The Neapolitan Rendering

While almost four times the size of the 34 “CoLiving” units proposed to rise on the parcel next door, the ten two-bedroom apartments proposed for former Central Freeway Parcel S average a little under 600 square feet each, including eight “Murphy Units.”

The Murphy Floor Plan

From the winning proposal for the Hayes Valley development:

This will allow more people to live smart – and live well – at less cost. As an example, our “Murphy 2-Bedroom” – at approximately 600 SF – will provide all the functionality of a conventional 2-Bedroom which is typically around 850 SF in size. We anticipate that the Murphy 2-Bedroom will rent for around $3500 compared to the average $4191 monthly rent for conventional 2-Bedroom units in competing nearby developments.

This is accomplished through super-efficient and precise spatial planning supported by the deployment of an assortment of articulating furniture elements (table-beds, desk-beds and adaptable storage elements – for example get a filing cabinet that can be used as bedside table, etc.) that are “built-in” to the unit. This allows one to quickly and easily transform a space for one use to another e.g., dining room to home-office, home-office to bedroom, bedroom to playroom, etc. Sites like furniture in fashion also have some fitting but affordable furniture pieces that would go perfectly in rooms of this size. Obviously you will have to plan things out a little bit when you are thinking of getting new furniture, however, you will probably find that you have more options then you realize. For example, you might decide that getting something simple from a company like has plenty to offer (and adding a rug might just make a big difference to your house).

Overall, this approach enables one to live in a more resource-efficient manner and with a lighter imprint upon the environment and less stress on one’s finances. It eliminates the need (and expense) for inhabitants to purchase a number of bulky furniture items such as beds, tables, wardrobes, dressers, shelving, etc. and to move them about from one place to the next – especially the cheap “disposable” variety that prematurely wears out and too often ends up at “the curb” and/or the landfill.

In addition to the Murphy Units, the proposed Parcel S development also includes two mini-two bedrooms measuring 566 square feet, twelve 273-square-foot studios, and four mini retail spaces on the ground floor.

Keep in mind that the original Murphy Wall Bed Company started in San Francisco and we have seen some rather creative riffs on the design.

89 thoughts on “Plans For “Living Smart” In 600 Square Foot Two-Bedrooms”
  1. the weird thing is- you see this in manhattan and japan where the populations are huge and the land is very limited. while the land is limited here, the population and density are nowhere near the same. this is a totally self imposed manufactured condition. Instead of building a supertall skinny building (which are quite popular now in NYC) we force people to live in short shoeboxes in the name of “shadows” and “character”. While I’m in favor of this type of housing because I think it keeps it affordable- the whole thing is ridiculous. SF is forcing itself to build these microunits when it clearly doesn’t have to.

    1. I fully agree , I would much rather have numerous slender towers with larger units then short buildings that are being forced on developers that will result in substandard living conditions

    2. To be fair, sliver buildings in earthquake-prone SF makes a lot less sense than they do in New York.

    1. Have you tried looking for a 2 bedroom for 3500? Most are disgusting, along overcrowded bus routes, and have tough competition to get accepted.

  2. Agree with comments about this being a created situation. We just spent some time closing out a project in Honolulu and I was reminded that there is plenty of light and views even with a major skyline. We had MUCH less difficulty building a 18 story residential tower there than a 4 story project in S.F.!

  3. Thank God I live in a 2250 square foot house! I can’t even imagine dreaming of living in something so small! I think we really need to look at our housing in a new way and micro is not the way to go.

      1. We are a family of two with two dogs. I feel that we could actually use more space but have been able to live our lifestyle in the space we have. I enjoy to entertain and feel the space isn’t too large for two people. We have three bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a family room, a living room, an office, a wine cellar, a two car garage, 2.5 restrooms, and a yard. I don’ think it’s excessive by any stretch of the imagination. I can’t imaging living in anything much smaller maybe on a two bedroom home but that’s about the only place I could cut out the space and not go crazy! We work hard, and we pay our fair share of taxes for the space we have.

          1. Only in San Francisco are people made to feel bad about their successes in life… He works hard and reaps the rewards. He is living in a 2500 sq foot place – its not like he is skinning kittens.

          2. As they say “blame the game, not the player”.

            Yes our society is unfair, and more unfair than when our parents were ruling the show. It appears as if the old are eating the young, either in wealth distribution or in entitlements. Elder underachievers hog huge rent controlled apartments for $1K while the kids have to bunk into a tiny closet for $3500. Also, some people get paid ridiculous amounts of money for very specific and seemingly random skills, while some people with very decent education have to work 2 jobs just for being allowed to have the basic comforts of life. I am in the lucky crowd but know the semi-randomness if it all.

