The Next Small Thing

A room in NYC's Pod Hotel.Photo: Courtesy of the Pod Hotel

The Yotel chain—purveyors of tiny, chic hotel rooms inspired by Tokyo’s famous “Kapseru Hoteru” capsule lodgings—recently announced plans to open an outpost in Times Square. Inexpensive “Kapseru Hoteru” are the SROs of Japan—some capsule-hotel “rooms” are simply three-foot-high sleeping units stacked on top of one another. But the Yotel is a higher-end version, part of a larger city trend toward smaller accommodations.

Yotel Amenities
Large single bed, foldout desk and stool, private bathroom with shower, flat-screen TV, free wi-fi. “We use the language of first-class airline travel,” says Yotel founder Simon Woodroffe. The company’s three existing hotels are all near European airports—London’s Gatwick and Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schiphol.

Not Yet Turning Japanese
The Japanese capsule trend began with the 1972 opening of a Tokyo apartment building, Nakagin Capsule Tower, that catered to businessmen with 140 rooms the size of shipping containers (104 square feet). The first capsule hotel opened in 1979. Most are equipped with only a radio and a small TV that hangs down from the ceiling like the screens on buses and airplanes.

“In general in the industry there’s a movement toward more efficient rooms, and companies like Yotel are capitalizing on that.”—Alex Calderwood, co-owner of the Ace Hotel, which recently opened in a former SRO

A traditional hotel room at the Hilton New York in midtown is 320 square feet and rents for $309. But cool new hotels are going smaller:

The Standard : 245 square feet
(meatpacking district)

Yotel: 170 square feet
(planned, midtown)

The Ace: 140 square feet

The Pod: 70 square feet

The Jane: 50 square feet
(West Village)

Whitehouse: 24 square feet
(Bowery SRO turned hotel) $33.50

Capsule facts

Number of capsule hotels currently in Tokyo

21.5 square feet
Average size of Japanese capsule-hotel unit (cost: $38)

18 square feet
Size of smallest available Japanese unit

16 square feet
Size of an average casket

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The Next Small Thing