The appeal of micro-units is increasing, especially in urban centers where young professionals are willing to sacrifice square footage in exchange for a highly walkable, amenitized lifestyle. With the building as their living room and city as their backyard, residents spend very little time in the unit itself, reducing the amount of space they require.
Micro-units range in size from 200 to 400 square feet and are being programmed into more luxury rental towers and high-end condo buildings. For developers, these small floor plans present a jigsaw puzzle-like challenge as they look to maximize efficiency while maintaining a sophisticated design aesthetic.
As cabinetry experts, we employ four strategies to incorporate appliances, workspaces and storage into an economic, cohesive design:
- Select smaller appliances
European-sized appliances create an illusion of space. Typically, European appliances are 24 inches wide compared to the standard 30- to 36-inch width commonly found in the U.S. While a difference of 6 to 12 inches might not seem like a lot, this “found” square footage allows us to add additional cabinetry and workspace, which not only makes a kitchen more functional, but also makes the apartment appear roomier because it creates space between appliances. Fortunately, these smaller-sized appliances have become more readily available in the U.S., which makes this design approach easier to achieve.
- Choose frameless cabinets
Frameless cabinets are a must in a small unit. By choosing this option, residents gain about an extra inch in each cabinet or drawer. Another selling point: without a frame limiting access to the cabinet, it’s much easier to store larger cookware, serving dishes and small appliances. Lastly, frameless cabinets, can be manufactured using thermally fused laminate (TFL), offering a wider range of designs, ensuring developers will have options that match the broader aesthetic of the building.
- Add non-traditional kitchen cabinets
This is where we get to be creative and find ways to build storage into a micro-unit. Since the units have such a small footprint, the cabinetry extends beyond just the kitchen. We plan the rest of the unit to efficiently use all the space available without making it feel over full. A murphy bed is one solution, as it conceals the bed when not in use while providing ancillary storage – closets can be positioned on each side, while the top can be reserved for more general use. In the bathroom, vanity cabinets are almost non-existent because of the size of the space. However, installing shallow wall-mounted linen cabinets creates space for toiletries, linens and other essentials.
- Utilize all available space
When space is at such a premium, we use every last inch! Increasing the depth of the wall cabinets by an extra inch or two makes a huge difference to storage. A narrow spot between a wall and appliance can house everything from a broom closet to a pantry, freeing up space in other cabinets.
Once the overall cabinetry design is established, developers can take additional steps to achieve a more open, streamlined look by incorporating a taller backsplash and using minimal hardware. Together, all of these strategies help building owners increase profitability by enhancing the marketability of smaller floor plans to the end user. Space may be limited, but the design potential is anything but.