Toronto joins the ranks of major international cities with the emerging micro condo trend. As urban space becomes scarce, unit sizes have grown smaller and smaller.
Micro condos are not a new idea. For example, the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo is a landmark collection of 140 compartments of about 100 square feet. Built in 1972, the retro, modular-styled building looks like a stack of washing machines, with its circular windows and clustered cubist design.
Detractors of small-footprint condos lament that the tiny units are impractical, they’re not suitable for couples and out of the question for families. But small units are the norm in places like New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
The recently-announced Smart House project, a joint project by Urban Capital and Malibu Investments, will be centrally located at Queen St. and University Ave. “Spaces become smaller as downtown land has really shot up in price, like other successful cities and I think this is a sign of success.” says David Wex, partner at Urban Capital.
What kind of person would live in a micro condo? It certainly appeals to the consummate downtowner. “Younger professionals who want to be downtown,” says Wex. “who want an affordable budget and who aren’t living in their space all the time, they’re working hard.”
A perfect size for a pied à terre, the suites are suitable for budget-conscious, first-time buyers and investors alike. “They’re good to have a 400 square-foot, really beautifully and efficiently designed space, it’s kind of cool. Then there’s the weekend person who used to live in the city, but also spends most of their time outside the city, and wants to be right downtown.” says Wex.
Smart House employs a number of clever features to make use of every square inch of space. “The elements of the condominium haven’t necessarily kept track. So your kitchens, your appliances, your equipment, your bathroom, have stayed the same size and they’ve kind of eaten up the rest of the condominium as the overall space has become smaller.” says Wex.
The suites feature extra-deep counter space with a fully-retractable countertop. A slick kitchen island and dining table combo accommodates every dining habit. And integrated, space-saving appliances include a combination convection oven-microwave, a tall dishwasher drawer, and an integrated fridge. Closets use all available cubic footage and then optimize their function with shelving all the way to the ceiling, with built-in drawers and efficient hanging areas.
Wex stresses that not all the units are as small as 300 square feet, in fact, some are over 700. They start at $249,000, and more than half the units are priced under $350,000. The smaller units are cleverly designed to make maximum use of space.
“The 300 square-foot unit has Clei furniture that’s designed with European hardware, so it’s not just your everyday Murphy bed. To act as both living room and a bed, it’s a sofa during the day, and then with very easy-to-use hardware that comes out of the wall and supplants your sofa.” Consequently, the Murphy bed, now known as a wall bed, is back in style.
Turn of the century inventor William L. Murphy designed the famous space-saving folding bed that stores vertically inside a wall. Joanna Kakkavas is the owner of the Condobox store on King St. E., specializing in small space furnishings. “This is a great old design. Murphy bed is kind of an old-fashioned term, but wall beds are generally the terminology for them now.” She says that with smaller floor plans, the wall beds are a great way to turn a bachelor space into a normal living space.
Originally published by: Duncan McAllister, Toronto Sun