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Who has more experience living in cramped spaces than prisoners? Modeled after a jail cell, the ironically named Freedom Room is a 96-square-foot micro apartment offering “a different idea” for temporary and social housing, hotels and hostels. Inmates at Italy’s high-security prison in Spoleto served as consultants, using their intimate knowledge of tiny living spaces to create a living unit that is flexible and adaptable.

In working with the prisoners, the Freedom Room project leaders discovered that by necessity, most prison furniture is used for purposes other than those intended. Objects have to be multi-functional in order for such a small space to serve as the one room they have available for functions ranging from studying to working out.

The designers explain that many prison cells are lined with shelving made of cigarette cartons, and storage can be hard to come by even for the few personal possessions the prisoners own. As a result, the prisoners packed the Freedom Room with as much storage as possible, with a doorway dividing the living area from the sleeping area doubling as a shelf.

In less than 100 square feet, the inmates have managed to fit a work/dining area, two beds, drawers, overhead storage, a kitchen with a slide-out cutting board serving as a counter, and a bathroom. Additional seating hangs from the wall. Even with all of this function, the apartment feels surprisingly spacious and uncluttered – a far cry from real jail cells, and a option for meeting the growing needs for increasingly compact living spaces.