            But is it Marinaboy’s fault?

          3. Families in New Dehli who live 10 to a room and share a communal kitchen and bathroom with dozens of others would likely view you as a spoiled brat, too.

        1. I agree with you. 2250 SF is not excessive, except to the many San Franciscans who question your “need”. My husband and I have about 2500, and we enjoy it all, use it all and happily remodeled and paid for it over the years. Don’t let the naysayers tell you what you need.

          Enjoy your home. And, no you’re not an entitled brat. SS should remove the post calling you that. Best wishes.

        2. im in a 2300 sq ft place with my wife and dog. i dont feel like its too big at all. nothing entitled about this. i bought my 1st house at age 40 after saving for years.

          1. Similar situation here. And though I don’t feel our place is “too big”, it’s most likely all the space we’ll ever need.

        3. If you can afford to have more than 1000 square feet per person in San Francisco, then good for you. I’m sure you enjoy it.
          But don’t pretend that it’s any kind of human need to have that much space. I **need** over 1000 sq feet of living space just about as much as I **need** to drive a BMW, or as much as I **need** to have a personal maid clean up after me, or as much as I **need** to go on annual vacations in the South of France. Of course it’s nice for those people who are able to have those things, but they should never forget how good they have it compared to the rest of us.

          1. having a BMW or vacatioing in the south of France is a “luxury”. Having 1000sq ft of housing per adult is pretty standard for the US.

            san franciso and NY of course are different. but it’s not luxury jsut because its expensive.

            People always complain that only luxury buildings are going up in SF. But most of the new units are not considered luxury in other places. they are only “luxury” here because prices are so high.

          2. lol about the South of France vacation. I am spending the full summer there right now, overlooking the Mediterranean, south facing, down slope, 2000sf+ house, 2 ranks of genoise roof tiles, the sign of quality here. Not missing the San Francisco winter. Count me in as part the entitled crowd.

    1. Thank God I’m very wealthy! I can’t even imagine being merely well off. I think we need to look at our housing in a new way, and limiting it to the highest incomes is really the way to go.

    2. How insightful Marinaboy — We must get busy planting acres of “money trees” so we all can have enough $ to construct 2250 sf houses for all throughout SF!

  4. I wonder if there are behavior/ psychological studies related to living in small spaces for north Americans for extended periods of time. I can NOT believe this is healthy. Yes, large Mac mansions are the other end of the spectrum, but 175 sq ft per person or 600 sq ft for 3 people can not be healthy. We did this in college when we were in our early 20s and were on a budget. More than 1/2 the city is a low density single/double story single family housing prototype (avenues, merced, forest hill, potrero) and they continue to do this- night time/ day time apartment reconfiguration “cleverness” as if we were Tokyo. It’s insane.

    1. It’s just insane…why keep SOMA in a suspended 4-6 story reality – when it could be towers of 30-40 stories…and then keep all the other neighborhoods as they are. Growth needs to occur – lets do it in a transit rich, flat, close to downtown area.

      Hey, instead, lets build these miniscule places and charge outrageous rents…makes sense…

    2. Agreed that it’s insane that we’ve backed ourselves into this corner, but you’re seriously questioning whether this literally drives people insane? 3/4 of the world would be going insane if that were the case…

  5. The majority of the world in urban centers live like this. It is only us who think 850 square feet is “normal” for a 2 bedroom!

    1. I actually think 1000+ is normal for a 2bedroom. Most urban centers in the US (Manhattan excepted) easily exceed that amount. We do not live in Tokyo…or Manhattan for that matter where density is considerably higher.

    2. we are not an “urban center” in the sense that you mean it. these asian megacities that have microunits also have extremely greater population, density, and different quality of life. SF is not Hong Kong or Shanghai (which, btw have astronomically higher property values).

      1. At least in Asian cities, being crammed in a tall tower you get a great view! In this case, your view is of a light well, or a boulevard and traffic.

      2. Asian cities are built around the micro-unit and children that stay home until they are married. They have many third spaces like Internet cafes and coffee shops and places that are open late at night. SF doesn’t have the infrastructure yet for this kind of living, but if we build it, maybe we will also get some interesting places to go at 3am.

