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I will call it "my cell"
July 13, 2010 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of renting a room with no windows! Yes/No?

I am currently living in a palatial apartment, but I want to save money for projects and trips, pay down loans, have fun. So I found the cheapest room I could find.
- It's just down the street (less than a block - I can carry my furniture!) in this great neighbourhood
- It's $570/month less than where I live now
- It'd be for 1 year
- I'll be able to buy a great new camera!
- I am single and I'll have female roommates who will have friends!

Is there any reason why I shouldn't go for a room with no windows?
Is there anything you can suggest to make it more livable? Will plants improve the air?
posted by niccolo to Home & Garden (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It's likely not legally a bedroom because it lacks egress. How will you get out in case of a fire?
posted by vespabelle at 5:36 PM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


If there is a fire which blocks the entrance to your room, you will either die or be horribly burned.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:37 PM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I did this once for a few months, enough to know never to do it again. Safety issues aside, the psychological effect is something you can't predict until it hits you. Think 'seasonal affective disorder' with concrete instead of clouds.
posted by foobario at 5:42 PM on July 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


You'll have a new camera!
and a miserable room that you hate going home to.
Seriously, it is depressing to go home to a room that makes you dislike.
That and the whole burning alive in a fire thing.
posted by matt_od at 5:42 PM on July 13, 2010


I did this. I hated the room, but just didn't spend much time there. It got me out of the house, I worked really hard at my job, and socialized more.

How is the rest of the house? The roommates? Can you spend all of your time in the living room (and will you want to) and go to the room only to sleep?
posted by alternateuniverse at 5:45 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


No window would totally drive me insane/depress me. I wouldn't recommend it but maybe you won't be as affected as I would be. I LOVE natural light and I can't stand working in windowless rooms all day.
posted by decrescendo at 5:48 PM on July 13, 2010


Is there any reason why I shouldn't go for a room with no windows?

Well yes. The answer's in the question! No windows. The room will smell bad real quick. Plants will die (they need natural light and fresh air just like humans do). You won't be able to bring boyfriends / girlfriends back to your place. It may feel quite claustrophobic (what you can deal with for a few nights may not be something you can deal with for a year).

You're looking for somewhere cheaper than your current place - is there the possibility of a happy medium where you get a room somewhere else that is cheaper than your current place but has a window? It might take you a bit longer to save up for the things that you want, but you'll have a better quality of life while you do it...
posted by finding.perdita at 5:48 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do you have a computer? Does the building have other rooms? You'll be fine. Windows do not have this profound psychological importance that everybody seems to be giving them in this thread.
posted by tehloki at 5:49 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meh, I don't know. Aside from the whole dying horribly in a fire thing, I think it depends a lot on what you're into. During the winter here I stick those pink insulating foam boards up in all of my windows (because I'm cheap and it saves SO much on my heating bill). However, it's like living in a womb for six months because nearly all the natural light is blocked out and my whole apartment is bathed in a dim, pink glow. Doesn't bother me a bit. It's not like there isn't light available right outside whenever you want it.

What would bug me is not being able to open a window for breeze when it's warm out. And the dying horribly in a fire thing.

Just because some people like sunlight doesn't mean you have to, too.
posted by phunniemee at 5:49 PM on July 13, 2010


I once lived in a basement apartment that had no windows. It did, however, have doors at both ends, one end leading to a back door to the building, and the other leading to the furnace room. The furnace room did have windows, so by opening the door to the furnace room, and opening the windows in the furnace room, I could get some actual ventillation (during the winter there was a different kind of ventillation by way of the hot air duct). The back door to the building also had a screen door and so could be left open if I wanted to. So that was manageable. Whether you would have any similar indirect access to ventillation, I don't know. If you live in a room with no windows, it is essential to have good lighting. If the room is well lit, and ventillated, the lack of windows is not necessarily a problem. Sometimes it is nice to economize on rent.

