Even if you’re no HGTV fan, developers and designers still stress that television has had one of the most tangible impacts on apartment square footage over the past decade. With the disappearance of the cathode-ray television and the ability to hang panel TVs on the wall, bedroom unit width requirements have decreased substantially. “You don’t need 12- or 13-foot minimums in bedrooms to accommodate those large TVs anymore,” says Donald Meeks, a partner at Houston-based Meeks + Partners, which has approximately 7,000 units under design and reports that the average unit size of its projects has decreased from 950 to 820 square feet over the past three years, sometimes even falling below the 800-square-foot average. “Also notable is the mix between two-bedrooms and one-bedrooms,” Meeks says. “Back in 2008, it was hitting a ratio of about 65 percent to 45 percent for one-bedrooms over two-bedrooms, and today, we are looking at project mixes of 70/30, 75/25, even 80/20 in a lot of cases. We’re really going to a heavily weighted one-bedroom mix.”
A RoomWithout a View?
Still, despite the cozier propensities of the new modern renter, privacy concerns among the Gen Y renter demographic differ drastically from those of their Gen X and Baby Boomer predecessors. This generation has been raised in a world where it’s OK to talk about your love life with your Twitter followers, and, as a result, they have no problem with guests seeing their dirty laundry.
“I don’t think that [a lack of desire for privacy] means we are sacrificing quality of life, either,” Anand explains. “We are redesigning to resident needs, and the privacy needs of this resident seem to be different: They don’t have a whole lot of issues with people seeing their bed or sleeping area. They don’t seem to need the bedroom on the exterior wall with a window. They are perfectly comfortable with a window that is interior to the unit.”
Getting bedrooms off of the exterior wall, in fact, has been instrumental in opening up new design paradigms for the next era of apartment design. Both Anand and Gehman say they are working on plans for major apartment REITs and national merchant-builder apartment developers that are likely to completely redefine the one-bedroom American apartment. Both also say they are bound by confidentiality agreements not to discuss those plans, even in the broadest of strokes. “Wait until it comes out, and then I’ll call back and say, ‘That’s the one I was talking about!’?” Gehman says. “If I say anything else, the spies for this particular client will find me and kill me.”