Moviegoers wait for a film to start at a Moscow theater in which Ikea replaced the standard seating with 17 double beds. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Just conjure up a bedroom at night, and then make it disappear.

Manhattan real estate is not for the faint of heart (nor the light of pocket), and the latest reports about what it costs to live there are especially striking: The median price of an apartment is now just shy of a million dollars. To be clear, that’s the median—not the mean—so it’s not being tugged upward by stratospheric prices in the luxury market. It’s the middle.

What does all that money buy you? “What you get for a million dollars is not a lot of space,” Dottie Herman, the CEO of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, told The New York Times. And the market shows no signs of letting up.

One solution for the buyer who wants to do more with his or her hard-earned 800 square feet—and who’s not content to just move somewhere else—could hit the market in a few years: movable walls. The walls, which sit less than an inch above the ground and are attached to runners on actual walls, could be shifted around like furniture to create small rooms—and then get rid of them and free up space. The Wall Street Journal reports that Ikea has been testing them out on Swedish families in a nondescript ’80s apartment building in Malmö.

Aside from the minor frustration brought on by the constant unplugging and replugging of appliances and electronics, the walls seem to be a hit. “The apartment felt much bigger than mine, which is actually 20 square meters bigger,” a single father who lived for two weeks in the test apartment with his three sons told the Journal.

The impetus for movable walls is that the people whom Ikea considers its target demographic are occupying ever-smaller spaces. The average size of a two-bedroom apartment built in Sweden this year is 580 square feet, but in 2001, it was 670. San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston have seen even bigger drops in square footage.

The movable walls probably won’t be available for a little while. One Spanish architect the Journal reached out to said that he didn’t even think it would be possible to install them without the assistance of several technicians (but then again, that’s how a lot of people feel about the company’s furniture). The walls haven't yet been given the umlauted honor of an Ikea product name, and because they’ll take a lot more refining and rigorous safety testing, the company estimates they won’t appear in catalogs for about three years. Who knows where Manhattan’s real-estate prices will be by then.

This story originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Young students walking towards a  modern wood building surrounded by snow and trees
    Environment

    Norway’s Energy-Positive Building Spree Is Here

    Oslo’s Powerhouse collective wants buildings that make better cities in the face of climate change.

  2. A photo of Andrew Field, the owner of Rockaway Taco, looking out from his store in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
    Life

    Tacos and Transit: Rate Your City

    From taco-rich San Diego to the tortilla wastelands of Boston, we asked you to grade U.S. cities on two critical metrics: Mexican food and public transportation.

  3. A pupil works on a cardboard architectural model at a Hong Kong primary school.
    Design

    The Case for Architecture Classes in Schools

    Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids. Here’s why.

  4. Maps

    Where There Are More Single Men Than Women

    Almost everywhere, actually—at least up until a certain age.

  5. The Metropolitan Opera House in New York
    Equity

    How Urban Core Amenities Drive Gentrification and Increase Inequality

    A new study finds that as the rich move back to superstar cities' urban cores to gain access to unique amenities they drive low-income people out.