When I did finally move out, it was not because of the lack of windows. Basements have other drawbacks, particularly a vulnerability to flooding. I don't know if the place you are considering is a basement, but if it is, lack of windows may not be your worst problem.
posted by grizzled at 5:50 PM on July 13, 2010


I actually kind of like funny no-window rooms, myself. But the fire/legality thing is a sticker.
posted by the jam at 5:50 PM on July 13, 2010


I am single and I'll have female roommates who will have friends!

The overall deal with the above plus an extra ~$7000 of disposable income during the next year sounds like it's worth the risk of being horribly burned.

As for improving livability how about a $7000 wall-mounted flatscreen HDTV that constantly displays a trompe-l'œil false window scene. Or a mirror.

Note however I'm saying this as someone who maintains a schedule close to "third shift" most of the time and I'm unused to seeing natural light most of the time, anyways, so in the same situation I wouldn't miss it.
posted by XMLicious at 5:51 PM on July 13, 2010


Great, you'll be able to take nice pictures of concrete blocks.
posted by thorny at 5:51 PM on July 13, 2010


If you have ever had to deal with even minor depression, I'd say NO to this one.

If you do decide to live here, please make sure you spend at least a few minutes outside in the sun every day.
posted by lover at 5:52 PM on July 13, 2010


There are other rooms that are $500 cheaper than your palatial apartment, but with windows.
posted by lover at 5:54 PM on July 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Paint a window on the wall with a redolent outdoor scene, maybe one of Hokusai's views of mount Fuji or a glittery river, and set up a desk in the room with, yes, plants, and a space for you to work. Add lamps that give atmosphere. A rug. A fan or way to circulate the air. Make it your cozy space, like Bilbo Baggins' house.

There's a lot to be said for money in the bank. If you could save $5,000 this year, I think it would be worth it.

[Sleep with your door open in case of (unlikely) house fires].
posted by turtlewithoutashell at 5:56 PM on July 13, 2010


Something that occurs to me relative to both house plants and possibly psychological effects is that LED grow lights for growing plants indoors are much cheaper now than grow lights were in past decades.
posted by XMLicious at 5:58 PM on July 13, 2010


My bedroom has a single small window that I keep blacked out with heavy curtains because I work nights and sleep during the day. This does not differ significantly in effect from not having a window at all. I have somehow managed to avoid pining away to nothing over the past two years.

If you'll be able to spend time in the rest of the place, and not just be locked in your room all the time, I don't see why the lack of a window should automatically be a huge problem.
posted by titus n. owl at 6:03 PM on July 13, 2010


It will get you out of the house, which is a plus. You'll mostly only regret it if you have sex with someone in this room. (I speak from windowless room sex experience!) Have you ever been in a gay bathhouse? That's what your room will smell like basically: like a pile of human naughty bits on a hot and humid night.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:04 PM on July 13, 2010


I have taped up my bedroom windows (hate the light) but I would be a little wary of this. Are you living in a place that gets hot in the summer? If so, does the building have central air? You can get free standing air conditioners but they have to be hooked up to a window somewhere, which I guess would mean you'd have to sleep with your door open...

And yeah, like everyone else said it's probably somewhat of an illegal fire hazard.
posted by phoenixy at 6:08 PM on July 13, 2010


The only sticking point for me would be the fire thing. I recently went on a cruise and stayed in a windowless room... One wall was entirely covered in a mirror which made the room seem a lot larger. Another alternative to sort of camouflage the windowlessness of the room would be to put a curtain up on one wall (light-colored, so you're not making the room seem smaller).
posted by amro at 6:12 PM on July 13, 2010


Real bedrooms are never built without windows because doing so is illegal. So unless you're renting in a basement (which is also probably illegal if it lacks a window big enough to fit through), what you're getting is either a closet, literally, or an illegal conversion with jerry-built walls that will become a confusing maze of smoke, fire, and death for you and your rescuers in case a fire breaks out. If you take this "room," I hope the camera you buy with the money you save is fireproof.

