Why Do We Sacrifice Bedrooms When Facing Shrinking Square Feet?

Recently, I came across PropertyGuru’s post about the “Hong Kong”-ization of Singapore property – a very apt description of the double whammy of shrinking space and spiraling costs inflicting new property offerings in Singapore.

Call them studios, shoeboxes, micro units, or god forbid, “boutique luxury residences”, these tiny smaller-than-500-square-foot hutches are becoming a steady reality for single folks like myself if we want our own place and can’t fork an arm and a leg to go for full-sized domiciles. The ex-CEO of prominent Singapore property developer CapitaLand has called out shoebox units as “almost inhuman” – a statement irking many property developers (including CapitaLand itself), probably because they realize the immense profitability in selling shoeboxes under the guise of affordability.

PropertyGuru’s post also warns of the (un)liveability of such miniscule homes for people who actually have to live in them – with a good anecdote of some Hong Kong home toilets so small “that one can only enter it by reversing in”. Which definitely puts me in mind of a friend’s Hong Kong 600-plus square foot apartment where its tiny kitchen was truly where only one person could enter at one time, and had to do so laterally (!)

In fact, I still remember a Singapore showflat visit a few months back, where I asked just where the bedroom of the 400-plus square foot 1-bedroom unit was. The salesman pointed to the top, bumping his head as he did so. And when I pointed out that the unit is actually a studio, he insisted that it *is* a 1-bedroom – just that the bed was on top – with a straight face, as he bent his knees to avoid another headcrack( ̄へ ̄).

Urban Vista 1 Bedroom

Didn’t think 1-bedroom flats would require my nose to touch the ceiling during sleep….

Then, this came in my Pulse news feed and it was a thing of horror, at least for me. My bed is where I read (voraciously), surf (compulsively), blog (recently), work (if needed), eat (if I’m lazy) and sleep (in all its forms of nightly rest, lazy weekend naps, and illness recovery). I cannot imagine my constant place of comfort being something more of a circus trapeze act where a light and airy feel takes on new meaning in a ba~a~a~d way (*´ 0`*)

Suspended Loft Bed

Just how can anyone enjoy a good night’s sleep like this? 😦  [Image credit: Apartment Therapy]

I notice pushing up beds and pushing out bedrooms to free up floor space is becoming a common design theme. Does it mean designers imagine, of all the living spaces in our home, we should place less importance in our bedrooms? If they are taking a leaf from The Princess And The Pea (ladders, ‘lofty’ heights, little to do other than sleep … badly), they would do well to remember that the poor girl didn’t get much rest and was pretty cranky the morning after @ _ @

125 square foot dwelling loft bed

Slightly better, although still somewhat claustrophobic. But this is pretty nice if one has to live in only 125 square feet [Image credit: Apartment Therapy]

Of course, an option is to lower the bed to manageable heights and still utilize the space below. But given that most apartment ceilings are low, you’re still likely to inhale ceiling dust every night. And you can’t be too tall to properly reap the benefits of your ‘freed-up’ space (lest another noggin knockin’ happens, this time against the bed base).

Ikea Loft Bed

Ikea loft bed with child’s desk below – great for the little ones! [Image credit: My Sweet Greens]

Ikea STORA Loft Bed

Ikea loft bed with living room below – tall people on sofa, please move to the non-bed side [Image credit: Ikea]

Loft bed walk-in closet

I actually like this but can imagine spraining an inner thigh muscle to get from wall ladder to bed [Image credit: Domino]

If I really *really* have to resort to a loft bed for my future shoebox home, I wouldn’t mind having this Living Cube loft bed by Till Koenneker – a cool multi-tasker (as cool as the designer himself, that’s him in pictures below ;))


Scalable height – check. Breathing space – check. Library, TV, wardrobe space – double check [Image credit: Design Milk]


Hey, a secret room? Sweet! [Image credit: Design Milk]


Wow, an entire storeroom tucked away? Mr. Koenneker, can I marry you? 😀 [Image credit: Design Milk]

Apartment Therapy small cool 2007

A similar concept from Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool 2007 [Image credit: Apartment Therapy]

Going back to the issue of shrinking home sizes, Savills Research shares a good reminder that shoebox living should never be glamourized as smart modern living, with an interesting report of 2012 shoebox data and trends in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Singapore and London.

Indeed, I pray coffin homes will not be the norm one day, such as those where Hong Kong’s disadvantaged folk endure a life within 50 square feet and less as a necessity, not a lifestyle choice. And when all you have are four walls and little else, where you can lie down to rest your weary head becomes the only living space that truly matters.

Hong Kong coffin homes 2

Not even a bed here, just a pillow and a sheet on the floor [Image credit: Society for Community Organization http://www.soco.org.hk]

Hong Kong coffin homes bunk beds

No ‘clever space-savers’ here, just people managing the best they can [Image credit: Society for Community Organization http://www.soco.org.hk]


Now that was a tad rant-y right? Then, cute kitties will make everything better over at A Purrrrr-fectly Good Time at Tom’s (Cat) Cafe, Hongdae

Furry felines not your cup of tea? Food will feed your weary urban soul at The Streets Of Seoul Are Paved With (Delicious!) Snacks

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2 thoughts on “Why Do We Sacrifice Bedrooms When Facing Shrinking Square Feet?

  1. Very interesting post. I laughed about your story about the “1-bedroom” space..with the bed on the top. T__T The 2nd picture looks cool actually, but I also would not want my bed to be hanging from those wires! I do everything in my bed too so that would just not be an option for me.

    Well what about the other option…not sleeping on a bed but instead using a sleeping mat that you can fold and put away during the daytime…

    Thanks also for the link to the Coffin Homes article, it is very eye-opening. Now I realize my room is very big.. >__<

    1. Hi Heisui, thanks! I had a lot of fun writing this too ^^ I’m still in the (long) process of home-hunting, so I have a lot of thoughts about home design and choices which I realize make good material for posts – at least I can now get them out of my head and into an organized post to share with folks like you 😉

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