  6. So much of this is driven by perceived neighborhood values (and I’m not sure that it’s valid to compare this Hayes Valley development with NEMA, let alone ORC). Meaning, SoMa is hot, Hayes Valley is hot, so the prices there get run up ridiculously. Yet at the same time you can get a 2-bedroom, 2-bath + sunroom Edwardian in the inner Richmond, with garage space, fireplace, and shared back yard privileges, for under $4,000 a month. (And you’re easily walkable to the Presidio, GG Park, shops on Clement and Irving, etc., so it’s not like you miss out on amenities or community.) But for some reason there’s a perception (apparently based at least in part in reality) that there are people who will instead pay $4,000 a month to live in a space like this, as long as it’s Hayes Valley or SoMa or Dogpatch.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slamming the live-light lifestyle. I actually think it’s great, and our society is too focused on material possessions. What I’m saying is that even while being a very legitimate lifetyle, I completely fail to see how the value can be essentially the same as my example above.

    1. check out the condos at 230 2nd ave . 2 new condos priced over $1000/sq ft.
      the inner richmond aint cheap anymore. frankly, that area between clement and lake and arguello and 5th is very very nice.

      1. just looked at these. those are very expensive for inner richmond. I paid $400/sq ft for a large and nice updated place there 2 yrs ago.

    2. I agree the Inner Richmond is a nice area and a “good deal” in relative terms. That said, most people, my wife and I included, are limited to the SOMA/Dogpatch area due to commutes down on the peninsula.

  7. I lived happily for several years as a single person in something similar– a lower nob hill “junior one bedroom” with pocket doors and (unused) Murphy beds in the walls, though it only cost $1100 per month in 2003. Hundreds of these were built in SF after the earthquake, with built-ins and flexible configurations.

  8. I am all for higher density in SF, but to the folks that want “30-40 story high rises” all over SOMA, I’d be very interested to see if the land in SOMA can actually support it. I just watched them dig out two stories of nothing but sand to build 333 Brannan. Pretty much the same thing happening all over Mission Bay. There are some locations that are just fine (e.g., Rincon Hill is bedrock). When the next big one comes, I’m worried that some of these places are going to sink or topple over. Any structural engineers want to calm my fears?

    1. I’m pretty sure all of these buildings have structural engineers involved in building them. They’d probably say something if their building was going to “topple over” lol.

    2. Seriously, you think know one thinks of these things? You think death traps are getting built over the place and no one cares?

      It’s called: pilings anchored to the bedrock, sometimes as much as 200-300 feet below ground level (in the case of 181 Fremont and the Salesforce tower)

    3. not in favor of 30 floors, but dont think any new building in western SOMA should be less than 12 floors.

    4. One of the big problems in San Francisco, and in fact the whole USA, is amateurs dictating public policy because they **feel** like they know more about any given subject than the professionals do.
      I hear so often from people who think the reason all the buildings are so short in San Francisco is **only** because of earthquake code, and therefore any tall buildings have skirted the rules somehow, are immediately going to collapse during the next medium-magnitude earthquake, and everyone else is stupid for not realizing this.
      If you are not a structural engineer, or a soils engineer, or otherwise have some real qualification to talk about the subject, then please leave it to the designated experts.

      1. Yes, to people like me, and engineers of course.

        But, didn’t YOU just say 1 day ago (above) that you were “pretty sure” that all of the high rises have structural engineers involved with them. You actually said “pretty sure”?

        News flash! EVERY building of virtually any size has a structural engineer on the team.

        1. Futurist, a couple of days ago you claimed that the new micro-units wouldn’t do anything to solve the housing crisis, yet you’ve repeatedly stated in the past that there is no housing crisis and that not everyone can afford to live in San Francisco.

          Be careful with those stones in that glass house of yours.

  9. Taller is definitely feasible in this location. A stable foundation can be created by anchoring piers to bedrock. That either means excavation or driving piles. This can be costly but then the buildings created are also worth a lot.

  10. I lived in Paris in a 600-square-foot 2 bedroom and it was perfect. I didn’t go crazy or suffer any mental health issues…at least not any due to my living condition. LOL.

    Paris, though much more dense and having a much larger population than SF, is also restricted by NIMBY issues of its own. Not many big towers there. The biggest difference was that the rent there was much less than $3500/mo.

    1. Also, much of Paris was built up centuries ago, before high-rises existed.
      In the parts of Paris build during the 20th century, which is mostly just on the outskirts, there are in fact a lot of taller buildings.

  11. While it is all the rage to build these tiny units to sell to people scraping together every last penny, I shall do the inverse.

  12. I’m a single person living in a 660-square-foot condo in the Mission and would love something with less space. As I’ve moved, I’ve cut down on the space I live in and also the material things I own and I’ve never been happier. Not everyone needs or wants a lot of space. Frankly, I treat my home more like a hotel room, anyway. I love being out and about and need my small space simply to recharge (and do laundry). 🙂 My stove and refrigerator are smaller as is my stackable washer/dryer.