On the other hand, my future wife once spent a summer living in a fully furnished basement room with no windows, and I spent a lot of time there. It was kind of cozy, actually. I love sleeping in total darkness. The room had two ways out, though. That was important to us.
posted by hhc5 at 6:17 PM on July 13, 2010


I wouldn't personally ever live in a sun-free place because of a predisposition to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also, the lack of secondary egress is a deal breaker.

HOWEVER, I do have a good friend whose entire space is windowless. Surprisingly nice to visit there, and more importantly: she loves it. It's a studio apt, so there's not even a common space to retreat to for fresh air and light. That's what the outside is for. Extraordinarily quiet/private despite being on a very loud street. Heat, fan, and A/C to keep temp nice. No weird odors from inside the apt or wafting in from neighbors. Easy to clean since dust is essentially a non-issue. Cheap living.

If you're enthusiastic about living there, and would be even if the savings were minor and there were no prospect of a camera, then go for it! But if you're motivated primarily by the things/experiences you can buy with the extra money, be assured that there's no goodie so wonderful that it can make up for lack of sunlight and feeling like you've trapped yourself for a year inside a tomb or bunker. You've got to be enthusiastic about the space in its own right.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:18 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


How hot do summers get there? Does this place have central air? If it doesn't, you might not even want to use the room for sleeping.

Windows do have a profound psychological importance for me, so I wouldn't do it. I'd get real depressed real fast, and I'd constantly oversleep from of the lack of morning light. But some people like rooms to be dark, and you can always pretend you live in a cave or a secret room or something.

There's all sorts of stuff between a giant apartment and the cheapest closet you can find. If you found a neat place that was only $200 less than you're paying now, you'd still notice that difference.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:19 PM on July 13, 2010


Thanks for the great comments. I did want to take it, but the smell issue really brought the feeling of claustrophobia with it. I probably won't take the room, but I will consider it overnight. It is in a light and breezy apartment.

I think I could have probably done a lot to negate the fire hazard (having my own extinguisher, making sure the fire alarms work).

But you're right - guests would hate it.
posted by niccolo at 6:19 PM on July 13, 2010


What if there were fire sprinklers in every room? I realize there probably aren't, but it wouldn't be such a fire hazard if that happens to be the case, right?
posted by amro at 6:20 PM on July 13, 2010


Personally, I have a spare room in my "rail road" apartment that was almost constantly occupied by a roommate over the past 7 years. (currently it's my "guest room"/walk in closet).

the layout of the apt matters, as well as how big the actual room is. If it's a rather big room (mine can fit a queensized bed + dresser+desk comfortably), the lack of windows won't matter. by opening up the doors/curtains on either side of the room, I basically have a giant loft with excellent ventilation. (granted, I've lived primarily with same sex friends who I carefully screened for batshit-insanity during the rental process, and so we usually kept everything open during the day, only shutting ourselves off at night)

additionally, you can make it very very cosy and cavelike, perfect for spending a winter evening in a comfy chair with warm cosy lighting.

I charge way more than 500 a month, but I also have an insanely good location, and the room it self is pretty large. If you're going for an 8x10 room with no windows, it will get uncomfortable very, very quickly. Take into account the rest of the apartment, how happy is the roommate with you chilling out in the living room all the time, and retreating only for sleep?

The fire hazard thing is surprisingly not that bad a deal. and the smelliness can easily be fixed with a fan.


good luck.
posted by larthegreat at 6:32 PM on July 13, 2010


I am currently in a bedroom with no windows. My boyfriend hates it; he wishes he could see/hear/smell the rain when it does rain, among other things. Me? I don't mind this one bit. But then, I don't suffer from SAD or anything like it; maybe it's even the opposite. I dislike sun, as strange as that sounds!

Our room does have ventilation, though, so there's not a lot of issues with air quality or odors. You should definitely consider whether the room gets enough ventilation.
posted by asciident at 6:35 PM on July 13, 2010


"I think I could have probably done a lot to negate the fire hazard (having my own extinguisher, making sure the fire alarms work)."

