The buzz surrounding these diminutive dwellings — they typically range in living space from around 300 to 700 square feet — has been palpable. People are fascinated by the prospect of how (and why) any self-respecting adult would willingly pack all their worldly belongings into a space the size of most college dorm rooms. Where will all their stuff go? And why the hell is the rent so high?
In an effort to reconcile the hype and its reality, I took a trip over to Factory 63 — the converted shoe factory in Fort Point that’s now home to dozens of gorgeously designed apartments, many of which are under 600 square feet. Like many people who have only read about the housing trend, I was half expecting to be met with cramped apartments presented under the guise of new construction and a killer location.
What I discovered was something else entirely.
My high energy and high-heeled tour guide was property manager Jessica Ryan, who graciously walked me through several of the building’s brand new apartments and up to its breathtaking roof deck, complete with a view of the Prudential Center and a communal gas grill and complementary WiFi.
The first thing you need to know about micro-apartments, at least those fabricated here by leading real estate development firm Gerding Edlen, is that they are not cramped.
In terms of square footage, you can call them small. A common perception is that these are apartments meant for those who won’t be spending much time in them anyway — medical students, investment bankers and the like — but standing in the middle of one, I’m not met by the overwhelming desire to run for the front door. It actually makes me want to kick off my shoes and stay for a while.
This is a testament to the 16-foot, exposed beam ceilings, no doubt. There are also massive windows that line nearly every wall, all of which open to allow the Fort Point breeze to waft across your combined living/dining/bedroom space.
More than that, though, is a phrase — indeed, a way of life around here — that Ryan echoes on several occasions: “thoughtful design.”
The galley-style kitchens found in each apartment are beautiful, complete with a full-sized fridge, dishwasher and microwave — stainless steel every one. The closet space is impressive, as well. Ryan takes me through the smallest unit they offer, which doesn’t take long at just 373 square feet. I’m shocked to discover not one but two large closets, with extra storage space on top as well for larger items such as skis or luggage.
Every apartment comes with a washing and drying machine, as well, typically tucked neatly into the large, tastefully finished bathrooms. The first studio we see is just under 600 square feet; its bathroom is bigger and nicer than most I’ve seen in Boston.
The whole feel of the place is urban industrial chic — exposed brick is everywhere, melding tastefully into the brown wooden exposed beams and the stainless steel of the kitchens — but the atmosphere is warm and inviting too, conveying the sense that your neighbors will become your friends, not just the people you share a hallway with.
The building’s materials are sustainable, and signing a lease entitles you to an endless supply of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, a perk Ryan is proud of. “It’s so easy!” she remarks. And yet, so few property owners are doing it.
Another incredible amenity all tenants enjoy: bike racks and secured, private, lockable storage units in a room off the building’s main floor. The impetus here, explains Ryan, is to ease the stress about storage space. Any out of season clothing items or other unused stuff can be kept here, further contributing to the uncramped environment of each apartment.
Such micro-living isn’t for everyone. But I’d encourage you to check it out before writing it off. Much of the current talk touts the benefits of the communal spaces that such apartments revolve around, the idea being that you shouldn’t fret too much about your tiny apartment because everyone will be hanging out in the first floor lounge anyway. There’s a lounge at Factory 63, and it’s spectacular, offering complementary refreshments and WiFi, large wall-mounted whiteboards and furniture that just begs to be sat in.
But Ryan stresses that the thoughtful design that went into each of Factory 63’s apartments will make its tenants want to hang out there, too. And I’m inclined to agree.
Of the building’s 38 apartments, only three are still on the market. Proof positive, I think, that this book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, however tiny it might be.