Square Footage Was So Last Year

The other day—a Friday night, to be exact—my roommate said she didn’t understand why we never met single guys.

“I really don’t get it,” I said to her, sitting on the couch in an oversized t-shirt, scrolling through the TV’s On Demand menu so I could watch Maria Menounos and Derek Hough’s rumba (for the third time) on “Dancing With the Stars.” “Hey, do you mind if I open a can of tuna?”

It had the makings of a “48 Hours” mystery.

Admittedly, I do spend a lot of time in my apartment. Often, I’m writing and reading, both of which seem like noble pursuits at any age—even if the books I get from the library are intended for 16-year-old girls. As for the rest of the time—when I’m watching ballroom-dancing competitions and searching for batteries for my Bop It and extracting all the sopapilla pieces from a gallon of limited edition cinnamon ice cream with the precision of brain surgeon—there’s no real excuse.

But I’m the exception, not the rule.

The majority of Gen Y renters are rarely in their apartments. According to many multifamily housing developers, these young renters prefer to spend their time socializing in a community clubhouse or out in the city. They’re hanging out in public spaces, eating at restaurants and coming home to sleep.

Thus, apartment square footage is no longer a priority.

When it comes to the kitchen, for example, some developers say that many Gen Y’ers require no more than a compact refrigerator and a two-burner cook top—more than adequate, I suppose, when preparing canned tuna.

Instead of designing enough space for a kitchen table, developers are favoring moveable islands that not only provide a place to maul a tub of ice cream, but a flexible dividing line of sorts between the kitchen and the rest of the apartment.

Bedrooms are also getting smaller. Many are now designed to flow into the rest of the apartment, with a panel divider or sliding, translucent door that provides privacy when needed and a sense of openness the rest of the time. These rooms have become a functional place to sleep rather than a space to hang out.

Although young renters are sacrificing square footage in most rooms and leasing studio apartments as small as 350 square feet, the one thing most developers say should never be downsized is closet space.

A small living room, kitchen and bedroom are no big deal, but every 25-year-old needs a place to store their Bop It.

For more on interior design and floor-plan trends, check out “Size Really Doesn’t Matter” in the June issue of units, which mails June 7.