A Tiny House In The City

New York City – and the borough of Manhattan specifically – has long been identified by its micro apartments and somewhat comical living spaces where you can wake up, shower, eat breakfast, and get dressed without ever leaving your bed! But what the tiny house movement has continued to illustrate is that it isn’t about size. It is about appropriation. Such is the case with the Manhattan Micro-Loft designed by the Specht Harpman team.microLOFT layout

Actually a renovation project the micro-apartment is situated on the top floor of an Upper West Side (the UWS  is considered an upscale, primarily residential area with many residents working in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. It is seen as the home to New York City’s cultural and intellectual hub) brownstone. The idea for its layout was seemingly more out of necessity than ingenuity. While the footprint is just 425 square feet the vertical space allowed for another 25 feet in height as well as boasting a roof terrace. Besides the obvious issues of heating and cooling as well as acoustical issues the apartment was less than ideal for modern living.

As seen in the photos (taken by Taggart Sorenson) the reno reimagined the space into four platforms laid out so that each space had room for the essentials without sacrificing light and space.

The bottom level is the entry as well as a small kitchen with modern white lacquered cabinetry with flush doors and hidden hardware.


A few steps up is the main living area with a grey, upholstered ‘L’ -shaped couch, bright white painted brick walls, and an expansive 12-foot ceiling. Jutting out into the living area is the third platform; a cantilevered bed platform of dark wood that matched the flooring throughout.

micro Entry

The eye catcher though is the bed platform is supported by exposed metal beams.The last set of steps leads up to the rooftop garden area. The entire layout is impossibly large feeling because of the absence of doors and hallways allowing for a downright cavernous feeling.

One of the features in the micro-apartment is one that is being used in clever fashion by a number of tiny house builders as of late. The stairs double as cabinets with a footer of drawers.


The bathroom is even “built-in” below the staircase.


The absence of traditional closets, shelving units, and storage spaces is forgiven, as every flat surface seems to hide ample storage. The kitchen has concealed cabinetry, hidden appliances, and a countertop that wraps into the living area doubling as a breakfast bar and all-purpose table. The apartment also lacks the furniture pieces that too often add clutter and confusion to a house. Perhaps a few extra amenities and furnishings could be accomplished by incorporating “transforming” pieces as seen in the Micro-Apartment designed by the team at Resource Furniture. The apartment is complex and sophisticated by design, simple by execution, and even simpler by lifestyle.

It might also be noted that Specht Harpman is the team behind the zeroHouse which has been seen as a tiny house inspiration for a number of architects and designers.

Your Turn!

  • Can you see yourself in a tiny, modern space?



  1. This layout is exactly what me and my partner want. We love the apartment lifestyle, but want to live as far away from the city as possible. This is our ideal look and feel for a tiny home in the middle of the woods!

  2. 29 acres in Brevard? Lucky!! I’ll take 2 acres if you don’t need them..lol

    Really. A lot of rain?? We need more!
    I would try to build under trees for the hot days we have in Florida!
    A cottage would be nice. Build it up off the ground and well insulated!

    • I agree with Bear. I would only need 1 acre though!!!

      • Kristi,

        The 29 was more than I was looking for. I was in search of five acres. But the land I wanted was sold before I blinked. This came on the market a few months later and I put an offer on it the day after. Mine eas accepted the next day. The funny thing Kristi is that this was less than the five acres.

        In reality I bought about 3.5 acres I can build on and they “gave” me 25.5 that is to be preserved forever as a land/critter refuge. It borders the Sebastion River State Preserve on the west and has a prong from the Sebastian River running thru it in two places. I can still commute to work and live in harmony/freedom scarcely a mile from US1.

        • Congrats!!! That is awesome news Steve!

          That is weird how that works out, we found the same kind of thing in Colorado. There did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to how much people were asking for land, the price was the same whether you were looking at 35 acres or 135 acres in the same county.

          Miles and miles of land for less than $1,000 an acre but the catch was that it was all in 35 acre or more plots.

          We are just waiting to hear if we got ours now.

