would you rent an apartment with a windowless living room?
August 23, 2017 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of doing a conversion on a 1BR apartment that I currently rent out. The neighborhood is full of students and most of them can't afford to rent a 1BR because they like to live with a roommate to split the rent. The apartment I have has an enormous living room that is 25 x 17 feet that could be split in half such that the front half that has the windows could be another bedroom. That would leave the living room in the interior without any windows (although it does connect to the kitchen, which has a small window on the side). What do people think about the windowless living room? I've seen it on many apartments in Manhattan. Would it make the apartment less desirable for having a dark room or more desirable (because two people could split the rent)?
posted by cmp4Meta to Home & Garden (28 answers total)
I would rather have a no-window bedroom than a no-window living room, personally.
posted by corb at 7:07 PM on August 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

Please check your local statutes; windowless bedrooms are illegal in many places.
posted by lalex at 7:08 PM on August 23, 2017 [41 favorites]

I lived in a similar set up with a roommate and my reaction to your question was, "oh yeah...I guess that living room was kind of dark, now that I think about it." So I'm going to go with more desirable...if you price it less than comparable 2 bedroom apartments in the area.
posted by eeek at 7:08 PM on August 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

A windowless room is great for a home theater setup
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:12 PM on August 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you put up a half-wall or something with windows up top for the front room, you could capture some of the light for the living room. I don't see the window-free living space as an issue for an otherwise nice apartment.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:13 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, living in NYC I've been to a hundred apartments like this, mostly inhabited by students or folks a couple years post-college. It wasn't a big deal at all. For folks looking for long-term rentals I think it'd be more of a turnoff, but for transitional housing where cost is the most important thing it's fine.

In NYC these are often advertised as "1BR convertible to 2BR" and the tenants are responsible for the cost, installation, and removal of pressurized walls. I don't know if that's a thing in your area, or if your market means tenants will bear that cost, but it's a thought.
posted by lalex at 7:16 PM on August 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

In Boston they are advertised as a "1 BR Split" - meaning that it's technically a one-bedroom, but you could have a roommate and turn the living room into a bedroom if you wanted to. It does depend on where you are -- but where I live now in Seattle, you legally can't call it a bedroom if it doesn't have an egress and a closet. I'm not sure if you can legally call it a 1 BR Split or legally rent it to someone who would use it as a bedroom if there is no window either, as posters above mention.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:36 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is there anything above the apartment? Maybe you could put in a solar tube. That's what we did when we closed off a window to one of the bathrooms, and honestly it's probably the brightest room in the house.
posted by vignettist at 7:42 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

In Stockholm it's common to split one large bedroom into two bedrooms, with a window in the common wall for borrowed light. I did stay in an Airbnb place like this in Manhattan for 2 nights and I hated it but I'm not your target market. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 8:20 PM on August 23, 2017

I rented a place like this, and I hated it. I loved the big, airy, beautiful bedroom but even the memories of the living room give me the willies. It was claustrophobic and awful and we might have rented there longer but I needed to get out.

I vote don't do it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:37 PM on August 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

You could do it like a sun room, and have double glass doors between the two rooms. That would also make it more useful for a couple that wants a second living space (study, guestroom or dining room), whilst still having the option to open it right up into one room.
posted by kjs4 at 8:53 PM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

windowless bedrooms are illegal in many places

Yep, and New York is one of them.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 9:01 PM on August 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

My daughter is currently living in just such an apartment (2Br convertible to 3) in Murray Hill. The roommate with the bedroom that has the removable wall that does not go up to the top, pays a little less than the other girls. I have hung out in the living room with not windows. It was mostly at night, so I did not notice a thing. I know they do not care. They use the living room to watch tv and to pregame before going out. Go for it. (Check local codes.)
posted by AugustWest at 9:01 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I lived in a place like this once--the divider went to the ceiling (more grown-up-looking, for sure), but the door was glass (covered with a curtain) to let some light into the living room. The bedroom itself was tiny but I guess the price was right for the woman who rented it (she paid roughly half what I paid for a full bedroom).
posted by praemunire at 9:41 PM on August 23, 2017

Around here in basement country this is like every 2br basement suite ever made.
posted by Mitheral at 10:44 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Window-less bedrooms aren't allowed by law where I live, so the way they get around it here is they leave an open entry instead of an actual door to the bedroom and they call it a studio or an efficiency, even though there is technically a separate bedroom space. I would rather have a window-less bedroom than a window-less living room. Unless I didn't have air conditioning -- then I'd want the window for when it gets hot so I could put a fan in it while I sleep.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:57 PM on August 23, 2017

Stayed in a similar setup. Bedroom got the windows, while living room got a bit of natural light as the dry walls had windows at the top that let some light through. On the whole it was fine, given that we paid a cheaper rent (equivalent to 1 BR split between two people). Tenants responsible for putting up pressurised walls and taking them down.
posted by moiraine at 11:50 PM on August 23, 2017

Also, people here commenting should note that while windowless bedrooms are illegal, windowless living rooms aren't. Given a limited budget in one of the most expensive housing areas in the world, I would rather put up with windowless living room than do a one++ hour commute on a packed train.
posted by moiraine at 11:53 PM on August 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

Deaf pyrophobe: I'd rate my chances of getting out of a property alive via a bedroom window rather than a living room one if a fire broke out overnight. These laws (in some states) are there for a reason.

