Statistics are strange. They tell us, on the one hand, that the square footage of dwelling spaces of Americans has more than doubled since the 1950s, from houses of 1000 square feet to 2,500 square feet. On the other hand, offsite rental storage space for domestic consumers is now a $22 billion per year industry.  


We are gluttons for stuff we can’t even house or live with, paying good money for storage which could, instead, buy us freedom: travel, for example; or a better quality of furniture and art, instead of mere quantity.  

In densely populated cities like New York, we already know that empty space may be a far greater luxury than the expensive things we fill it with. A one-bedroom apartment in Lefferts Gardens, near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park rents for $1,800; a three-bedroom in up-and-coming but comparatively insalubrious Gowanus rents for $4,500. Arguably, a more ostentatious way of demonstrating wealth, these days, might be in the empty rooms you boast, rather than the jam-packed ones.  

Urban architects, designers and developers are having to come up with radically innovative interior design schemes that reckon with the fact that the apartment of the future--or indeed, the present--may be only 300 or 400 square feet. New technologies work in the micro-dweller’s favor. Such bulky material items as books, records, and videotapes can now be digitized to take up zero physical space. A single bathroom sink-cum-flush-toilet unit saves precious inches, as well as water.  

But, perhaps most interestingly, new, “smart” buildings are forging the idea of “product libraries” which--like a swimming pool or gym--may be shared by all tenants. If you need the occasional use of an immense stockpot, but don’t want to store it, just check one out of the product library! Why store an expensive power tool kit, if you can share it, via the product library, with other tenants?  If you need a guest room for friends coming for the weekend, book it, in your very own apartment complex!  

This notion of sharing household appliances and amenities is brilliantly logical, convenient and economical. We may hope, that as well as permitting individual tenants or owners to inhabit their smaller living spaces in greater comfort, such communal “libraries” and rooms also engender the sense of community which has nowadays so often gone missing from urban life. If the Mom and Pop store on the corner has been supplanted by the sprawl of Wholefoods, nevertheless, at the Product Library, you may introduce yourself to a neighbor whom you might not otherwise see hide nor hair of. 


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