Cramped Quarantine

What Is It Like to Live in an aPodment During Covid-19?

Micro-studio life is even more constricted than usual during a pandemic.

By Benjamin Cassidy May 22, 2020

Michelle Pedersen has stuck it out inside an aPodment longer than many. In 2018, the Alaska native needed to land an apartment in less than three weeks after accepting a job at Seattle Children’s as a team coordinator. She quickly found a studio in the University District that offered little up-front financial commitment—but very little space. Her roughly 200-square-foot unit lacks a conventional oven or enough room for a bed befitting an adult (she sleeps on a twin). And don’t ask about a closet. “My closet is basically my room,” she says.

Which is now her office, too. Since mid-March, Pedersen has been working out of her miniature apartment following the local outbreak of the novel coronavirus, enduring more time confined to her aPodment than she ever could have imagined when she signed her lease. “Staring at my four walls every day for the last couple months is different,” she quips.

She's not alone in feeling that way. Just as Covid-19 has forced couples to spend more afternoons together than ever before (pass the mouse, honey!), quarantine has required renters and owners to come face-to-face with their housing decisions. It’s not a comfortable arrangement for many in Seattle, a city with enough tiny units to make New York City side-eye and plenty of newcomers to justify impulsive lease signings, but it may be particularly irritating for those who have opted to rest their heads in micro-studios.

While these glorified adult dorm rooms have arrived in a variety of forms over the past decade, Calhoun Properties’ aPodments have received much of the attention locally, popping up in neighborhoods around the city after meeting some strong early resistance. The company promotes these units as short-term options within buildings that feature a variety of “amenities”—communal kitchens, roof decks. These perks sound appealing until, you know, a pandemic strikes. Swapping pans by the stove is a social distancing no-no.

The communal aspect of aPodment living is another part of what drew Pedersen to Palermo (Calhoun names its aPodment buildings after Italian cities, for some reason). She looked forward to using the building’s shared kitchens, especially. But these days, she has to wipe down everything she uses with disinfectant if she needs to cook something beyond the realm of her apartment’s countertop steam oven. She doesn’t see many others in the kitchen or on the roof deck, where she’ll go for fresh air sometimes.

Pedersen doesn’t harbor renter’s remorse—in many respects, she’s perfectly content with her constricted surroundings—but she does think about finding a larger space on the regular now. (She wants a pet.) She had begun browsing for homes just before the Stay Home order went into effect. Virtual walk-throughs aren’t cutting it, though. “You don't really get to see what a place looks like by just having someone show you pictures.”

More than a few people in her building would probably echo that sentiment right about now.

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