It's easy enough to talk about fire as an abstract concern. So let's get some visual aid. Picture this house fire starting in the room outside your bedroom. How much good do you think your fire extinguisher will do? In less than 30 seconds, it's completely impassable. If you're asleep when it happens, is 30 seconds enough time for an alarm in another room to wake you up, and for you to run outside through the flames?

I'll grant you the fact that a fire happening is extremely unlikely. But if it does, are the consequences worth it? Or are you going to panic every time you hear a beeping noise outside your new bedroom now? I know I would.

(Sorry, I have EMTs and Firefighters as friends and family.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:39 PM on July 13, 2010


I turned it down. I just sent the email.

There were great benefits to living there. But it wouldn't really be living. It would be trying to manage something that humans are not supposed to put up with.

I am convinced, with a month and a half to go, that I will find somewhere, maybe not as amazingly cheap, but that is livable. A year is a long time.
posted by niccolo at 6:55 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot would depend on some factors you haven't mentioned. Main one is ventilation. Is there a grill on the wall blowing outside air inside? Is this airflow constant? Even better are there maybe two grills, one for fresh air and another for exhaust? Does this ventillation make noise? Is it also the heat/AC or does this room come with a radiator? Can you control the temperature/airflow? Or are we talking real old fashioned maybe, with only a transom over your door? And what's just outside of it -- you mention room-mates. Is there like a living room and kitchen you'd all be hanging out in? And the bathroom, what's that setup.
posted by Rash at 7:25 PM on July 13, 2010


Just arriving now, but you made the right decision.
posted by Dasein at 7:42 PM on July 13, 2010


I did this. I will never do it again. It came at a bad time in my life, too. Imagine being bummed out after a long day of work and retreating to your... dark, dank coat closet of a refuge.
posted by GilloD at 8:53 PM on July 13, 2010


Here in New York, it's illegal to have a bedroom that doesn't have a window. I would take this as good advice and not rent a room like that.
posted by gchucky at 9:00 PM on July 13, 2010


It's too late to reply but I just wanna chime in to say that I do this !

I stay in a... for lack of a better word... cave, a half-room-sized cave with 3 windowless walls with one end open to a corridor, with no door. I'm not sure what the architects were thinking when they created this (putting a single bed into it occupies about 70% of the floor space of the cave). I work long hours so I'm not home much: definitely not in my room anytime there's daylight anyway, so windows would do nothing for me.

It's perfectly fine for sleeping. I only go into the cave to sleep: and that happens in mere minutes after my head hits the pillow. The times I've lived in a larger room with more privacy and windows seemed like a waste: paying good money for something I don't even use bothered me a great deal more. It's not that I can't afford it: it's more that I abhor waste.
posted by xdvesper at 12:06 AM on July 14, 2010


nthing this is a bad idea.
posted by xammerboy at 7:15 AM on July 14, 2010


Here in New York, it's illegal to have a bedroom that doesn't have a window.

But doesn't a transom qualify? Check out the Tenement Museum -- maybe the laws been changed since then, but it has interior apartments which have windows, but not to the outside, only onto the public hallways. But that's only the oldest apartments on the top floor.
posted by Rash at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2010


Tenements like that are the reasons for the laws that exist now. Read about Jacob Riis and the reforms he catalyzed.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:37 PM on July 14, 2010


If you decide to go with this, you should consider the following hacks:

1. F.lux, a computer program which automatically adjusts your screen color based on the time of day
2. A full spectrum lamp - I can't recommend these enough, they really do feel like actual sunlight.
3. Window-type drapes and mirrors on the walls to give the appearance of space
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2010


In the end I found a really nice room in a really nice apartment. It has a great view of Mont Royal which, I feel is better than burning to death in a Christmas tree fire, as was pointed out upthread. Thank you all. I really appreciate this outcome.
posted by niccolo at 8:39 PM on August 14, 2010


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