Is Less, More? The DC Studio Apartment Phenomenon

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Why Young DC Residents are Thinking Smaller

On its surface, living in a DC studio apartment might seem unbearable. Especially for those who currently live in a one or two bedroom home or apartment. I mean, how could you possibly be comfortable with less than 500 square feet to work with?

Yet, studio apartments in the Capital’s trendiest neighborhoods continue to attract increasing numbers of young professionals in the city.

Millennials are subject to greater financial pressure with every passing year, due to an ever-increasing cost of living in the city and comparatively stagnant wages. So why aren’t they flocking to the suburban areas where they can get more space for their dollar?

A more in-depth look reveals that studio apartments offer significant benefits that far outweigh the lack of space. 

Studio Apartments & Lifestyle

The simplest explanation is that young urbanites value their lifestyle more than ever, and are willing to pay significant portions of their income for it. Young people are more willing to reduce their living quarters to just a crash pad to enjoy an active and social lifestyle outside the home.

Studio apartments serve this demographic as an affordable entry point to city living. According to market trends provided by RentCafe, studio apartments in DC rent for an average of $321 less per month than a one bedroom. In the most desirable areas, the difference is even more significant.

modern studio

For Dupont Circle apartments , often called “DC’s trendiest neighborhood,” the difference is $475.

It’s no surprise then that those seeking a lifestyle that only the nation’s capital can provide would be attracted to these charming, efficient, and relatively affordable units.

Transportation

Another draw to the studio apartment lifestyle is the simplification of navigating the city. Many of the most popular developments are within walking distance of the metro as well as the dining, nightlife, and entertainment that these areas are famous for.

This allows apartment dwellers to forgo the expense and inconvenience of owning and maintaining a vehicle, alleviates the stress of trying to find parking in the city, and avoids the hassle of the city’s traffic.

And who can blame them? According to Inrix, a company that provides traffic data for cities all over the world, DC was the 6th most congested city in the nation in 2016. In that year, drivers spent an estimated 11% of their driving time in congestion.

This problem isn’t unique to DC, with many other US cities dealing with increasing traffic concerns.

However, DC has one of the better public transportation systems in the nation. It seems like a no-brainer that taking advantage of the robust metro and bus system will provide a better (and less expensive) experience for most commuters, a luxury not afforded to most suburban communities.

When we view all of this in the context of lifestyle, it simply provides the younger demographic with more time and money to spend enjoying the various urban amenities and social spots that occupy these communities. 

Style

For many Capital apartment dwellers, the most obvious drawback of a studio apartment is actually a blessing.

As evidenced by the tiny house movement, there is an increasing interest in creating high-functioning and stylish living spaces with as little room as possible.

For many, creating a cozy domicile with limited space is a rewarding challenge that sparks the imagination and inspires their creativity. There is no shortage information on the topic of studio apartment decorating and furnishing, and there seems to be a genuine enthusiasm for the subject. Additionally, more furniture manufacturers are offering products made just to serve the growing market for studio apartment decor.

studio apartments in DC

One Cambridge-based company is even making smart furniture for studio apartments that transform the entire space at the push of a button!

With the existence of renovated historic apartment buildings, even the buildings themselves are stylish in a way that is unique to all but DC’s most expensive real estate.

Savings

The choice to live in a studio apartment is as much a financial decision as it is a lifestyle one. Many small-apartment dwellers state the lower cost of furnishing and maintaining their unit plays a significant role in their choice.

Furniture

With less space to cover, they can either keep their furniture expenses to a minimum or use their furniture budget to purchase higher quality pieces.

Energy Efficiency

For communities that don’t include utilities in the rent payment, the lessened power and water expenditure of these small units provide more relief for the monthly budget.

For a generation that is increasingly concerned about environmental impact, choosing to have a small footprint is also an attractive idea.

Cleaning

Ask any studio apartment resident what their favorite part of their small living area is, and cleanup is likely to come up.

Though this is more of a time-saver than a money-saver, the reduced expenses on cleaning supplies is a net positive.

Less Junk

Having a limited amount of space to store things forces people to be very intentional about their purchases, and prevents them from buying junk that they don’t need.

Of course, this is a double-edged sword because you also might not be able to fit things you would otherwise get a lot of enjoyment from. However, the people enamored with the studio lifestyle aim to spend the majority of their time outside enjoying the city anyway. 

The Bottom Line

the DC studio apartment phenomenon

The reason that millennials choose to live in small studio apartments in the city centers, rather than seek spacious suburban residences is a combination of cultural and economic factors.

Many young professionals, families, and university students are seeking an active lifestyle where all the city’s dining, nightlife, entertainment, and events are readily available to them. While the data seems to indicate that they are willing to spend significant amounts of money for this privilege, they are looking to achieve it at the lowest price possible.

Studio apartments compliment these desires perfectly, allowing young DC residents to enjoy the best of both worlds. By sacrificing space, which for some is a minor concession, they can balance the budget while still being active participants in the community and enjoying the stylish, affordable, and convenient living in the heart of DC. 

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