          • Candide…it would seem that people are people and have there own kinda, sorta quirks about pricing. Spent the day exploring parts as yet unseen by me. I discovered I own actually two creeks and two streams. Everyday is an adventure. Also found an old footbridge crosding the creek and spent a few hours repairing it.

            Still looking for the right clearing for a homesite…and still trying to concoct an idea for a cracker house on wheels that will stand up to all the rains we get every summer.

  3. Yes Bear…..I do plan to leave a bit of a canopy for the hot months….mid-March to mid-November. It is heaven there….I do love it so much. Lots of critters…..deer, turkey, hogs and dove. The rains have left the creek swollen from 12 ft. across to currently 35 ft.

    I do think the Florida crackers had some useful ideas for siting a house….I.E. site into the Southeast to catch the prevailing breezes. Also allows all four sides of the home to catch a bit of sunlight even on the shortest day of the year.

    Are you in Florida?

  4. suggest that you build on the highest elevation available and have a good exit plan 🙂

    • Yes Rich….I agree and plan to do just that. Seems about the highest buildable spot is about 7 ft….but unfortunately I’d have to cross my creek to get there and I am not sure the State will let me put even a log bridge up. So about 6 ft. is my reality.

      Here on coastal Florida the “exit plan” is often the “excitement plan”…here is where a house on wheels works in your favor. ..well kinda, sorta, anyway. The hope is you have someplace to take your dwelling in case “THE BIG ONE” hits.

  5. Very nice but I doubt that I could afford it.

  6. @ Steve in Palm Bay: Crackers had some great ideas, like a breezeway between rooms to catch breezes, and a wrap around verandah, screened in of course, to enjoy tea or coffee in the mornings and watch the fireflies in the evenings. Louvered shutters provide shade during the hottest part of the day, and a tin roof to enjoy the sound of all that rain! No carpeting to collect all that sand either! Cool tile floors are nice in the summer, but actually can get cold to bare feet in the short winter…so throw rugs are super there! Good insulation helps and A/C is a must for those brutally hot, humid days. Congrats and I hope you have a grand time building it!!

    • Allyn…have you been peeking into my pinkish grey matter? Great minds think alike….these are the parameters I was contemplating.

      The hot sticky days, followed but the hot even stickier nights! I plan to build ten ft. ceilings and have ceiling fans instead of a/c. Having lived here 99% of my life I am acclimated to it…well kinda, sorta anyway. And great insulation is a must have here. Was thinking of a removable, storable, wood burning stove for the relatively short mild winters.

      I do like the Manhattan idea of using little leftover spots for storage.

    • Thanx Allyn…all very valid points. I was indeed thinking of the tile and the insulation. I have quite a bit of leftover 18″x18″ tiles left from doing the floors of the Palm Bay house. I had also put in R30 insulation in the attic a few years back…huge improvement. ..summer electric bills are generally $85/mo.

      If I trailer the house I will most likely build two…one for living, one for storage (farm implements, tools, foodstuffs, etc).

      As this is all conceptual still my plans have been somewhat kliadascope. But they are taking shape. Thank you for your imput Allyn. Are you in Florida?

  7. Agreed, and good luck trying to get a plot of land in Manhattan.

  8. Steve, I know this reply is late. My thoughts? Build a nice House Boat. Support it as a Cabin on a cradle. If the waters ever get too high, no worries. Really, honestly, not trying to be funny here. Most house boats are almost if not a Tiny House. Hook ups to water, sewer and electricity would be quite the engineering feat but I am sure do able. Actually it would more like a House Barge.

    • Christoph…you are the second person to say this to me. It was proffered that I should buy a second or third-hand pontoon and build on that. After the two months of heavy rains when the creek rose to three feet above normal and the surface width expanded from 8 to 15 ft. across to 50, the idea has much merit. I do have an artesian well (700+ft. deep) and power already. A septic system is in the exploration process.

  9. How did everything turn out? I am wanting to build a tiny house on wheels and have it in my back yard. More or less a mother-in-law suite. I have to find out the laws on it though.

Leave a Reply