We’ve reported before on the trend of micro-apartments, units of 500 square feet or smaller, which are being built in increasing numbers in downtown districts of popular cities, including New York City, Seattle, and yes, Houston. American micro-apartments are most popular with young adults who are still single, don’t yet own much furniture, and prefer to spend most of their time outside their homes, working and enjoying the urban nightlife. These tiny apartments make up for what they lack in size with technology and innovative design. Around the world, though, experiments in micro-apartments continue to push the limits of size and design, and the results are amazing, for better or for worse. If you’re relocating within Houston to simplify, set up your first apartment without family or roommates, or enjoy the downtown lifestyle, the 300-to-500-square-foot, luxurious micro-apartments built here in the past few years may be for you. While you dream of your next home, the more extreme micro-apartments described below may help you decide how tiny you really want to go, and feel grateful for the more moderate micro-apartments in Houston.


Hong Kong’s Infamous Overcrowded Tiny Apartments

In Hong Kong, one of the world’s most crowded cities, full-sized apartments were divided into smaller and smaller units as the population grew. Now an estimated 10,000 people live in “cubicle apartments” of about 40 square feet. These extremely tiny apartments, which usually house entire families in each unit, have attracted the attention of human rights groups who want to raise awareness about these stressful, claustrophobic conditions. The attractive qualities of American micro-apartments — simplicity, organization, and a chance for single people to have their own space — are absent here.


Tokyo’s Cabinet Apartments

The tiniest apartments in Japan, which are sometimes called “cabinet apartments” or “capsule apartments,” are even tinier than the Hong Kong micro-apartments, but the lives of their inhabitants seem to be healthier and more hopeful. The Japanese tiny apartments is a windowless, closet-like space just a bit bigger than a single bed. The residents of these micro-micro-apartments are mostly young professionals who are willing to give up space in exchange for the chance to live and work in super-expensive, super-crowded Tokyo. They spend most of their time outside their homes, working or enjoying city life, then come home to their own spaces only to read and sleep.


The Super-Organized, 86-Square-Foot Parisian Home

This made-over maid’s room in a 19th-century Parisian building has become an example of organization and amenities beautifully fit into a tiny space. In just 86 square feet, this tiny apartment offers a kitchenette, a bathroom with a full-sized shower, a small table for dining and working, and neatly-organized closets and shelving. Like the Japanese micro-apartments, this space also includes a single bed inside a cabinet, but it has so much more to offer that its residents may choose to spend some of their waking hours at home.


The Transforming Tiny Apartment in New York City

Graham Hill, founder of the environmentalist media outlet, Treehugger.com, lives in a New York City micro-apartment in a larger, American-style size: 350 square feet. Thanks to some impressive feats of technology and design, this tiny apartment can transform to allow for activities that usually work only in a much larger home. For example, a sliding wall shrinks the living room, but temporarily makes space for a separate office. For entertaining, the same sliding wall makes the dining/living room larger, while a telescoping dinner table and stacking chairs come out of a closet to comfortably seat 10 people. If Hill has overnight guests, two single beds fold out of the wall in one room, while he folds down his full-sized murphy bed in another room. Hill’s apartment shows off the ideal traits of a well-made American micro-apartment: small space that’s not too small, simplicity, technology, and excellent design.