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The Rise of the Micro-Hotel

The new trend in simple living is all about making do in teeny, tiny homes and miniature apartments. Now the hospitality industry is jumping on the bandwagon. Here we break down the who/what/when/where/why of the micro-hotel push.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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Around the world, skyrocketing real estate prices and increasingly limited urban sprawl are altering hotel development as we know it. Hot on the heels of European and Japanese cities, hubs in the US are embracing space-efficiency and jumping on the micro-hotel trend. As Jetsetters, the idea of shrinking accommodations sounds like our worst nightmare come true, but what we’re seeing is far from the claustrophobic capsule concept.

How Small is Small?

The typical micro-hotel guestroom ranges from 100 to 160 square feet (about the size of a small master bathroom or modest walk-in closet) and is all about super simplistic, yet design-driven high-end finishes. You can expect bunk beds, cubby holes, futons, built-in shelves and drawers, and tight, but fully functional bathrooms (Toilet? – check. Shower? – check. Bidet? – Sorry, but definitely not). Diminishing room sizes be damned – hoteliers are finding that guests are willing to put up with cozier rooms in exchange for the promise of cool amenities (anti-jetlag showers and bespoke toiletries), high tech gadgets (ambient lighting controls, techno-walls, and smartphone room keys) and shared recreational spaces (meet us for a selfie in the photo booth elevator?)

Micro-Hotels Have Their Eyes on You (Millennials)

So far, the micro-hotel has gained a following with millennials, business and design-conscious travelers – people looking for affordable, yet stylish digs (the typical room runs from $120 to $300 USD at the priciest). Boutiques, chains, luxury and budget properties all want in and are intent on fitting more rooms in their buildings (and money in their pockets) while edging out cheaper rental competitors like Airbnb. So who’s dominating the scene?

The Who’s Who of the Micro-Squad

Pod has two outposts in NYC – Pod 39 and Pod 51– both close to the MET, MoMA and Central Park. The look is refreshingly sparse but bright, with mod touches and a deconstructed IKEA-ish feel; rooms come with LCD TVs, climate control, a media center or iPod dock, and free WiFi. Shared common rooms include a playroom and bar with ping pong and a mixologist on-hand, and the roof deck with a bird’s eye view of Midtown. What we love most? Pod 39’s restaurant, Salvation Taco – a collaboration taqueria cantina from Michelin starred chef April Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman – that leaves us asking how many Mexican chocolate churros are too many? (Trick question – you can never have too many.)

Yotel’s main location is in Midtown NYC but additional outposts can be found in major European airports (London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Amsterdam Schiphol). All white everything is the theme in NYC, where guests can choose from minimalist Queen, Single Bunk, Double Bunk or King rooms, as well as Suites (plus there are premium options with better views, terraces and hot tubs). But really, Yotel is all about the perks. We’re talking a rooftop film club that shows cult classics (admission also covers a bag of popcorn and a mini Moet & Chandon), bikes that are available for rent, and a chic covered/heated terrace for late-night hang out sessions high above Hell’s Kitchen. It’s also got the Green Fig restaurant, where trees shoot up from the tables and the menu serves up dishes from the North African-Maghreb region (we love the roasted amish chicken with Tunisian-style smashed potatoes).

citizenM originated in Amsterdam, in 2008 – and has since extended to Glasgow, London, NYC, Paris and Rotterdam. The guestrooms manage to squeeze in XL king-sized beds, wall-to-wall windows, WiFi, TVs with HBO (scratch that Game of Thrones itch), anti-jet lag rain showers, and bedside ‘mood pads’ (straight out of the Joaquin Phoenix movie Her ). The vibe is homey and intimate, but incredibly stylish (you’ll feel like you’re staying at a friend’s ridiculously sweet apartment). There are sky-high bookshelves filled with eclectic knickknacks, comfy but slick leather couches, killer morning coffee (none of that instant crap) and a young, cool staff on hand to point you to the best local bars and restaurants.

Marriott’s foray into the micro-hotel trend comes in the form of Moxy. The highlights? Chic social spaces – called "living rooms" – in the same vein as your hip neighborhood cafe/coffeeshop (think contemporary lighting fixtures and communal wooden tables), stylishly spare guestrooms with platform beds, and industrial touches running throughout. In the lobby at Moxy Milan, you’ll find a projection wall – dubbed The Guestbook – that displays photos and videos from guests’ Instagram feed (how’s that for millennial?). Despite the brand’s boutique feel, they’re already in Milan, Tempe, New Orleans, Frankfurt and Munich, and will be breaking ground in 35 new locations over the next two years including NYC, San Fran, Seattle, and Chicago.

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