    There are a couple of two-bedrooms in my building (completed in 2012) that are the same size or smaller than my one-bedroom. The living space outside of the bedrooms is simply smaller in these units than what I have.

    As for the super-thin residential towers being built in NYC, they are comprised almost exclusively of ultra high-market units, each of which take up an entire floor. 360-degree views. I don’t think this is what we are looking for in SF.

    1. … also they’re not only bunk beds but murphy bunk beds. Basically a deluxe first class cabin on an overnight train.

    2. They should make these double-sided double bunk queen size beds. Enough to fit 8 people. At 2 AM the bottom side would turn up so that there’s no winner/loser.

  13. You know – The Soviet Union built a bazillion Apt buildings with units that were 55-65 Sq meters ~ roughly the size of these crappy. I mean efficiency units….But then again citizens of The Soviet Union didn’t have much choice….But then again…neither do citizens of SF….I mean. Have you met some of the Lefties running this city…? Stalin & Lenin would be proud…..Not to mention Brezhnev

    I’m fine with 30-40 story Apt towers. Hong Kong, Vancouver, NYC and other beautiful space constrained port cities are full of them and they look fine…..We would too.

    1. San Francisco could learn a lot from those Soviet-style command-economy apartment blocks.
      If we had more of that style of housing here in the Bay Area, even if they were only down the Peninsula and over in the East Bay, but not San Francisco proper, then I think there would be no housing crisis.

  14. Maybe I am tired from not taking a nap today but do the mock-ups look like bento boxes? The night time view with a couple of sushi to the side. The green couches are wasabi. That patch of lawn looks like that plastic green “grass.” Btw, I like patches of green in its natural form rather than bare concrete.

  15. The folks who hate these units should read (and memorize!) the annual income medians for ordinary people. When you are tempted to post something utterly privileged repeat that number over to yourself ten times – and refrain.

    This thread reminds me of those billionaires who complain that the Nazis are coming for them. If you are extra fortunate, appreciate it – but also have the respect to not flounce around squealing about it in public.

    1. minka, the point that (most) people are making here is that it would be smarter to modify height restrictions in SF so that *more, larger, units* could be built and sold/rented for the same price as these micro-units, because of increased supply. I.e., it is not economically or physically necessary to build micro-units to achieve a $3500-month apartment for “ordinary people.” Pointing this out is, if anything, advocacy for those “ordinary people,” not privileged “squealing.”

      1. If people were sticking to a point about zoning there would be none of this “I live in a large house and I love it so there!” baloney. Really, people: zip it.

      2. Nah, I’ll go with bragging.
        If I follow your point, these posts advocate for “Ordinary” people to be entitled to live in 2000sf which, by the current $/sf should run in the range of $2M and which, using typical ROI ratios, should rent for $7K/month. Even with extra supply the rent amounts to a median gross income in SF. If that’s ordinary you should expand your social circle.

        1. I’m not claiming that other posters have been showing their work or proving that a ready alternative would be feasible immediately but a point that many have made is that if SF fixed its regs so that tall buildings and greater supply were incentivized, you’d get an affordable space that’s bigger than 600 sq ft (though of course not 2000 sq ft). I don’t see why that’s so controversial. But to be clear, I’m not including MarinaBoy’s comment, which seems to be the one you two are really reacting to.

          1. yeah, I guess it’s an outlier post. I myself have way more than I what I need and what I can even use, but using this fact to shoot down a concept of conservative living would be disingenuous.

  16. It is not clear how many high rise rentals would have to be built to bring the rental price for a newly constructed 2 bedroom apartment down to $3500/month in a central part of SF. No one is turning all of SF into 600 SF units, but why not build a few for those who want them? Some people don’t mind small spaces and would welcome the built-ins, saving the expense of buying furniture.

    1. we would need either a recession or 10,000 units per year for 5 years to bring the prices down.

      Anything less will just limit the amount the prices are increasing.

      1. Or a change in the culture. The latest trend of city living could reverse when people discover the value they’ve ignored in suburbia. Having a car to carry the kids, being able to grow stuff, having less noise and more privacy.
        One day people will go back to suburbia, it’s the natural cycle. It will probably start with the search for mid-century gems for wannabe Don Drapers out there. Trends don’t need much to die or resurrect.

      2. No, you’re merely speculating and assuming. We could build 200 high rises of 50 stories each and that would not, in itself, bring prices down. That would just satisfy pure demand, make us denser and popular, without regard for quality of life.

        People should stop pretending that we will ever be “affordable” because we will not. Same for NY, Paris, London, etc.

