Environment | Sustainability | Ecotrope

Downsizing To A Micro-Loft: From 1,200 to 300 Square Feet

Ecotrope | May 7, 2013 2:46 p.m. | Updated: May 8, 2013 2:17 p.m.

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Walk into Gary and Michelle Hogue’s downtown Portland micro-loft, and you’re immediately standing in the kitchen, living room and bedroom. It’s like a studio apartment, only smaller.

At 288 square feet, the place is less than a quarter the size of their last apartment in the same neighborhood.

The Hogues liquidated most of their belongings leading up to the big move in February: The couch, La-Z-Boy, bed, extra clothes, shoes, and kitchen appliances.

“We just got rid of everything,” said Michelle Hogue, who has her own hair-styling business. “We went through all our stuff little by little. We sold things on Craigslist and in an apartment sale. The people in the apartments across the hall came and bought our stuff.”

The new buildings will have rooms even smaller than this 300 square foot "micro-loft."

The new buildings will have rooms even smaller than this 300 square foot "micro-loft."

They made a dozen trips to Goodwill to donate other things that wouldn’t fit into the new space, and they bought ottomans to replace their bigger chairs and couches.

“It was hard because all our comfort went out the window,” Michelle said. “I’m kind of getting used to it, but there’s no backs on our chairs to lean against.”

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They bought a bed that folds up into a couch, built a closet to organize their linens and clothes, and hung curtains to separate their bedroom from the rest of the apartment.

The Hogues had decided they wanted to downsize mostly to save money, but they thought they’d have to move to Milwaukie to find the right place. Then they discovered micro-lofts.

“We’re living three blocks from where we were living,” said Gary Hogue, who works as an independent animator. “And we’re saving about $500 a month.”

The Hogues pay $895 a month for rent, utilities and Internet at their new 288-square-foot microloft in Portland.

The Hogues pay $895 a month for rent, utilities and Internet at their new 288-square-foot microloft in Portland.

Micro-lofts in Vancouver, B.C., have been dubbed “shrinking condos” and “luxury shantytowns for hipsters.

They’ve been done up with “murphy everything” – tables that fold out from fold-up beds – and they’ve been dressed down, with microwaves replacing ovens.

The Hogues got rid of all their baking gear and have found a way to make three-minute kale chips in their microwave.

“We’ve had to learn some new ways to eat, but it’s been pretty cool becaue we’ve figured it out,” he said. “We’ve learned how to prepare vegetables tons of different ways in the microwave.”

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The owners of the Everett Micro-Lofts, Rudy Munzel and Gary Owca, scooped up the vacant Everett Hotel at NW Everett and Broadway a few years ago despite the fact that rain flowed right through the roof.

They turned the old hotel rooms into 18 rental units that still have many features of the 1914 building. It’s not LEED certified, said Munzel. But it’s pretty sustainable.

“We took every piece of wood, every piece of trim. We took it down, and we saved it,” he said. “We pulled all the nails and we reused all of it. We reused the old closets and the old medicine cabinets.”

Munzel and Owca are targeting a demographic they say is underserved and growing: People with $35,000-$40,000 incomes who want to live downtown.

“They want to be where the action is,” said Munzel. “They believe in sustainability. They want to work, live, shop right downtown, and how is that possible with the cost of everything going up? The only answer, historically, is to make smaller units so they’re more affordable.”

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Gary Hogue said eventually he and his wife would like to buy a place, and he’s learned that he’s willing to trade space for the downtown location.

“We like being in the city. We definitely decided that,” he said. “Being in this small a space helped me realize I wouldn’t mind a smaller condo at all.”

Michelle Hogue said the micro-loft is small enough that it’s easy to keep clean and fun to show off. But it’s still big enough for her dog to have places to sit, sleep and play.

“I sometimes miss having a couch and being able to kick my feet up, but I like that we get outside a lot. We’re one block from the Park Blocks and bars and everything,” she said. “I think we’ll buy some different chairs with backs and then we’ll be fine.”

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