There's so much you can do to a living room (mirrors, lighting, etc) to make the lack of a window a minor issue.
posted by humph at 2:29 AM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I lived in a (London) flat with a windowless living room for three years. It had the sort of temporary wall that lalex linked - it could have been a two bed flat with a huuuuge living room, or a three bed flat with a modest kitchen/living room and a modest third bedroom.

Honestly, it was fine, but I wouldn't have taken the loss of window if it hadn't been traded off by other things on our wishlist (ie right on top of amazing transport links, safe area, two bathrooms etc). So check whether your place has enough other benefits to still make it attractive to prospective tenants.

One thing our landlord had done to mitigate the lack of light was to build in a lightbox above the sink, so there was a window-like structure in the living room; and to install really nice set of lights and underlights which were individually controlled, so the space could still be cosy.
posted by citands at 9:58 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I live in a warehouse loft; I believe that legally we have 0 bedrooms because none of the living space has real windows. (There are skylights. Some of them can be opened. None of them are reach-able from the inside without a ladder.) We have 5 people living in 4 bedroom-ish spaces, some of which we've created ourselves with bookshelf separators. Other units in the building have varying numbers of people and various arrangements of space. I've come to believe there is no "normal" setup for people, rooms, beds, lighting, and storage space.

Check local laws for what you can call a "bedroom," be honest with potential renters about the layout and lighting, and look for someone who seems like they'd enjoy living that way rather than someone who likes the location but is obviously gritting their teeth over the possibility of a dark living room.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:07 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

One of the reasons windowless bedrooms are illegal in many places is because it's important to provide bedroom occupants with a means of egress, and emergency personnel with a means of entrance, in case of fire or other problem.

I have personal experience with windowless bedrooms being dangerous so I'm probably a little sensitive about this topic, but regardless of your local statutes I would consider whether you want to have windowless bedrooms on your mind or conscience.
posted by lalex at 10:21 AM on August 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Put up a wall that has transom windows all along the top and then use a sliding barn door that is translucent. The right roommate might leave the door open sometimes to let light through. You could even make the entire wall out of plexiglass or something and just give them curtains on the other side (for privacy).

You could also build a wall out of bookcases, with reinforcements and a few cables to connect them to the ceiling and leave the top open. Then add a curtain or a sliding bookcase door (think Pax). This might count as furniture and keep you out of any bylaw problems.

Put a big mirror on the wall to catch light from the kitchen. Add extra lighting in the living room.

Look at whether you could let light through in any other way. If you own or the landlord is cool with it, you could put transom windows in other walls.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:16 AM on August 24, 2017

Another option with pressurized walls would be French doors (with curtains for privacy).
posted by lalex at 11:23 AM on August 24, 2017

The requirements for what is and is not a bedroom are covered in the International Residential Code - R303 to R310. Local jurisdictions adopt that code which gives it the force of law. It is fairly universally adopted, I'd be very surprised to find a jurisdiction using something else. The local gov't is free to make amendments to change the code on a local basis, but I don't think the requirements in R303 to R310 would be a subject of amendments since it deals with Life Safety.
Here is an explanation of Section 310 from a local jurisdiction explaining window requirements. Unless a local gov't has amended the Code, this is what is required.
posted by rudd135 at 12:46 PM on August 24, 2017

I don't understand why so many people are commenting on windowless bedrooms, when the question is very specifically asking about a windowless living room? Yes, the rules on bedrooms tend to be much stricter, but also that's not what's being asked! The other thing to consider is that legally I believe bedrooms must also have a closet -- so this is something to consider in terms of whether the set-up would work well and also where to place the wall.

Anyway, I do think there are students and recent grads who would be perfectly fine with a dim living room. We actually currently technically DO have a window in our living room, but almost always keep the blinds close because the window opens to a busy area and we don't want people peering in. Make sure there's good lighting otherwise and I think people will be fine with it. I think you might need to price it somewhere between a 1-BR price and a normal 2-BR price rather than pricing it at the normal 2-BR rate, although you can also just advertise it and see if you get bites.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:18 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

The legal requirement for a closet (as it relates to building code) is essentially an urban myth, although as always OP should check local code.
posted by lalex at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't even have a living room but I do have a gorgeous large bedroom with two windows that is half the price of other comparable rooms in the area. You make do. I prefer one large bedroom to a small living room and a small bedroom like my previous space. My old housemate couldn't even handle it though, but they were from a rural area and accustomed to giant houses and giant spaces.
posted by yueliang at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2018

« Older Burning playlists onto CDs from iTunes in true...   |   Help Me Pick a Layover Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.