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Marvellous micro mansions: Peter Sherwood on modern apartments

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Modern apartments really are to die for, writes Peter Sherwood. After trudging up 150 stairs you won’t feel like leaving the same day – until you spend 10 minutes inside and experience an overwhelming urge to be anywhere else.

There’s a conspiracy afoot. In fact, two. Both aimed at gullible, tech-savvy, knowit-all, social-media crazed millennials. First, they bought into the farce called the gig economy, a revolutionary 21st century employment plan offering infinite free time and more flexibility than a hot yoga class. The only thing they found missing was enough money to pay the rent. Which drags on to conspiracy number two, accommodation to die for, sold on the premise of a latte-sipping lifestyle in the city centre.

It’s the clever work of an industry that down the years has stuck it to generations of gullible fools. Property developers sell, not a place to live, but a fantasy. The rest is just so many square feet of concrete and a mortgage that requires working until you’re 97, just to pay the deposit. Hip designers and architects leap aboard to present cutting-edge accommodation in the form of super-cool micro apartments; old buildings made new with the living space of a beehive and as much sting in the price.

Wedged into your fashionable abode with enough room to lie down if you close the door, you get the convenience of having the kitchen, shower and toilet just inches from your pillow. But with the elegant sophistication of trendy bars and coffee shops a dozen floors below.

We’re talking about a walk-up, naturally, sold on the promise of daily fitness for free. Unable to bear the thought of more than one perpendicular hike each day, you sit and contemplate the claustrophobia of what is really a coffin in the sky, but light years from heaven. You realise, your apartment’s a miniature mausoleum when you understand you’d be better off dead.

Millions are convinced that tiny is tremendous and renovating romantic, that squeezing their brief stay on the planet into an area the size of a car-parking space is avant-garde. It didn’t use to be.

What we used to term ‘unliveable’ is now ‘ergonomically spectacular and award winning.’ I don’t care how many inventive ways you fold a moveable interior to make a kitchen and bed disappear or how many mirrors you install to ‘stretch out the space,’ 100 square feet is pretty much a prison cell. Then there’s the oh-so-smart raised floor to create storage space and a wine cellar. All that this achieves is a higher floor, making it more likely you’ll smash your scone on the torturously low ceiling.

Taking a shower is probably not all that desirable if you’re fussy about washing with one foot in the toilet bowl. Best of all you can tell your friends you live in a cool part of town. What the hell. No one is ever likely to visit, after plodding up to their own marvellous micro mansions, they’ll sit tight… in a pool of sweat.

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 20 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.


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