Is Less, More? The DC Studio Apartment Phenomenon

Why Young DC Residents are Thinking Smaller

On its surface, living in a studio apartment might seem unbearable. Especially for those living in a one or two-bedroom. I mean, how could you possibly be comfortable with less than 500 square feet of space?

And millennials are subject to more significant financial pressure with every passing year. After all, the stagnant wages we’re seeing today can’t compare to the ever-increasing cost of living in the city.

But somehow studio apartments continue to attract more and more young professionals to the city.It can be confusing. They would get more space for their dollar in suburban areas. So why are they still flocking to the city?

Well, studio apartments actually offer significant benefits that often 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.

modern studio

It’s no surprise that those seeking city life would be attracted to these charming, efficient, and relatively affordable units.

Studio apartments serve this demographic as an affordable entry point to city living.

Savings

The choice to live in a studio apartment is as much a financial decision as it is a lifestyle one.

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.

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

And it’s not just rent.

Many small-apartment dwellers state the lower cost of furnishing and maintaining their unit plays a significant role in their choice.

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. 

Another bonus for studio apartments is that they simplify your commute.

Many of the most popular developments are within walking distance of the metro. Not to mention they offer quick and easy access to the dining, nightlife, and entertainment young people are looking for.

As a result, apartment dwellers don’t have to deal with the expense and inconvenience of owning and maintaining a vehicle. Public transportation also alleviates the stress of trying to find parking in the city. And do we even need to mention the traffic?

So who can blame them? According to Inrix, 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. That’s a lot of traffic. And a big waste of time. This problem isn’t unique to DC either. Many other US cities deal with increasing traffic concerns.

Luckily though, DC has one of the best public transportation systems in the nation. 

It seems like a no-brainer to take advantage of the robust metro and bus system. It provides a better (and less expensive) experience for most commuters. You can’t say the same about most suburban communities. When we view all of this in the context of lifestyle, it becomes obvious.

Studio apartments provide young people with more time and money to enjoy everything that’s happening in the district. Who wouldn’t want that?

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 people, the drawbacks of a studio apartment are apparent. There’s not a lot of space! But this can actually be a blessing. There is increased interest in creating functional and stylish living spaces with as little room as possible. Just take a look at the tiny house movement!

For many, creating a cozy domicile with limited space is a rewarding challenge. It sparks the imagination and inspires creativity. And there is no shortage of information on studio apartment decorating and furnishing. In fact, there seems to be genuine enthusiasm for the subject.

studio apartments in DC

Additionally, furniture manufacturers are starting to offer products specially made for studio apartments.

One Cambridge-based company is even making smart furniture that transforms an entire space at the push of a button!

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.

Rent isn’t the only thing that costs less in a studio apartment. Utilities do, too! The smaller space typically means you use fewer lights and appliances. And you don’t need as much electricity to heat up or cool down your apartment. 

For a generation increasingly concerned about environmental impact, choosing to have a smaller footprint can be an attractive idea. Saving money and the environment? That’s a win-win, for sure.

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.

Ask anybody what their favorite part of living in a studio apartment is. Cleaning will likely come up. Though this is more of a time-saver than a money-saver, the reduced expenses on cleaning supplies is a net positive. And a smaller space often means less junk.

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

Of course, this can be a double-edged sword. With less space, you might not be able to fit everything that gives you enjoyment. However, people enamored with the studio lifestyle aim to spend the majority of their time outside enjoying the city anyway.

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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