Mike Surbey and Kaitlyn Bernardin love the low-maintenance, minimalist lifestyle provided by their small, Beltline condo. Wil Andruschak / For CREB®Now

Less is more

The benefits of small-space living

When software developer Mike Surbey and occupational therapist Kaitlyn Bernardin got married earlier this month, they were already ensconced in a 498-square-foot, one-bedroom condo just off popular 17th Avenue S.W.

The young couple — he’s 32 and she’s 29 — along with their cat, love their open-concept, efficient space in Grosvenor’s Smith project in the Beltline. The smaller living space is the perfect fit for their lifestyle.

“We don’t accumulate a lot of stuff and it is really easy to clean,” said Bernardin.

The “junior,” one-bedroom unit was originally purchased by Surbey, who was used to small-space living, as a bachelor home during the pre-construction stage of the 127-unit Smith building – where floor plans started at 449 square feet. It just so happened that by move-in day last December, one buyer had become two.

Surbey loves the home’s efficiency – every space is useable space – and says after almost a year of living there, he would only add about 20 square feet for an extra closet.

As for Bernardin, who moved from a 960-square-foot apartment, her new home feels more spacious – particularly in the kitchen – because of the open design.

Grosvenor was so successful selling smaller units in Smith to the 25-35 Millennial age group that the company’s next Calgary condo project will have predominantly smaller units, says Robert Duteau, senior vice-president of development with Grosvenor.

A junior, one-bedroom suite in Grosvenor’s Smith condo project in the Beltline.
Courtesy Grosvenor

That project, located at 1520 4th Street S.W., will have 280 apartment condos in the first of two buildings, with many units sized at 460 to 550 square feet.

While affordability is key – Smith’s small condos started at $230,000 – and so is efficient, bright design, Duteau says small-space living is also “a real shift, primarily with Millennials who want to live more cleanly with fewer possessions.”

While Smith has several building amenities, including rentable party space, much of its appeal comes from its “trendy, cool” neighbourhood, and quick access to downtown workplaces.

For Surbey and Bernardin, that means walking to work takes less than 10 minutes. It also means that parks, pathways and the river, as well as everything from bars and restaurants to yoga studios, are right outside their door.

Fred Serrafero, vice-president of development and construction with FRAM Building Group – the developer behind First and Verve, two East Village condo projects featuring smaller units – also says affordability is critical, but that “small” fits the lifestyle of Millennials who often use their condo primarily as a place to sleep.

“We don’t accumulate a lot of stuff and it is really easy to clean.” – Kaitlyn Bernardin, Beltline resident

“This is a generation very different from past generations,” he said. “They are very conscious of their money, well educated, working, and have saved money by living at home and don’t want to spend it on large spaces. They go to work, to the gym, they meet friends for dinner, and go back home at 11 p.m.”

Serrafero says condo designs must fit the needs of these younger buyers and include shared spaces, such as rooftop terraces and party rooms, for entertaining. Most importantly, these condos need to be located within a neighbourhood that can become the buyer’s extended living room and dining room.

“What is outside nearby may be the most important thing,” said Serrafero. “This generation doesn’t go to the suburbs. Many don’t even own cars, so they don’t need garages, and they want someone else to cut the grass.”

FRAM+Slokker will also include an increased number of smaller units in its next East Village project – Vibe – with average sizes of 650-700 square feet compared to 750 square feet in First.

Andrea Oh, 42, a senior business analyst for a management consulting firm, will move into her 420-square-foot Verve studio, with an 85-square-foot terrace, next year.

Travelling constantly for work, she spends a great deal of time in hotels, and wanted a home conducive to her busy lifestyle.

As a former professional athlete, Oh spent time living in Europe where small spaces are the norm.

“Small space is home for me,” she said. “The Verve units are designed in a European, New-York kind of style that is thoughtful about functional spaces.”

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