        1. Paris was unaffordable in the late 80s. Then it was very affordable from 1996-2002. In affordable, I mean 3BR in good areas for less than 300K. Today you’re lucky if you’re under the 1M barrier. Are the places newer, nicer? Nope.
          Sometimes ou can get the right conditions. Never say never.

        2. you are certainly not a historian or educated in economics or cycles. no one said anything about “affordable”. we are talking about prices dropping. Do you not think prices dropped from 2007 to 2011?

          Do you not think we could have another major recession that would drive prices down?

          Do you really think there is no limit on demand, so that if we built 100,000 new units, they would all be bought at current or high prices?

          1. Yes, prices dropped, then they came back up.
            No, I don’t think another recession would drive prices down.
            Yes, there is a limit on demand. It will NOT come from more supply than demand. It will come from San Francisco no longer being desirable, which could happen someday. Look at Detroit today, lots of empty housing. And pretty much a terrible place to live.

          2. futurist “Yes, prices dropped, then they came back up.” YEAH! you admitted prices can drop. its called a cycle. of course they can back up. thats a cycle too!
            SF is not special for that. it happened in almost all US citiies (except the rust belt). those cities must also ahve unlimited demand and huge desirability factor. your logic is totally illogical. suggest you read a book on the history of the US housing market or even review whats happened in SF over the past 50 yrs. many cycles.

          3. futurist “No, I don’t think another recession would drive prices down.” really? so why did it happen in the last cycle?

        3. Futurist
          Most expensive cities are expensive because they are desirable, not because they have a large or dense population.
          There are dozens of cities in Africa, South Asia, and South America that have millions of people, are very dense, yet are not expensive at all because they don’t have that desirability factor.
          With a global population of over 7 billion, all of whom want to live in a desirable place, the demand for housing in such places as San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Dubai, etc is pretty much limitless, only really determined by money.
          People will want to live here if there are 300,000 housing units. People will still want to live here if there are 3,000,000 housing units. More housing will make it slightly cheaper of course, but the only thing that will make it truly “affordable” is if people stop wanting to live here so much.

          1. And I would guarantee you that they would NOT live here, in this very small city of 49 square miles if we had 3million housing units. And WE are desirable, in fact, because of the fact that we do not have a large population. Are you listening?

            And you’re actually comparing Dubai to us?? The demand for housing there is limitless because Dubai is in the middle of a vast desert.

            We are limited by our very small land mass. Pretty simple. When are you going to get that?

          2. “We are limited by our very small land mass.”

            Perhaps I can introduce you to the 19th century technology called the elevator. Or do we need to again discuss that Paris has a much larger population than us in only 41 square miles?

  17. It eliminates the need (and expense) for inhabitants to purchase a number of bulky furniture items such as beds, tables, wardrobes, dressers, shelving, etc.

    Just like being dead eliminates the need (and expense) for people to purchase a number of everyday living items such a food, beverages, soap, clothes, shoes, phones, etc

    Seriously, that’s masterful spinning. Small spaces are what they are: an imperfect necessity. They should just tell it like it is instead of playing the “efficiency” card.

    1. I think the bigger question is: are they just exploiting a trend that has really been taking off (Not So Big House, Tiny House movement) or actually adhering to its principles (smaller, desirable spaces with an emphasis on craftsmanship and finishes). Modular building techniques can allow you to both build differently, and, if done right better. For instance, no one’s talking about “noise from the neighbors”. With this stacked modular design, there are no neighbors to either side to worry about . A big win, perhaps, that also depends on the open stairwell noise (at least it is transient). Also, the nature of the modules means there is less noise transmitted from floor to the ceiling below (at least that’s the theory). I truly believe this will be the century when modular really takes off. Poor execution, though, could hinder its adoption. (Queue Little Boxes on the turntable…)

  18. Right now $/sf prices allow for pretty decent quality housing. Of course that’s not always what’s being built, since with high demand comes lowered expectations.

  19. A nice example of what can be done with modular design in a small space, 344 sqft in this case:

    A friend of mine lives in a 650 sqft 3BR in Hong Kong. A couple with a 10 year old and a live-in maid. So that’s 3 adults and a child living fairly comfortably. Bedrooms have floor to ceiling cabinetry, under bed storage is utilized, and they are diligent about getting rid of unnecessary stuff, which is easier these days with digital media replacing books, music, movies, and family photos.

  20. In Tokyo, people traditionally slept on futon mattresses laid out on the floor of the main living area. In the morning, the futon and blankets get folded up and put away, and is replaced by a low table used for eating. People still live this way in studio apartments, and it’s the way guest rooms are set up in traditional Japanese inns. They see nothing wrong with modular living, even in the low-density countryside.

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