turn it into a table that could work for a dinner party , right?

>> that's one option.

>> this is a small apartment people in new york can understand the need for. do you think it's a concept that has portability, that you might want to do in other places?

>> increasing urbanization, like in china, same pressures are there. not enough space, too much value of land. we'll have to adapt.

>> eric , who lives in an apartment like this a young single person?

>> mayor bloomberg mentioned young people . people quickly corrected him, elderly people . people are leaving messages, sending e-mails, can we get in a lottery? we would love to live in one of these apartments.

>> there's not a lot of space to have people over for dinner, but you say common space will be more important?

>> as an architect, our role is to at least expand the lives of people who live in small spaces of new york . a lot of public spaces in the building. we see it as an expanded house really.

>> that kitchen, it's a good sized kitchen for new york . not too bad. what about storage? where do i put my --

>> in savannah's case, she could just use this kitchen.

>> exactly.

>> where do you put your stuff?

>> when we first moved to new york , we lived in 350 square feet . we know that problem. 16 feet of linear storage, size of a station wagon up there, not here.

>> you think you could do it?

>> this is better than my first apartment.

>> you have thought of everything, eric . thank you.